This is Viet Nam’s Renovation Generation, sonic portraits of young minds re-shaping the country’s future. In Episode 9 we speak to Hoàng Anh.
We talked to Hoàng Anh in front of a live audience at the Women’s Storytelling Salon. A regular event that brings together women to share their experience by way of storytelling. This one took place at Manzi Art Space in Hanoi.
Hoàng Anh is a wedding planner. That’s how we got to meet her. It’s a very unusual profession still in Vietnam because it doesn’t quite exist yet. With The Renovation Generation we try to find people who are doing things that wouldn’t have been possible before Đổi Mới, but also that are just unusual and new not necessarily mainstream. So Hoàng Anh is going to talk about being a wedding planner and also she did this in Koh Samui for the last few years and has only just returned from Thailand. We will to talk about that as well.
We ask every person that we interview what they would bring back from pre-Đổi Mới. And Hoàng Anh said she would bring back food coupons because it would make people more aware of what they are consuming and actually think about how much they waste.
We had our trusted narrator Maia Do conduct the talk.
What connects these two ladies is that they both wanted to be princesses when they were growing up and I’ll hand over to you ladies.
Hey everyone. In my defense I love Disney movies but I don’t wanna be a princess – anymore
I still do
oh you still do, no wonder why you are wedding planner. What inspired you to become one?
The blame is on my grandpa because he let me watch Disney movies a lot when I was younger. My mum and dad was so busy that I live with my grandpa. He cannot sing or dance with me so he put movies for me. My house is the only one that has television. So the kids sometimes gather in my house and they watch movies with me so I think it’s a privilege. And I feel like a princess people have to bribe me with candies. It’s like the movie ticket. And I feel special. I thank my grandpa a lot for that, because the television was actually from his savings.
What’ your idea of a good marriage?
That’s a hard question. I don’t know
I think some girls think love can conquer everything. And a wedding is a happy ending. To me it’s not. A happy ending may not include a wedding. You can just live by your own house and maybe surrounded with your cats. It’s more happy than living with your mother in law who tell you to do anything on her wish.
I see my mum and dad fight all the time since they got married. My mum… the only condition that she will say yes to my dad proposal is that he will have to put the mosquito net up every night. She hate it, she is short, she cannot reach the roof so she cannot do it. My dad does it until now. I think it’s more about commitment. You have hard time and you have good time. You fight, but you are not thinking about going away you are not thinking of walking out the door. It’s a very thin line that not that many people can keep.
Should we talk a little bit about your travelling experience?
My first travelling experience was when I was 18. I love travelling, back then but I was travelling in my country only. My dad is actually a geologist, so he studied the seabed of Vietnam for 10 years. Every time he comes back with pearls and seashells, tell me story of how the fishermen live. And I was like maybe my dad is a pirate. Later I found that he’s not. All the stories he told me all the names of the places I hadn’t hear before. So I decided maybe if I don’t have enough money to travel outside the country. I start when I was 16, doing short trips along the coastline of Vietnam. I did that for two years until I was 18. I remember it was my birthday on 23rd June and on 24th my mum and dad gave me the ticket and say like this is a ticket to Hong Kong. I say oh what for? It’s your birthday gift. I say really? Yeah you fly tomorrow with your best friend. We talk to their parents we book a ticket together so two girls Hong Kong for seven days . That’s how my mum and dad kick me out the house when I was 18. I remember everyday of that trip.
So you have to thank your parents.
I still thank them every day.
It seems they were very supportive with your travelling around. What about when you start choosing your career. Cause it’s quite unconventional career path.
Unfortunately they didn’t want me to go with that part. I don’t blame them for that, because wedding planner is still like a new thing in Vietnam and it’s normal to feel insecure when your kid tries something new. Something that you don’t even know about. So I talked to my mum. I still remember that night when we turn off the light and I told my mum, mum I want to be a wedding planner. She’s quiet for five seconds and then she yell at me. She say like what there is no such thing as a wedding planner. Nobody is going to let you plan their wedding, wedding is important. I think to myself, that’s why they need a wedding planner, but I don’t know how to explain to my mum back then. When I took that job and I moved to Thailand for two years, my dad was mad at me for six months he didn’t talk to me at all .
