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vufo August 2nd, 2009 09:24 PM

Vietnam, Globalization and Grimsby
By Mark Kent, British Ambassador to Vietnam

Just back from two weeks in the U.K., where I attended the annual conference of British ambassadors and visited several U.K. cities with the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs deputy spokesperson, Mrs Nga, and three journalists, Linh, Diand Duc

A great experience with lots of cultural insights – from the first moment of struggling with suitcases on the packed, but silent, London tube at rush hour. As one of the journalists commented, such silence would have been unthinkable in Vietnam

Main impressions? That the global economy will be the overriding priority for my work this year. Unsurprising you may think, but promoting commercial opportunities and free trade will be important for both Vietnam and U.K. given that we are both essentially trading nations who depend on open markets for our prosperity.

Much of my time in London, and elsewhere, was spent talking to British business about their current prospects in Vietnam. There was a pleasing amount of interest – as I think most businesses realize the medium and long-term potential here, even if there will be short-term difficulties like most other places, including in the U.K.

And that was my second big impression – that in a globalized world there are interconnections everywhere, irrespective of location. I was a bit surprised, but perhaps should not have been, by the number of academics I met on my trip with an interest in Vietnam. And they had the widest areas of interest – gerontology (ageing apparently), microbiology, agrarian and social science, medicine, law and business studies, as well as a large number with an interest in Southeast Asian studies. This spanned a number of cities – London (where I met a group of lecturers from around the country), Oxford, Sheffield and Grimsby.

In Oxford, a new Vietnam-U.K. academic network was launched – I attended the launch with my counterpart, Ambassador Hoan. One interesting thing was the number of students living in the U.K. who had one or two Vietnamese parents and who are now trying to strengthen their links with Vietnam. In some cases this meant attempting to regain fluency in Vietnamese. We saw also in Hackney (a London borough) how the local Vietnamese community had organized community schools to teach their young children Vietnamese.

And Grimsby, too, was great. Now I guess that anyone who reads this is likely to be an international expatriate who may not have heard of Grimsby. Certainly I was asked by a few people in the U.K. (some of who should have known better) why we were visiting Grimsby.

Grimsby and the surrounding region is one of the most important sites for ports, seafood and food processing in Europe. As such it has much in common with, and much to offer, Vietnam. My colleagues were very impressed with the fishing heritage museum. We were received with typical hospitality by local business and the Humber Seafood Institute. And we even had a fish and chip lunch before watching Grimsby Town (‘the Mariners’) beat Aldershot 1-0. An important step in their battle for football league survival.

I last watched them 27 years ago, standing next to my grandfather when they were on the verge of entering the old First Division (now the Premier League). I was presented with a shirt signed by the team, which I plan to hang next to the team photo in the Embassy. In return we gave them a Vietnam shirt.

And so back to Hanoi to try to put the business cards and leads in order and organize follow ups. I learn that we are likely to have a visit to Vietnam by a Premier League team in May (watch out for more news). And my son is taking plans forward to study at a Vietnamese university here in Hanoi. Globalization isn’t just a one-way street.

Source: VietnewsOnline


Ambassador Mark Kent was appointed Her Majesty's Ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in March 2007. He arrived in Hanoi on 15 December 2007.

vufo August 2nd, 2009 10:13 PM

Sunday, Sunday
By Mark Kent , British Ambassador to Vietnam

Sundays are supposed to be restful - but it rarely works out like that. I normally have to spend some time working to catch up on the previous week's flood of emails, especially if I've been away (last week I spent three days in the Central Highlands).
I try to do some exercise too. My routine is to go running three times around Thong Nhat Park. At first I tried to run there from home. But it was a vain hope. You have to try to dodge street cafes and cope with pavements which are used for parking mopeds rather than for pedestrians.

So I accepted fate and now walk there and take in the street sights. It took me a while to work out the entrance requirements to the park. VND4,000 entrance fee - unless you arrive before 7 a.m. (no chance) or after 5 p.m. - the designated exercise times.

Apart from being free, going after 5 p.m. allows you to see the groups of (mainly) ladies doing aerobics and to meet up with other Vietnamese joggers, as well as the fascinating other glimpses into Vietnamese society.

The fairground, the little train, the speak-your-weight machines, the food sellers, the badminton players and the kids playing football.

Today I met a well-built middle-aged man of military bearing who I ran past but who then picked up his pace and overtook me again. I stayed behind him for about a lap, then he motioned me to follow him on his circuit (different from mine) and kept looking back and beckoning to check that I was keeping up (increasingly difficult as he was clearly fitter than me).

When he eventually stopped to meet friends, we shook hands and said goodbye. Perhaps I'll meet him again, like the man I often see jogging with the most impressive handlebar moustache I have seen in many years.

Then I get home, shower and off to an informal dinner with the Brazilian Ambassador (or so he told me). I'm not shaven (apart from my head), and was going to put on a t shirt and jeans.

But then I think better of it and take a jacket as it's a bit cold. Good job, as it turns out to be a gastronomic formal dinner with Patricia Wells, a famous food critic, and several other Ambassadors at the Metropole Hotel.

Almost as embarrassing as the time I turned up to the Embassy Christmas party in Brussels in my flowery Hawaiian shirt when everyone else was wearing suits. There's no way back on these occasions. So I pluck up my courage and brazen it out.

Great food and an interesting dinner. But it takes a turn for the worse when Joao (our Brazilian colleague) suggests a cooking competition between Ambassadors. And a golf tournament. I can't cook (not even an egg). And I can't hit a golf ball. He then suggests a singing competition, which luckily was a joke as I can't do that either. I'll deal with the competition when it happens (Joao suggests I try to cook scrambled eggs). Then it's 11.30 p.m., time to go home, write this, and get ready to hit the week proper....

Source: VietnewsOnline

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