Future planning seems obvious – so why fight it?Posted: February 2, 2013
When my wife was recently prescribed a week of rest by the doctor I took on the role of carer.
I would work from home, giving me the opportunity to do the running up and downstairs and preparing of meals.
On Sunday, ahead of the working week, I asked what I could buy at the supermarket to make this go more smoothly? Veggies, noodles, rice, meat, snacks etc?
My offer was dismissed and was followed by a week of frustration as I tried to balance work deadlines with shopping and meal-by-meal preparing of food (though I’ll admit that sister Trang ended up doing most of the cooking).
The fact that Vietnamese still shop per meal is widely noted and tends to be attributed to their love of fresh food. But it’s more than that – forward planning, or a lack of it, is a feature in all parts of work and life in Vietnam.
Back in UK office days I was told that any event requiring participation should be booked into diaries a month in advance. In Vietnam event conception, planning and happening can all be squeezed into a couple of days. During my KOTO days I’d be just winding down to six pm, when someone would suggest a meeting. It would inevitably mean me hanging around to attend. Then, sometime later, maddeningly the meeting would just as likely be cancelled.
Likewise with my parents-in-law 10ks across a congested city, I’m always amazed when my wife suggests an immediate visit.
Now? Oh right. I was just going to…
Actually, normally, I’m not about to do anything. It’s just my western mind needs time to schedule things and get used to the idea that they’re coming up. Anything much more than a coffee takes some level of advance booking.
I’ve heard this described as Vietnamese being “event based” while westerners are “time based”. But basically that’s just repeating the situation using new terms. One set of people require schedules, other don’t.
We could explain it down to times of Vietnamese poverty and of living day-to-day and hand-to-mouth but that seems too melodramatic.
More than just common sense, the benefits of longer-term planning for longer-term benefit seems so obvious as to be intuitively understood. So why fight it?