Filed under: World | Tags: Business, Christmas, Government, Hội An, Luck, New Year, Small business, Vietnam
Vietnam has commenced its Tet shutdown, which this year is extra-long because Tet is on Sunday. Technically it’s a four-day holiday, but with the actual day falling on a Sunday they figured that wasn’t fair so they gave everybody Monday-Thursday off. And then early last week the government went ahead and responded to mass public whining by giving everybody the Friday off too, so it’s now a 9-day holiday. And it’s actually a bit longer: banks, gold shops and a lot of other stores were already closed on Friday, and it became impossible to get any government officials on the phone by late in the day Thursday.
Part of the reluctance to open up for business or even, in some cases, answer the phone around Tet is the strong current of luck that surrounds the first people you meet in the new year. The first person who crosses your doorstep, the first person who buys something from you, etc. should be someone who’s either rich and successful, generally great, or was born in a lucky year. If it’s somebody bad or unlucky, that augurs poorly for your whole year. So engaging in business is just crazy — who knows who might wander in the door?
Of course, it’s really mainly the state-owned sector that’s closing down for 9+ days. Small businesses, the people who actually do all the work in Vietnam, will be back to work on Friday, and in fact some are reopening Thursday; indeed, some are opening on Monday. There is, after all, money to be made. Clearly as time goes on the Vietnamese tradition of shutting down absolutely everything over Tet will weaken, and someday one expects it’ll look a lot like Christmas in the US. Which will, in one sense, be a shame. On the other hand, one thing you notice pretty strongly when you’re living in a place where everything shuts down for 9 days is that it’s really boring.
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