Saturday, 6 April 2013

To Vietnam, With Patience

From the pool looking out onto the beach that touches the South China Sea
Things in Vietnam are done on Vietnam time.

We're staying at an internationally-branded resort 50km from Danang in central Vietnam, and we have to wonder if the poor service is because that's the way the people are, or they have not been trained properly.

Overall the staff are very nice people, they smile and say hello. Most of them know some basic English, but if a request is beyond their responsibilities, they don't know what to do and either ignore the request or may try to find someone who has better English.

This morning we got a wake up call at 5.30am -- 24 hours ahead of schedule. We wonder if it's the girl who called that was very anxious to make sure we got up, or the young man who discussed the wake up call with us and then wrote down the time wrong.

We also wonder if the driver was also up at this ungodly hour as well as the person who was supposed to prepare a breakfast box for us to eat in the car on the way to the airport.

Then today just before lunch, we requested a Vietnamese meal and a phone call was made to the restaurant we were going to eat at.

But when we got there, drinks were ordered and served, but then nothing else happened. We waited and waited... until our host asked the server and through her body language we could tell she knew nothing about our special request...

The foreign executive chef had to come out and apologize, saying someone had dropped the ball... but minutes later the food did arrive and we were too hungry to admire the food and take photographs.

In the end we ate very quickly thanks to the chef hustling the troops. But typically eating here is a long-drawn out affair. What would take an hour and a half or two hours in Hong Kong takes at least two and a half hours here. The service is really that slow, not only front of house, but in the kitchen as well.

There's a cultural gap in understanding foreign guests expect things quicker because they are not used to waiting for things. Granted it's a resort where guests are supposed to relax, but surely we should not have to wait so long for dishes to be cleared and utensils set up?

This afternoon we went to the spa and there were seven of us who were booked for treatments. However, when two of us arrived, the spa staff insisted we had to share a room even though we asked twice not to...

Other than that the massage was excellent, but at the end we were wiped down with a lukewarm cloth...

So in some cases things have to be completely spelled out, others it's because of a lack common sense.

Also many of the staff carry smart phones and seem to be looking at them -- even when they're on duty...

Nevertheless, these are small but vital details that can be improved upon.

Vietnam is very much like China, where things we think are obvious are not something they have picked up while growing up or their trainers have assumed understanding.

It will take time for Vietnam to develop further -- which is why the patience of Job is required.

Eventually the pay off will be big, but it'll be a while yet...


  1. In other words: the hardware may be/look like it's first class/world but the software is still third world... I've had similar experiences and feelings in Malaysia -- and most definitely -- Tanzania...

    On the other hand, Zimbabwe circa 1995 had AMAZING service. So you can't always predict such things...

  2. Hi YTSL -- The potential for good service is in Vietnam because the people are sweet, but they don't have common sense or don't know how to anticipate things... part of this is innate, partly common sense...