Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I can't count the number of people/companies who want free stuff!

In Vietnam, everybody loves my work. But the minute I ask them to pay, anything at all, they all back off. Why? Because the expat people are all working on a budget that doesn't include money (except what they get paid) and the Vietnamese are all working on a budget that doesn't include money (except what they get paid). So what up? I can't help them because there is no money. Simple. But not their best choice. I spoke with a DJ and a rapper who said the same thing about his business. People want him to work for 'exposure'. Geez. If I get any more exposure my butt will get sunburned.

And this is not coming from nobodies. This is coming from graduates of Wesleyan University, The University of Chicago, American University, Ivy League schools and too many East Coast prep schools. These are people with educations that cost upwards of a quarter of a million dollars, yet they come to Vietnam and deal in pennies - except when it comes to their houses, and their cars, and certainly their salaries.

Back at Leo Burnett in Chicago we had plenty of people like that. People from the North Shore with MBA's from Northwestern, mostly in marketing. We called those people, 'Hobbyists'. They were trust fund babies that didn't so much need a real job, but needed a job that looked to others like they had a real job, so they could go to the office every day and the symphony every weekend and to their country club events whenever needed. People from 'good' families - as the Koreans might say of their top tier. It took me a while to understand people like this. If I didn't have to work for my money, I certainly couldn't understand people who did. But I understand people like that now.

Recently, I saw a magazine launch and their big news was that the editor was the wife of the ambassador of a reasonably exotic sounding European country. A hobbyist for sure. But it looks great on the mag's sales pitch - and god knows, she doesn't need the money.

Count the Bentleys in town town amongst the locals who are most definitely making a buck. Watch another expat high-rise go up in Anh Phu or Phu My Hyun. In Vietnam we're beginning to witness one of the most surreal states of suspension of disbelief that we've seen outside of China in recent times. The one that makes people believe, that so long as they are doing well, that things are truly going well. And that's a worry. Oops, there's another boatload of expensively educated foreign NGO workers come to help Vietnam. Good. They work cheap. Mom and dad think they're saving poor people.

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