This is often the first person you meet when you go to a restaurant, and the last person you see when you leave. But this person doesn’t cook, doesn’t wait tables and probably doesn’t speak English. Who is it? It’s the motorbike parking attendant.
Motorbike Attendant – Unsung Heroes of Vietnam
When you go out to eat in Vietnam, chances are, someone will be there to look after your bike. I’ve heard off-hand that this is one of the most popular jobs in Vietnam. Think about it: nearly every restaurant has someone, and they all only work for one place. That means that the place next door also has to hire someone else, and the place next to that too. It’s quite easy to see how this job employs a lot of people.
But who are these guys? What is their job like? To find out, I decided to interview Mr Dũng, who works for Thai Market, next door to where we meet for the Evening Food Tour. I’ve taken the liberty of translating our conversation into English. If you wanna hear the original, I’ve attached the file below.
Meet Chú Dũng
Note: this interview has been edited slightly for ease of reading and clarity.
Shaun: How long have you worked this job? What’s the schedule like?
Dũng: 6 years, all at the Thai Restaurant. 10 hours a day, from 9 am to 2 pm, and from 5 pm to 10 pm.
So in the afternoon you have 3 hours off to eat lunch and take a nap?
What about your lunch, does the restaurant provide that?
Yeah they do, 3 meals a day.
Great! How much is your salary per month? (very normal question to ask in Vietnam)
Do you have to wear a uniform every day? Who pays for that?
Yes, every day. The restaurant provides it for us.
Is there anything you don’t like about your job?
Yeah, some of the customers (laughing). Sometimes the younger customers aren’t polite, so I have to teach them.
So do you “talk strong” to them?
No, I just explain to them, for example, the polite way to ask me to move the bike out for them.
What do you like the most about your job?
It’s my life so I like it! Now I’m old so I don’t have to work too hard like the laborers (gestures to the guys building the giant hotel next door).
Do you think you’ll keep working this job? What did you do before? Why did you change?
When they fire me then I’ll stop. Before this I worked in marketing. But the job market wasn’t good, and I’m old now (smiles).
Hey but how come the guy you work with over there is so young?
He’s a student. This is a job for students and old men.
Oh OK. So what exactly are your responsibilities at this job?
We escort customers into and out of the restaurant, arrange the motorbikes, watch their stuff while they’re inside.
What happens if one of bikes goes missing? Is that your fault?
No, it’s the restaurant’s. But I’ve worked in this area a long time, so I know everyone. If I see someone I don’t know, then we notice them.
But have you ever lost a bike?
What about a helmet? Rain jacket? Anything?
Nope, nothing, never. I’m watching.
Do you take care of this whole street?
No, only one restaurant, the Thai Restaurant. In Vietnam, we aren’t allowed to look after more than one place.
Is there anything else you wanna share about this job that people should know?
Nah, I don’t need to share anything. When someone meets us they can know about us. I don’t want them to say Vietnamese people talk a lot.
Test your Vietnamese (and evaluate mine!) by listening to the original interview: