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  • From elegant bouquets to elaborate arrangements, they deliver.

    Whether you’re visiting a friend’s house for dinner or looking to congratulate a colleague at work, giving flowers is a universally-appreciated gesture all over the world. Unfortunately, it’s not always convenient to stop by the florist when you want to help someone celebrate a special occasion, or even to brighten your better half’s day with a surprise while you’re out of town. This is why many flower shops in HCMC now offer a convenient delivery service, which can be arranged over the phone or entirely online. Ready to go out to the one you love Most of the flowers available at local florists are either brought in from Dalat or imported from abroad. Although the Saigonese generally prefer to take care of picking out an arrangement and delivering it by themselves, flower delivery is becoming a popular trend as the city dwellers’ lives become increasingly busy. Many local flower shops have started offering the service to meet the growing demand, but not all of them are able to provide a great selection of flowers, prompt delivery, and an overall high level of service. When choosing a florist to do business with, it’s important to find one that employs knowledgeable staff. A bouquet of flowers can say many things, and the florist should be able to help you create something suitable for the occasion. Do keep in mind that some flowers and their colours carry a different meaning in Vietnamese culture. A tuberose, for example, may seems like a beautiful flower suitable for any occasion, but it is only given as a sign of mourning during funerals here. Likewise, daisies and chrysanthemums carry a different message – they are never to be given to friends or business partners, as they are reserved for the elderly, parents, and during funerals. Consulting with

  • The “who can tell you to do what” of living in HCMC.

    Many expats are used to having just one police force that takes care of various aspects of public security, from enforcing traffic rules to dealing with crisis situations. In Vietnam, however, there are three main forces and one auxiliary one, each having its own set of responsibilities and scope of authority over the country’s citizens. The multitude of uniforms might seem confusing at first, but in reality it’s fairly easy to tell them apart from each other. The real trick is knowing who can tell you what to do in this city. The traffic police ( Cảnh Sát Giao Thông ) are perhaps the most visible in Vietnam. Easily recognisable by their tan uniforms and helmets that read “CSGT”, the force falls under the jurisdiction of both the People’s Public Security Force and the Ministry of Transport. As the name suggests, this type of police deals entirely with traffic safety, which includes such aspects as enforcement, traffic research, setting rules and regulations, and facilitating traffic flow. Out of all the police forces, the CSGT is the only one with the authority to pull over and fine traffic offenders for their infractions.       Uniform: Tan shirt and trousers, black shoes, tan CSGT cap or helmet. Authority: only officers with a blue ID card clearly displayed on their chest have the authority to pull over traffic rule violators. The card includes information such as name, rank, department, and police identification number. Those attempting to pull over vehicles without a clearly displayed ID card risk facing disciplinary action. This measure is meant to prevent the abuse of power by ensuring that citizens know the identity of the officer in case they feel mistreated and want to file a report to a higher authority.       CSGT officer with a blue

  • Finding meaning in numbers

    Vietnam is home to at least 54 ethnic groups, and when it comes to talking about the country’s culture, it is one of the most diverse places in the world. Even among the most populous Viet group, there are some significant differences between the conservative northern provinces and the more relaxed south. However, if there is one aspect that could be said to unite the whole country culturally, it would be the universal belief in luck. In fact, most people here take it as a given that one’s whole life is largely predetermined by the day on which he or she is born. This belief is deeply rooted in the Vietnamese zodiac, a wonderfully comprehensive system that has been in use for millennia. Saigon welcomes the Year of the Dragon in 2012 While many expats are familiar with the concept of the Chinese zodiac (sometimes called Eastern zodiac), few have heard of its Vietnamese counterpart before moving here. The core concept is the same: each year is given an animal sign, and people born in that year are thought to have the characteristics attributed to their sign (much like the Western zodiac). In total, there are 12 animals: rat, buffalo, tiger, cat, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. The year also determines whether you’re yin or yang , as well as assigning one of the five basic elements. Aside from the “year” animal, there are two more animal signs that each person has: the con giáp tháng and the con giáp giờ , which are determined by the month and hour of birth, respectively. In total, there are five characteristics that will define a newborn. Don’t worry if all that’s making your head spin right now, as we’ll cover them one by one later on. Those familiar

  • Still not mainstream.

    As the city’s denizens enjoy ever-increasing levels of disposable income, many of them have started seeking out professional spa services to relax after tiring hours at work. The majority of the customers belong to the fairer sex, but it’s not uncommon now for men to take a spa day. Bucking traditions in style (source: Miumiu Spa) Until very recently there was no such thing as a men’s spa in HCMC. The main reason was cultural – in Vietnam, visiting a spa is largely seen as a very feminine thing to do. While for women, getting beauty treatments such as skin whitening and waxing may be seen to be perfectly natural; for men, going to get a massage and facial is just not something that screams masculinity here. Also, there is another aspect: traditionally, Vietnamese men tend to be embarrassed of being semi-nude in front of others. For these reasons, in the past, the only males that would tend to go to a spa used to be performing artists and models, for whom taking care of their appearance was just part of the job description. The Saigonese, however, don’t always hold on to traditions for too long – and an increasing number of men are now seeking out spa services, thus making it an increasingly socially-accepted practice. Spas in Vietnam tend to be modest in terms of space, and are generally located in small streets and alleys away from the traffic and noise of main throughways. The masseuses are mostly women, ostensibly because they are thought to provide a softer, tenderer massage than men. Some establishments, especially larger ones, employ men as well, although their area of expertise is usually specialised massage such as the Thai Nuat or Japanese Shiatsu , both of which traditionally require more physical strength than run-of-the

  • If you like it, then you should put a ring on it.

    An engagement ring may not have been quite what you expected you’d be shopping for when you moved to Vietnam – but here we are. One of the first questions you may have (besides where to find one) is whether or not it’s even customary for a lady to wear a ring to signify her betrothal at all in this country. Traditionally, it’s more complicated than that – Vietnam has a total of fourteen procedures and rituals concerning weddings that date back centuries. With people living in the north of Vietnam, upon an engagement, the groom’s family will bring trays of offering (usually just fruit and canned goods) to the bride’s house in order to ask her family’s permission to marry. These trays usually don’t include jewellery. People in the south, however, tend to lay it on heavy with a ring, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings as well as the groceries. Just the right bling factor Nowadays, however, all of this has been pared down – and many people actually only buy wedding rings, as the celebration of an engagement isn’t considered all that necessary. It’s probably fair to say that most international couples will do things a little of both ways, however – which means an engagement ring will more than likely be considered appropriate. Most commonly in this situation, a groom will buy two wedding rings – one for himself and one for his fiancée – and a single ring for his fiancée to be presented with on the engagement day itself. In Western countries, diamond engagement rings and gold bands for a wedding are standard, but in Vietnam, there’s no such rule for what kinds of rings can be used for each purpose. The couple can choose any kind of ring they prefer. The wedding ring, however, is

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