Vietnamese returning to do business in Hanoi ?
Hey guys, welcome to this new video. Today we're going to talk about Vietnamese expats living in Vietnam. Maybe it sounds strange and you don't really understand what I mean. But, you're going to find out very soon ... and to dig into this subject. I invited Mai who is originally from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and she moved to Hanoi about two years ago for family reasons.
So recently she left her job as a communication and marketing manager for a five-star hotel to start her own business. So in this video, she will discuss about the challenges of starting a business in Hanoi as a woman who is not local and as well as her journey moving from a very promising corporate career, to an entrepreneur life. Let's get started. Hi Mai. I'm very happy to have you here to discuss today about your story. And your experience, you've been studying and living in different countries, such as Finland, Germany, Australia, and, UK for your master degree, and with this great academic background and with your International experience, how was it to find opportunities in Vietnam, when you first came back and did you have any 'reversal cultural' shock? I think nowadays there are more and more in our opportunities for Vietnamese people who study abroad.
And then come back to Vietnam because there's an increasing number of foreign companies in Vietnam and also actually the Vietnamese companies. Nowadays also value, the skills of people who come back from abroad and I personally think that companies have also realized That it's not just about the language skills or the certificate from a university abroad anymore. But it's more about, you know, certain sub skills. Like the ability to work in a multicultural team or, you know, the ability to adapt to changes quickly and so on. Because these are the very skills that that Vietnamese people who have wolves and study abroad, are more likely to develop.
So it will be not so difficult to find opportunities in Vietnam, when you come back and for when it comes to reverse cultural shocks, I would say they are more like surprises to me, rather than shocks because I more or less. I already expected that there would be something and expecting coming and when I came back to Vietnam and find a job and but these shocks are like I think they are natural. As of the difference in cultures, for example, Vietnam is pretty much a collectivistic culture, whereas in Western countries, people are more individualistic and here people kind of, I don't know how to say, but like people stick together and they make decisions sometimes they, they just want to make the same decision in a group. And also the hierarchy in Europe is kind of flat and I used to have an internship in. Berlin in a start-up and in such an environment, everyone seems to be the same and I can just discuss everything with the person with the highest position in that company, although I would just an intern but here in Vietnam things are much more different and hierarchy is more clearly recognized by everyone in the company. And you you need to show some how some kind of respect towards people who have higher positions at you.
Yeah, But these are like I said surprises, that I was prepared to cope with and I think loss of Vietnamese people nowadays who come back from abroad also realize that so I know that you've been quite successful in your corporate Journey after a few years returning to say go, you had to move again and that time you had to settle in Hanoi for family Purpose. How was your life in Hanoi from the eyes Of a Saigonese, who is used to spend time in the South and in the West. I had to be careful when I answer this question in order to avoid any stereotype, you know.
But you know there's a there's a saying in Hanoi that you often hear people say, I don't know if you know it but people say that "HNKVĐĐ" which means that you just cannot rush here and it's quite in contrary to the life in Ho Chi Minh City in Saigon where people are like I think in Saigon in my previous company for example people generally share a sense of urgency like is like, usually the workplaces are quite fast paced, and people expect you to deliver what you say, or what you are, tasked with immediately. And people just get used to that. And and of course, this is just my personal experiences. In some of the companies I've worked at both in Saigon and in Hanoi is. So I do not mean to make any, you know, generalizations about any city or any people but for Saigon I think it's a great place for people to start a business or to start their first job because it's so diverse.
And the diversity is sold. And you know, the fact that there are all kinds of people you can meet in Saigon and you can you get to know a lot of different ideas and when you have a new idea, however strange it seems to be people will support to you and people will encourage you to make it happen and when I was still working in Saigon I felt like every day was learning something new everyday. I was, I had a chance to meet new and interesting people. And I think that's the reason why people refer to Saigon as a very dynamic city. I think you, you also realize the same thing as you are leaving their and as for Hanoi well is more traditional.
But lately, it has Come like it has also developed quite quickly. And I just feel like I personally feel like there are some standards in Hanoi that usually people who avoid deviating from even in workplaces. And for example in my previous work place in Hanoi, it was really hard to initiate and implement changes and sometimes it it has to do more with the people rather than the processes. So if you Change the process.
You first need to work on changing the mindset of the people. That's the most important thing. So this year, you decided to start your own entrepreneurial project, making a new chapter in your professional life. What were the reasons and decisions at such a challenging time of this year and what's the story behind this new entrepreneurial project. In my, when I was working in my previous position, I felt really stressed with work.
And at that time, I actually decided to quit first and then I just stay home and I thought maybe I don't know if I should find a new job or just, you know, find some freelance work in between. But then I realized that when I was still in Saigon you know, whenever I was stressed with work, I could go and sign up for these, you know shop. Shock term workshops are Hobbies during the weekends.
