Vietnam is the third-largest alcohol consumer in Asia, behind Japan and China, and the leading consumer in Southeast Asia. According to industry figures, Vietnam drinks even more than its more wealthy neighbor Thailand.
The rate of alcohol drinking in Vietnam has increased by more than 200 percent over the past 10 years, state media recently reported, due in part to rising disposable incomes and to demographics – a million people reach the legal drinking age of 18 each year.
In the West, the purpose of drinking is to have fun with families and friends or to enjoy an important game. In Vietnam, the purpose of drinking is to get drunk, and yes, it will be a waste if you are not drunk. More interestingly, alcohol and business go hand-in-hand as a rule in Vietnamese business. Many agree that it would be a big disadvantage for their jobs and businesses if they did not drink beer or wine. The question is: why did it start?
Most businesspeople (in Asia) believe that alcohol and social drinking is the easiest way to understand(or get to know) their partners. They rely on the effects of alcohol to gauge a crucial part of the business deal, honesty, in vino veritas. The explanation seems cogent enough to convince readers. However, in my opinion, there is a gender issue underlying this business culture.
The issue stems from traditional gender roles.Vietnamese men are considered to be very conservative, who believe that the business world is only for them and that women should be at home taking care of children. Furthermore, they are also afraid of women overcoming their traditional roles and achieve equal rights. Therefore, based on the fact that most Vietnamese women do not drink, (according to WHO research, fewer than two percent of Vietnamese women drink alcohol at all), the requirement of alcohol tolerance in business restricts women from getting involved in business and to helps preserve men’s leadership. Putting it simply, if a woman does not drink, she will be kicked out of the business, yet if she drinks, people will judge her decency. As a result, women are bound to the role of housekeeper.
Today, many Vietnamese women drink as a way of getting equal rights and a good job.
Do I support them? Well, women should drink if they want to. However, drinking is an inappropriate way to get equal rights. Instead, women should show men how well they can handle business. “But to do well at business, women have to drink!!!” No, a job that requires women to drink is not a good job and a boss who requires women to drink is not a good boss.