What Vietnamese people are thinking about COVID-19


COVID-19 has made a sweeping impact on the world, and the number of cases in Vietnam has crossed the 120 mark. While we do not have any reported deaths from the virus at this point, there are many consequences already being seen in various industries. The lives of teachers are affected as students now attend lessons from home, while singers suffer because they lose their gigs – from education to entertainment, every industry is taking a hit due to COVID-19. 

Here, 17 Vietnamese people from all walks of life share how COVID-19 has affected their businesses and personal lives, and how they are coping. 


1. Street vendor – time to be resourceful


coffee vendor
Luc Nguyen, a street coffee vendor on the street of Ham Nghi in Ho Chi Minh City
Image credit: Lực Nguyễn

“There’s definitely a significant drop in customers, as my main clientele are office workers in Ham Nghi and Ngo Van Nam areas. Ever since their companies let them work from home, my revenue took a slight downturn.

“However, I can still manage my income by selling coffee powder to those who’ll be working from home and crave my signature coffee. Each box of coffee powder weighs 500G. The more coffee powder they need, the more I ship to their homes. Besides, I’ll still sell coffee on the street, but I will bring fewer ingredients to make sure that my coffee is still sold out and I don’t end up with excess inventory. Now is the time to be more resourceful.”


2. Real estate agent – no new properties in sight


Real estate agent
Joy Nguyen, a real estate agent in Ho Chi Minh City
Image credit: Huong Vinh

“There’s no denying that the real estate market is hit hard by COVID-19. We prepared for new launches in Quarter 1 and Quarter 2, but our plans all fell apart. Developers have postponed new launches, while agents can’t get prospects to view properties.

“The supply of new properties, at this point, is zero. Not only are we seeing a significant drop in tenants due to the new ban of entry on foreigners, but landlords are also reluctant to rent out their properties. If one person is found to have COVID-19, there’s a high possibility the whole building will be under quarantine. Nobody wants to take that risk.”


3. High school teacher – only 1 online lesson per week


High school teacher
Thuy To (in the center), a Chinese language teacher at Trần Phú high school in Hai Phong City
Image credit: To Yen Linh

“I use Zoom to teach my students from home and there are some obstacles. In order to not let my students feel bored, I only host online classes once a week and teach them in groups. Each group has only 15 students. My method is to send my students study materials so they can study in advance, then we will discuss and resolve questions together in our online lessons.

“Students who are preparing for the upcoming HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi, or Chinese Proficiency Test) are more willing to study online more regularly and intensively.”


4. Supplementary English class teacher – big problems with online studying


Supplementary class teacher
Thao Vi, an English teacher at Magic English Center in Đắk Lắk Province
Image credit: Vi Thu Thao

“My students and I live in the highlands, so there’s a big problem with online studying for them. Most of my students are in primary school, and their parents are always busy with farm work. You can’t expect them to be tech-savvy and monitor their children’s progress on the computer or phone. My online lessons always end up with disruptions.

“Besides, it’s very difficult to communicate with students via a computer screen. However, I try not to let my students give up on learning English by giving them homework and texting them regularly about their studies.”


5. High school student – no problem adjusting to online study


high school teacher
Linh Nguyen, 16, an English major at Trần Phú high school in Hai Phong City
Image credit: Nguyễn Vân Linh

“I do not have any difficulties adjusting to online classes. It works for me. The only problem is that if the WiFi is weak, my lessons will be disrupted.”

“For mainstream modules like Math and Literature, I do homework given by the teachers. Other than that, I shift my focus and time to studying foreign languages.”


6. Fresh graduate – unable to find a job


Fresh graduate
Tam Nguyen (left), a fresh graduate from Saigon University in Ho Chi Minh City
Image credit: Nguyễn Hoàng Thanh Tâm

“I graduated from Saigon University in October 2019. After graduation, I worked at an English center for a short time before the outbreak of COVID-19 happened and the center got shut down. I’m looking for administrative jobs, but most companies are not recruiting at the moment, which is understandable.

“To earn income during this period, I’m tutoring a couple of students online. I’m normally an indoor person and not into hanging out much, so my personal life is not that affected by COVID-19. In my free time, I read and learn how to cook.”


7. Clinic staff – multiple protection measures in the clinic


Grace clinic
Greg (second from left) and the staff at Grace Skincare Clinic – Phòng khám da Grace in Ho Chi Minh City
Image credit: Grace Skincare Clinic – Phòng khám da Grace

“There’s a downturn in the number of customers. However, it’s understandable and we’re taking measures to protect our staff and customers. Customers must go through a temperature check at the car park basement and again at our clinic, with the assistance of our trained nurses. We will observe their medical symptoms and ask if they have traveled to high-risk areas. We need to make sure that our clinic is safe,” said Greg, the founder of The Grace Skincare Clinic.

“If a customer doesn’t meet our safety criteria, we will have to direct them to outside medical help. Our office environment must always be disinfected regularly and free from harmful germs.”


8. Property host – time to reduce fixed costs or switch to long-term rental


Air bnb host
Dieu Anh Dao, a Airbnb superhost in the Old Quarters, Hanoi
Image credit:
Dieu Anh Dao 

“My business started to take a big hit by the end of February. Cleaning up the house after my guests checked out was a bit scary, as I wasn’t sure about the health conditions of my guests at that time. That was before Vietnam’s government banned entry for foreigners.

“For those who are in this business, I think now is a good time to pull the plug. Otherwise, you must try to reduce your monthly fixed costs. The most viable alternative for the moment is to switch to long-term leasing – renting out your facilities to people on a long-term basis. By doing this, you can still earn a stable income off your property.”