For example, there are different workshops in Saigon like flower arrangement, painting, or baking, or cooking, and these workshops. It should last for only two or three hours, and they are mostly for relaxing purposes. So if you don't know anything, if you don't have any previous experience, you can still turn and these, those were really relaxing activities and I just realized that there was no such thing in Hanoi at that time, so it was very difficult to find any such activity during the weekend people here, mostly spend their time with their family or, you know, they'll take a stroll in in a shopping mall or sometimes go walking around the lake. But because of the weather here, the summer is really hot. And the winter is quite chilled as well. It's also quite hard to exercise outdoor most of the time.
So I thought, why not? If I cannot find any of things in Hanoi, why don't I start something similar so because I realized that there was a gap in the market so I thought maybe that could be a viable business model so I thought yeah I would just start it. And another reason I think is because at the moment I haven't had any attachment yet. I mean I'm already married but I haven't got any children and I still have some kind of freedom for myself. In terms of choosing the career path, I want to pursue or you know considering which chop I can take as I'm saying. So I think maybe this is the time for me to work for myself and start something of my own rather than continuing working for someone else.
Yeah. So I'm kind of aligned with your why. And the reasons why you want? To stop working for someone else to relaunch your own project. Could we introduce a little bit more about your business and how everything got started. My business is called lemon tree back in studio. So we provide a relaxing and fun space for people to regain their life balance through the activity of baking.
And so we have we hold various workshops baking like throughout our baking classes and you can try and even if you have no previous baking experience. So you see you can be very clumsy in the kitchen normally but when you come here, you can, you know, baked a whole cake. I mean, a home big cake by yourself with the instruction of our teachers. So most of our teachers are right now working at five-star hotels in Hanoi.
So they have the qualification and the club's atmosphere is very friendly. And the main point is for people to relax and make friends with each other and just enjoy themselves, rather than, you know, rather than putting so much focus on learning the new skills. So our studio is located on Tong Duy Tan Street, which is a main street in Hanoi and it's very popular with young people and with foreigners as well, because there are a lot of, you know, restaurants and coffee shops and, and, you know, places to hang out around.
And here. So this is quite a central location. And when people come here, they're already in the mood of exploring and chilling and so on. So the location is also create as well.
So we understand that it's a little bit more than just providing cooking classes and it's also really a certain experience that you want to bring to your customer. Can you share with us maybe a little bit around? Take your camera and go around so we can see the real backery and the coffee place. Yeah, sure.
Would just move the camera so that you can see the space. So this is actually kind of like our living room. Can you see it? Yeah.
So this is the coffee table area and it overlooks the Korean balcony. And this is the place where the participants can sit and relax before the class. And also during the class when we have brakes, then we will serve coffee and tea and some snacks for the class participants, and the teacher will also trying them to explain what they might. Not be understand during the class and people can just chill and chitchat with each other. So we want to make this space more like you know an opportunity for you to hang out with your friends.
It's like when you come here you make new friends and you feel really like you know an occasion where you hang out with your friends and you have fun rather than passive participate. Eating in a formal class. So yeah.
And this is the central table where the class takes place. So you can see that we have on the baking utensils already on the table. And the ingredients as well.
So one of the perks of studying here is that you can just come here and focus on enjoying yourself and learning how to bake. You don't need to take care of the boring Parts such. As, you know, waiting on the ingredients are preparing all the utensils or washing up afterwards because we take care of on that and you just need to enjoy and we have floor-to-ceiling window over here so you can bake And then you can look out of the window. There are some birds chirping and you know, the view is a bit romantic, I would say. So it provides a relaxing atmosphere for people to my year on your back. We see the logo lemon tree.
Why did you sign it to take that name? Yes. So I'll go back to my table. Yep. So lemon tree. Actually, lemon is a very symbolic fruit.
First of all, is it symbolizes cleanliness? So you can see that there are a lot of cleaning products that use lemon as you know, the symbol. So we want to provide a space that is really clean and really bright for people is similar. To, you know, decluttering your mind if you are in a space where everything is neat, everything is in its place and, you know, you feel like, okay, it's refreshing and it's decluttering and you feel more relaxing and the second symbol of lemon is healing. So, you know, in ancient times people use lemon and some honey as well, I believe as you know, a form of healing when people are ill when people are sick.
So healing here, that we want to refer to this, not only cover physical healing, but also mental healing as well. Of course, we're not a meditation class or something, but while people are engaging in the banking activity, we want them to focus on, you know, their motions. They need to focus on whether the delft is soft enough. Whether whether the cake is rightly positions, whether the cream is whipped to the right texture and so on.
So you need a certain sense of concentration and a certain sense of, you know, I would say mindfulness when you engage in the baking experience. And for a lot of our class participants, I know that outside of the class before they step into our class, they might have a lot of stress. S in their life, maybe with work, or maybe with their family. I don't know. But the moment they step into our studio. I want them to leave all the stress and worries outside and they just enjoy the space.
