Born and raised in beijing, China, Steven Wang who has been in Vietnam over 8 years feels attached to the country and he considers it his second home. Here wanderlust Tips’s June shares with readers a very interesting coversation with the general manager of Hong Kong Airlines Vietnam.
Hello Steven. You started working for Hong Kong Airlines in 2007 and moved to Vietnam in 2009. Have you had any difficulty adjusting to life in Vietnam during the period?
I used to have a big fat body. And when I came here, because I could not adapt to Vietnamese food, I lost 10kg. Eating was a real challenge for me when I arrived in Vietnam, although China and Vietnam have innumerable cultural similarities. Thanks to that, now I have a much better shaped body than before (laughs).
You look much younger than the age of 48. What is your secret?
I have no secret. But that is probably because I have absorbed the spirit of Hong Kong Airlines’ slogan of “Fresh and very Hong Kong”.
Working here, means working in a youthful, dynamic and fresh environment: from the aircraft with the longest-service aircraft – up to six years in use, and most of the staff are around 30 years old. We also try to recognise and respond to the needs of a new client base of young travel enthusiasts who fly more and more. This is also one of the reasons why we choose different, potential and interesting destinations instead of just popular destinations in our airline network such as Okinawa or Sapporo (Japan), Gold Coast, Cairns (Australia). We have to build the customer base from the beginning, and of course take risks when exploiting non-popular destinations, however the competitive pressure is reduced as Hong Kong Airlines belongs to Hainan Airlines, which is also a young airline. And that youthful spirit has permeated our entire system.
Normally, the airline’s national chief representatives would hold a term of three to four years while you have been in Vietnam for eight years in this position. Did you bring your family with you?
I did not bring my family with me. I have a wife and a very cute 3-year-old daughter and they still live in Beijing. I always arrange a time for the family to stay together for about a week each month. Every year we go on vacation together to enjoy family time and I am quite sure that taking care of family and children is a very tiring job – even much more exhausting than working – as it includes feeding the children, playing with them, taking the children to the zoo, and holding the naughty child along the way (laughs). But at the same time it is incomparable happiness.
Why did you not bring your family here so that your family is always together? There are many good international schools in Vietnam that can provide a modern education.
Like Vietnam, China is a country with a long history and a strong cultural identity. And I believe many parents like me worry that our children will lose the identity of my people, although the education is extremely modern and superior today. I still want my child to be real Chinese, not a person with a mix of cultures. You know in China there is a term for people who deliberately give birth abroad (USA, Europe) so that their children can apply for citizenship of that country, and then they are raised there. These children are referred to as a “banana”, the peel is yellow but the flesh is white. At first glance, their appearance is still Chinese, but inside, it is difficult to define which country and culture these people belong to.
So in your position, living abroad more than in your country, communicating with many people from different cultures, how do you keep your identity Chinese?
I do not know. Perhaps the relationship with my friends and family will help me always feel deeply about my descent. Also, I like to cook and can cook Chinese food to always remember home cuisine. Fortunately, it is not difficult to find spices and ingredients of my country here.
Which destinations do you usually choose to travel to with your family? How do you feel about destinations in Vietnam?
We travel a lot, to Japan, Korea and also many destinations in Vietnam such as Ha Long, Hue, Danang and Mui Ne. There are many places that surprised me, although Vietnam is small, it has such beautiful scenery. However, there is a problem, which is that Vietnam’s high-class services have not been promoted much to Chinese people. Therefore my friends have very little information and I am the one who usually advises them to choose a good service in Vietnam.
Many Chinese are still buying cheap tours such as visiting Halong for only a few hundred dollars. While there are countless luxury yachts in the bay and the experience on those would make your trip truly perfect. You get what you pay for; you will enjoy the services that are worth every dollar that you spend.
And as you said, Vietnam is like your second home, how does it show?
I find it extremely comfortable to be here. During my free time, I play golf – there are many golf courses around Hanoi. If I do not play golf then I walk around the streets, invite friends to go for some glasses of beer, or eat delicious beef noodle (pho bo) in a small but super nice noodle stall on Hoang Hoa Tham Street. I also like to eat bun cha (Vietnamese grilled pork with vermicelli) and hot pot in Vietnam. Then we go together for a few cups of tea. Maybe you would be surprised, I can drink very thick tea, but if I drink only a little coffee such as Highland or Starbucks coffee, which is quite bland to the Vietnamese, I get… drunk.
Thank you for joining the interview with Wanderlust Tips. We wish you and your family good health, great success and full happiness.
Wanderlust Tips | Cinet