Celebrating Lunar New Year as a foreigner calling Vietnam second home

February 11, 2021 | 22:37
The Lunar New Year Holiday is not only a special occasion for Vietnamese but also for many foreigners who consider the country their second home. Ken Atkinson, founder and senior board adviser at Grant Thornton Vietnam, shared with VIR about his feelings and thoughts for the traditional holiday as well as the outlook for the New Year.
celebrating lunar new year as a foreigner calling vietnam second home
Visiting flower street to enjoy the festive atmosphere

I always enjoy Tet (Lunar New Year) in Vietnam and I have spent Tet, here in Vietnam, for most of the 28 years I have been living here full time. It is a time of enjoyment for all Vietnamese and I also enjoy the atmosphere and the customs associated with Tet and family.

I like the flower streets that spring up and in particular, the Nguyen Hue walking street, so much thought and work go into the brilliant displays. I enjoy the special food, which are treats for Tet, particularly the bánh chưng, bánh tét and Xoi plus the various candies and fruits. I also enjoy soaking up the family atmosphere and watching the kids in their new clothes and the general excitement that goes with the first day of the Lunar New Year.

celebrating lunar new year as a foreigner calling vietnam second home
Tet Holiday is a special time for family

Normally, we have a fairly set routine for Tet which includes watching the New Year’s Eve fireworks with friends at our apartment, where we have always enjoyed a view over District 1 and or Landmark 81 (in recent years).

On New Years’ day after opening the office with a traditional Vietnamese altar table, we drive to my wife’s parents in Hoc Mon and celebrate with the family which has grown over the years. We make a few temple and family visits and inevitably play cards with the karaoke at full blast (of course!!).

celebrating lunar new year as a foreigner calling vietnam second home
Get together with friends to watch the New Year’s Eve fireworks

Prospect for New Year

As far as concerns for business generally, in 2021 it is the unknown impact of the continued COVID-19 pandemic and when the tourism and hospitality industry will see light at the end of the dark tunnel. For our business, so far touch wood, we have been largely unaffected. Although some service lines have been adversely impacted, others have performed better than expected, so overall our business has performed in line or ahead of budget and we do expect this to continue. Of course, we have to monitor trends very closely and there is no room for complacency.

The Vietnamese economy in 2020 was a standout performer and I fully expect there to be more of the same this year. Most financial commentators are forecasting growth higher than the government’s 6-6.5 per cent, including the World Bank (6.8 per cent), HSBC (7.5 per cent), and Standard Chartered (7.8 per cent).

There are a number of factors that I expect to drive this growth, which include continuing and increased foreign direct investment (FDI), export growth, and recently signed free trade agreements (FTAs).

According to a recent Economic Intelligence Report, Vietnam has emerged as an attractive FDI destination in Asia, recording a better performance than China and India when measuring FDI as a percentage of GDP. Vietnam has become a new hub for low-cost manufacturing in Asian supply chains, the report says.

Factors that make Vietnam better than its peers are the incentives for international firms for setting up units to manufacture high-tech products, the pool of low-cost workers, and the proliferation of FTAs.

The recent FTA between Vietnam and the European Union has benefitted the country, as the EU lifted 85 per cent of its tariffs on Vietnamese goods in 2020 and socio-political stability and population structure has helped win investors’ trust in the Vietnamese market. More recently, the signature of the UK Vietnam FTA will continue the benefits previously enjoyed under the EU Vietnam FTA. Again of course, COVID is still very much in evidence and may pose some challenges to the forecast growth.

What the stars mean:

★ Poor ★ ★ Promising ★★★ Good ★★★★ Very good ★★★★★ Exceptional