They just enjoy themselves and the moment and that is the experience that we want to bring about when it comes to healing and there. And also lemon, you know, the yellow color is very bright and it represents brightness hope and Tivity. So we want to send a lot of positive Vice through the activity of baking that people have here. So, during the class, the teacher will be will not be like, okay I'm the teacher, you have to listen to what I say and that's not the experience we want to deliver. The teacher will be just another friend who show you how to do, how to do this, how to do that, and we'll teach at with you and the whole atmosphere is friendly and cold. Ozzy.
So we're not like any other training schools or any other, you know, baking classes for, for professionals, which is, you know, a space where you can, you know, in try the moment, enjoy the community. And, you know, you feel like you can be yourself, you don't need to, you know, try hard to miss Society standards or something like that. And my, you told her that, you got these idy living in this house. Is there other? King classes in Hanoi. And what's your differences? Compared to your competitors, there are actually a lot of baking classes in Hanoi, but most of them are training, training schools or, you know, professional classes for people who want to learn and then open their own bakery shops or two later they work in restaurants or they work in hotels.
So our classes are for everyone for novices, for people with no experience or even Even if you already have a certain level of experience in baking, you can just come here and enjoy the baking activity with other people. So the the aim, the aim is not to learn the skills of making so that you can become a professional Baker. The aim is to connect with others, and ultimately connect with yourself through the activity of baking and actually is quite still quite hard to Explain to people in Hanoi this concept because some people still come to us and ask you have any like baking courses, that lasts for like three months or six months. And we want to learn 20 different types of cakes, something like that.
And some people even asked us if we provide any certificate, after completing the courses or to give them any reference. If they are blind applying to be a baker in a hotel or something like that. So, We then have to explain to them. And obviously, our Target customers are quite different as well.
So our customers have a lot of different backgrounds. Some are like, you know, house-wide wanting to bake a cake on her kids birthday and some are very busy banking. Employees, who only have like half a day during the weekend that they are free. So they come here and they relax. Some other are like, you know, teenagers who want to try something new and to explore, whether they could do baking in the future, something like that.
So yeah, it's a, it's the very diverse experience that makes lemon tree unique and different from the other picking classes in Hanoi. So my, we met at the soft skill, training course in Saigon. And the first experience I got from you was that you had a very great communication skills. Creativity, as well as confidence.
I'm sure that with those qualities you would exhale in everything that you would try to do so. Now, what would be your advice for other Vietnamese X, but AKA Southeastern or other regions or Vietnam or even foreigners going to Hanoi to work and to adapt efficiently, I think, first of all, you need to avoid all the stereotypes. People make about Hanoi.
So, for example, many people say that there is no opportunity in Hanoi if you want to do business and you should come to Saigon. Is a more Dynamic place there will be more, you know, Financial opportunities, for example, but actually if that even if that is true, then it means that there are still a lot of gaps in the market. In Hanoi that your product, or your service can feel their. And it means that there are a lot of Demands for four. Hanoi customers that that you can meet with your products.
So I think I just think that there are equally an equal number of opportunities in Hanoi. If you want to start your business, as long as you try to understand the market, and you do proper market research beforehand, then it will be good. And the one thing that people should be aware of before, starting a business in Hanoi or working in Hanoi is the amount of bureaucracy That you need to cope with and it is part of the country in general and especially in this city. So if you get if you get used to it then it should be okay. And there are a lot of I have realized that there are a lot of young people. Very talented young people in Hanoi as well.
So if you come here for the first time you start a business it would be good to have a large Network. So try to go to as many networking. Hence as possible, try to get to know the locals and that's the fastest way that you can understand the local culture because usually the Xbox in Hanoi. They live in certain areas and they, you know, they have their own communities.
But if you want to understand the local people, then you should engage more with the local activities and, you know, maybe just go down a local market or just go to the park and observe people what they do in their life. If there's one thing that I find, really interesting. There are a lot of lakes in Hanoi, which is quite different from Saigon.
I love on the lakes here. And every day there are like I think hundreds of people who who do exercise around the leg and especially the one came late, which is the, the one in the center of Hanoi. And, you know, if you take a walk there during the autumn in the evening, you see like old people And very young children and people like middle-aged.
And then, you know, 20 to 30 year old people, you know, just working together as a family or tea chatting together and so on. But that scene you can I don't see very often in Saigon because in Saigon usually old people group together and young people together. So like the sense of you know, family connection seems to be stronger here in Hanoi and if your product somehow targets or is relevant to that market.
Then then it will be very interesting to realize that. So yeah, basically just, you know, engagement with the local, the local customers and observe what is happening around you in Hanoi. So it will be good. Thanks my for your, insights about your journey, going back to Vietnam. As well as your advice Force, Austin Vietnamese, who would like to go to the nose, as well as Foreigner. Who'd wanna settle in Hanoi.
I will leave in the description, the link of Lemon Tree, of your Facebook page. So if you guys are interested in one of which my are, you can check everything below. Yeah, thank you very much for the interview and I it was great to share with you about my experiences. Yeah, thanks
again Mai for all your sharings and I see you in the next video. Thank you. Bye.