Dana Filek-Gibson gets a new set of business cards and a healthy dose of self-importance.
When they print you up a business card, it’s just the essentials. Name, company, telephone, email. Sometimes people get fancy and throw in a Twitter handle or an Instagram, but most of what I request on my own name cards – that’s what they call them here – doesn’t get printed. I guess it’s for the best.
However if I were in charge of placing the orders, there would be a lot more text involved; I’m in the writing business, after all. Probably I’d go with something edgy, like Jokerman or Curlz MT. Whatever it is, there would be none of that Helvetica crap – what am I, a hipster? – and I’d have the final say on my job title. The cards would read like so:
Managing Editor — Local Expert — Professor of Traffic Safety — Customer Service Guru — Tango Juice Regular — Noted Viewer of CSI: Miami Reruns
Telephone | Email | The End
Sure, you might think, six-point font is a little small, but consider this: we’ve made all these technological advancements – people are watching TV on their contact lenses, for Chrissakes! – and you’re telling me you can’t take a picture and zoom in? No one’s willing to spring for some larger business cards? We’ve got cell phones the size of dictionaries but heaven forbid we carry an A5 sheet of paper around in our wallets! What a mess.
Of course, the naysayers will tell you that not all of this information is ‘relevant’ or ‘professional’ or ‘accurate’. It’s easy to judge when things are taken out of context. But if people understood the scope of my expertise when it came to things like road safety, Vietnamese cuisine, swearing, subway construction and the one-liners of Lieutenant Horatio Caine, they’d change their tune.
You see, when foreigners first get here, we’re hopeless. It takes some time to learn the ropes of this city. But once an expat has passed the two-year mark, someone ought to start consulting us on these kinds of everyday questions.
Case in point: I’ve driven past Le Loi at least six times since they put up those blue barriers. Do you really think I don’t know what’s going on back there? A bunch of men in hard hats are tunneling underground. How much more can there be? Step 1: dig a large hole. Step 2: insert subway. And they say it’s going to take til 2020! Perhaps instead of saying things like “Ma’am, pedestrians aren’t allowed here,” someone could offer up a thank you. I mean, with my knowledge of dirt and shovels, put me on the job and we’d be done by next week!
The same goes for beer. Vietnamese drinking culture might have its own set of rules – I’ll give you that – but try telling the folks at the bia hoi about craft beer and everyone gets uptight. All I want to offer are simple suggestions to improve the product, but are there comment cards? No. Give me a break: it’s like no one in this country has ever tasted a Bud Light Lime!
If I’ve learned one thing in Vietnam, it’s that nothing is as it seems. Someone might tell you they have a PhD in urban planning or a Masters in Hospitality, but those are just pieces of paper backed by years of intense research and study. Me? I’ve been sleeping in hotels since I was a child. In fact, if I close my eyes and calm my inner monologue, I can vaguely recall the all-pink interior of Honolulu’s Royal Hawaiian in utero. So when you tell me I can’t go sock-skating around the lobby of the Park Hyatt because it’s “against hotel policy”, need I remind you that the customer is always right?
What this all comes down to is confidence. Read what you will from the self-help department – Dr Phil, Oprah, Snookie – everyone says the same thing: fake it til you make it. Nobody becomes an expert on account of their studies or accomplishments: all it takes is a bit of authority and, perhaps, a microphone. Because I’m still on the hunt for a good-quality headset – the kind they use in Jazzercise or on those TEDx videos – I have to make do with announcing my expertise on paper. So next time a waiter tries to tell me the restaurant is closed or a xe om driver insists that a street is one-way, I don’t have to spend time delving into my lengthy history as a customer and/or backseat driver. Instead, I can reach into my bag, produce that sturdy A5 card and let them know, in painstaking detail, exactly who I am.