9. Online business owner – high demand for medical masks and hand sanitizers


Thanh online business owner
Thanh Nguyen, an online cosmetic business owner in Hanoi
Image credit: Thanh Nguyễn 

“Running online businesses can be flexible. For the past few weeks, I’ve been seeing a constant demand for hand sanitizer and masks, so I decided to import more of these products. There are days when I don’t have enough masks to ship to customers. I can only buy up to 50 to 100 small boxes of masks to ship to customers each time.

“There’s no denying that fabric masks are more economical, but medical masks are still in higher demand because they are able to filter 95% of bacteria and dust. The only problem is that the prices for medical masks have surged like crazy, from VND50,000- VND70,000(~USD2.15-USD3.01) to VND250,000-VND350,000(~USD10.73-USD15.03) these days.”


10. Housewife – being cooped up is depressing


young mom
Hương Bùi, 24, a young mom in Hai Phong City
Image credit: Bùi Mỹ Hương

“My child is only a few months old, so I’m not affected much. However, it’s depressing not being able to take her out for some fresh air during weekends, due to the escalation of COVID-19. Besides, our family runs a department store and we live right upstairs. It’s a bit scary seeing many people flocking to our store everyday, and we can’t do temperature checks on them at the entrance.

“I’m also worried about my husband. He’s a government official working in Hanoi, which is now a hotbed of COVID-19 transmission. He only comes home to Hai Phong to visit us on weekends.”


11. Vietnamese singer and model working in Australia- shows cancelled


singer
Hollie Tran, a Vietnamese singer and model living in Perth, Australia
Image credit: Hollie Tran

“The Australian government has discouraged people from attending events with more than 500 people, so most of my shows are cancelled. I’m not performing until June.

“My life in Perth is quite normal. There’s no significant disruption, and that’s also the message that the government is trying to send. Only people who are not feeling well are advised to stay home. Restaurants and bars have also reduced the number of indoor guests to no more than 100. Even priests are also hosting masses online.”


12. Human resource professional – most companies will not recruit in the foreseeable future


Nguyet HR
Nguyet, a recruiter at a real estate agency in Ho Chi Minh City
Image credit: Như Nguyệt 

I don’t see real estate companies recruiting in the near future, not until the market has fully recovered. Those doing administrative work can work from home, but it is not easy.

“If there are documents that we need to revise before proceeding, we’ll have to run to the office. It’s also sad that I can’t hit any wellness classes these days. I have to read to kill time.”


13. Dancer and wellness teacher – classes shut down as per regulations


Dancer
Mai Hanh, a dancer cum dancesport teacher at Dance Passion in Ho Chi Minh City
Image credit:
Mai Hanh

“My classes started seeing a significant drop in attendance after Lunar New Year. The management board of the youth center where my dance studio is located recently told us to stop holding classes until further notice.

“I applied for reduced rental costs from the center. They have been supporting me for the past month. However, when this tough time blows over and we can operate our classes again, I’ll continue applying for financial support since our activities will not recover immediately.”


14. Office executive – working from home, stocking supplies for the whole month


Brian from The Phillipines
Brian Pham, a Vietnamese visa & passport executive working in Manila in the Philippines
Image credit:
Brian Pham

“I’m currently working from home as per my company’s new rules. Manila is imposing curfews, so I can’t go out at certain times of the day. That’s why I stocked up basic necessities for the whole month. If I need to buy fresh produce, I resort to online grocery shopping apps for delivery. Social distancing measures are also strictly imposed in public spaces here, as we need to maintain a gap of one or two meters to prevent exposure.

“Filipinos are very nice. I don’t experience any sort of discrimination here even though I look more East Asian than most locals. I’m doing fine in the Philippines and I don’t see any need to go back to Vietnam at this point.”


15. Ride-hailing app company worker – food delivery is not doing that well


call center
Han Nguyen, working at the call center department in a ride-hailing company in Ho Chi Minh City
Image credit: Hân Lê

“People have this idea that these days, Grab, Go-Viet, Be, or BAEMIN are earning the most due to increased delivery orders as people are afraid of going out. That’s not true. I think most ride-hailing companies are seeing a significant decrease in customers. People no longer travel often these days. Also, the demand for food delivery does not surge as much as you’d think. People can’t eat pizza or fried chicken every day.

“A majority of people are shifting to hoarding groceries and fresh produce these days as quarantine is a long-term thing, so online grocery stores or marts with delivery service are performing better.”


16. Stationery store owner – total revenue down, surge in demand for educational toys


Sandy store
Sandy Pham, owner of Sandy store selling stationery in Da Nang City
Image credit: Phạm Kim Khánh 

Most of my wholesale customers are schools and English centers. But these establishments have shut down as students are advised to study from home. English centers can’t afford to pay their teachers, so how can you expect them to invest in stationery?

“My total revenue is down by one-third, but I notice that there is a surge in demand for learning and educational toys, such as coloring books and children’s story books. Most parents don’t want their children to get hooked on iPads and TV, so they order more of these items to help their children study from home. I’m supporting my customers by offering free shipping for local orders above VND300,000 (~USD12.87).


17.  Banker – customers are afraid of visiting banks


Banker Gia Lam
Gia Lam, senior relationship manager at VPBANK in Ho Chi Minh City
Image credit: Gia Lâm

“The number of customers visiting bank branches is plummeting. They are afraid of going out because bank offices are usually crowded with different types of people. For this reason, our businesses are taking a downturn in the areas of credit card opening, overseas property investments, and insurance.”


Be resourceful amid COVID-19


Almost every industry in Vietnam is taking a hit from the COVID-19 outbreak. However, we can still be resourceful and creative to keep serving our communities while keeping our employees, customers, and ourselves safe by heeding the government’s instructions.

For the latest news about coronavirus in Vietnam, check out our articles here:


Cover image adapted from: Hollie Tran, To Yen Linh,  and Mai Hanh

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