Monday, 2 March 2009

Day 3 - Meeting the client

I had the first meeting with my client today, and as I had feared he doesn’t speak a word of English. I also confirmed that Hai Phong is very much a working and industrial city, definitely not what you would considered a tourist destination and as a result very few of the locals speak any form of English. With that in mind, Dung, my translator, is teaching me some basic Vietnamese to get me by. It’s a case of sink or swim so my Vietnamese word of the day is actually critical to my survival. I exaggerate, but you get my drift as being able to communicate is critical in any work or living environment.

Today’s Vietnamese word of the day is thank you, which is pronounced ğaám ern or in my accent something similar in sound to cam urn.

We met our clients at the offices of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Mr Dung (definitely not pronounced the same way as my interpreter pronounces her name, as I quickly found out) then took me to his family business, where I got introduced to his children, wife, father, siblings etc, all of whom live and work on site. Their main business is in the supply of steel and iron to the local construction industry. Interestingly, he worries about the current economic climate as, like in UK, the construction industry is suffering as a result.

During the day, and over a feast of Vietnamese food at lunch time (most of which I didn’t recognise but which definitely tasted good) we got to know each other. Mr Dung told me that although he is 40 years old, he feels that he doesn’t have a lot of business experience, particularly when dealing with foreign clients and customers. Age is considered a critical factor in Vietnamese culture and society and as I am the youngest IBMer on our team, I certainly began to feel a little bit self conscious about my own age. How would he view me and what would he think about the advice he had asked me to provide during my assignment?

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