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Exciting experiences for Nisar in Ho Chi Minh City
As a participant in WorkAsia ’95 Steamers Maritime Holdings sent Nisar Husain to Ho Chi Minh City for working experience in Saigon Mobile Radio Network Centre, Steamers’ Vietnamese telecommunications business which operates both a radio paging service as well as a cellular phone network.

Nisar graduates this year from Ngee Ann Polytechnic with a Diploma in Mass Communications. He was in Ho Chi Minh City for seven weeks, beginning in mid May 1995.

During this time, he assisted in the development of Saigon Mobile Radio’s marketing aid as well as in planning and designing new promotional and advertising tools and contributed this article on his experiences in Vietnam.
   


“It was interesting experience working in a totally different culture. Although in essence Vietnam is an Asian country, tasks are accomplished according to an unwritten set of rules.

At most meetings, beyond the casual exchange of pleasantries comes “cha naam”, green tea. It is absolutely essential to produce the atmosphere of bonding and homeliness.

An offer of cigarettes comes next. No matter if you don’t smoke – it’s only to have at least a puff.

Meetings take a long time and seem more like a friendly and heartwarming reunion of friends who have not met for years.

   
The Vietnamese are very friendly and curious about foreigners. Initially, I was apprehensive but by the end of my first day at the office, they were chatting animatedly to me. I could hardly wait to get back to the office the next day to chat even more!

I soon discovered the interesting workings in a married couple’s relationship. The husband is the bread-winner while the wife is the accountant. Each month, the husband surrenders his salary to her, leaving himself a little for expenditure. The wife calculates the monthly expenditure, school fees for the kids and other necessities. The rest of the amount is saved for the rainy day.
   
Respect for one another is another trait on which they place great value. Even as a student on attachment, I received much of it.

Far from what I expected, I was amazed and proud to be able to put forward my ideas and contribute meaningfully.

For those who are used to organised traffic, Vietnam will come as a shock. Motorcycles, the main form of transport flood the streets, moving by the truckloads in the same direction. Riders never seem to utilise their brakes: they just weave in and out of traffic and avoid pedestrians when necessary.

“Forget about look left, right and left again. Just cross the roads … they will avoid you,” I was advised. A rule I learnt way back in primary school, a phase by which I’d lived for years was no longer valid here. Well, I thought to myself, when in Vietnam, live as the Vietnamese do.


It is easy to understand how our fellow countrymen feel working overseas. Being far away from home, family and friends, totally uprooting oneself from a safe environment. The closeness of a family is reduced to a voice on the phone or mere words in a letter.



   




We should all take our hats off and salute our brother and sister Singaporeans who are working abroad. They make our nation known. So the next time a foreigner comes to you and says, “Hey are you a Singaporean?” It’s because these people have made a lasting impression and a difference out there.”


Food, close to every Singaporean’s heart, is great in Vietnam. Nuoc mam (fish sauce) is the first item to be served at any food staff in Vietnam. It is both an appetizer and an accompaniment to all meals. Cha gio (Vietnamese spring rolls) is simply rice paper filled with fist or meat, vegetables, star fruit, cucumber and shallots. Dip it in sauce for a taste to remember

Looking back, I realize the most important lesson one can learn is respect and tolerance, for another culture. It is easy to understand how our fellow countrymen feel working overseas. Being far away from home, family and friends, totally uprooting oneself from a safe environment. The closeness of a family is reduced to a voice on the phone or mere words in a letter.

We should all take our hats off and salute our brother and sister Singaporeans who are working abroad. They make our nation known. So the next time a foreigner comes to you and says, “Hey are you a Singaporean?” It’s because these people have made a lasting impression and a difference out there.”



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