In our conversation you said the difference between our generation and our parent’s generation is that we are the lost generation. Can you give an example of that?
They are the bridge from Vietnam to the world. They bring the world to Vietnam. We didn’t have internet back then. We don’t have studying abroad. There is no international news.
Do you think because things are so ready for us at the moment our parents feel protective over us? That’s why they want us to do something more secure, safe? Like studying finance and work in a bank? Everyone studies finance.
And find a job in a bank and that’s it. We don’t know what to do. That’s not what I am good at. That’s why I give up my finance career because I feel like if I take that job it’s unfair for someone who is good out there and I took their position. Maybe someone they are struggling to find a job as well, but they cannot find it because I am sitting in that chair already. I don’t say that sitting in finance job is bad. Because I know a lot of people who are actually good at it and they deserve that job. I don’t.
That’s what I am saying. Some people are good at it but for us we just not we just can’t do it. I was thinking if I work at a bank the entire Vietnam would go bankrupt.
I feel like a lot of my friends is doing that. They dream of baking cakes, they dream of painting, they dream of travelling or writing or… a lot more than just 9 to 5 jobs. You come home and you feel like 8 hours just like torture. It’s unfair to say that they are lost, but I know a lot of them have different dreams than what they are doing.
I have very last question for you. This may seem very weird because we are talking about weeding planning and marriage and stuff. What do you think about divorce rate in Vietnam?
I think that not all the people who are getting married are ready for marriage. That’s what I can say because I did consult a lot of Vietnamese brides and they are young. They are around 23, 24, 25. In Vietnam you know that after 27 you are considered a time bomb. I am a time bomb in my house. But 24 I thought I was ready but then when I broke up with my long-term relationship I know that I am not. And I try to give out advice to all my brides-to-be saying like don’t listen to the fortuneteller. I have the bride come to me saying oh we have to get married in two months, because the fortuneteller say it’s a good month or else you have to wait for the whole bad year to pass and you can get married. I say it’s sorry bullshit. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are at the age of marriage. You do it when you are ready. And divorce. I don’t think divorce is bad. Because you have the right to get married and you have the right to get divorced. It’s more unfair if you stay with the people that you don’t love or you don’t have feelings for them. It’s unfair for both of you. I don’t think divorce is bad. I think that getting married when you are not ready is worse.
Thank you very much. It’s time for your questions.
Any of you getting married?
I just wondered listening to you talk. How much of your job is logistic and how much is psychologist?
I think 51% is psychologist. So sometimes I have to turn down some weddings, because we don’t click.
Do you envision your career to be more than just a wedding planner? Because what you have discussed so far has a lot to do with life and advising women to know what they want in life and to be empowered and maybe not to be a wedding bride, maybe like a women’s support group…
I had a blog two years ago. I just write my own thoughts. It reached a lot of people when I write about condoms, when I write about how I deal with loneliness, how I deal with breaking up with my boyfriend and people come to me and I feel like I enter the world of all the women in doubts. And they feel release because they know they are not alone people are having the same problem. All the younger girls come to me because they think that I am strong and independent. But I say I am not. I still like to be around boyfriend, I like to be pampered, I like to be taken care of, but I stand for women, I don’t label myself as a feminist or an activist. I just want to be a nice person. And a nice person helps people. So anything I can help people with I would do that.
Thank you and hang out more if you want to. The bar is open… Thank you very much.
That was the wedding planner Hoàng Anh in conversation with our narrator Maia Do at the very first live recording of The Renovation Generation. Thanks to the Women’s Storytelling Salon in Hanoi for inviting us to their event.
It is produced by Eliza Lomas and Fabiola Buchele, our production assistants are Trang Nghiem and Trang Ngo, Jacques Smit is our photographer and research is done by me Maia Do.
An & Of Other Things production
Don’t worry there is a lot of good me out there….
In Episode 10 we will visit the owner of Tranquil café Nam Lu to talk to him about his poetry and being the go to subject for his friends’ film and photography projects.
Be sure to listen!