"Vietnam has achieved impressive socio-economic gains over the past decade, and most Vietnamese seemingly look busy all the time," says United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) representative in Vietnam, Patrick Jean Gilabert.
He says he returned to Vietnam last year to begin his four-year term as chief UNIDO representative in Indochina, and was very impressed by its changes compared to what he had seen ten years ago.
Gilabert is now living in Hanoi with his wife and two sons who are studying at a French language school on Nui Truc Street.
“Working in Vietnam brings me both joy and interesting experience,” he says, adding that the local staff in his office are very hardworking and intelligent, and have helped him explore a very dynamic Vietnam.
The UNIDO official was very surprised when he saw some Vietnamese people eating snakes in a Hanoi restaurant. “I took a photo and was offered a cup of wine with snake's blood. I was quite scared at the time, but now I am a real Vietnamese and I’ll take it if I'm invited,” he recalls.
Patrick Jean Gilabert. Source: VOVNEWS
Gilabert says he loves traditional Vietnamese cuisine that takes time and skillful hands to prepare. “You will always have wonderful food, beautifully presented,” he adds with a smile.
“My favourite food is pho, the famous Hanoi beef rice noodle soup. Drinking coffee with locals in the Old Quarter gives me a chance to explore daily life in the capital city,” he confides.
Gilabert considers Vietnam his second home, as he understands and likes the things that are happening in the S-shaped country. He lives every day like a real Hanoian, leaving the office after 5pm and joining his family for a dinner of Vietnamese food. On the weekend, he goes with his wife and children to see relatives or friends. Sometimes, they cycle around Hoan Kiem (Returned Sword) Lake or Ho Tay (West Lake) and spend sometime at a sport centre. “My children and I really enjoy taekwondo, judo and Vietnamese martial arts,” he says.
Gilabert travels to different provinces and cities across the country on fact-finding missions. “I am especially fond of the former capital city, Hue, and its ancient architecture, as well as Da Nang with its long, beautiful beaches and the traditional culture of Hoi An.”
“I also love Sapa, where I had a wonderful time in the nice weather and gained a better understanding of different Vietnamese ethnic minority groups,” he says.
“My wife loves Vietnam, where she finds it very convenient to go shopping at local shops on the pavement or at supermarkets. Living in Vietnam is very pleasant with friendly neighbours, a peaceful environment and many beautiful places to see.”
Patrick Jean Gilabert (second from the right)
Gilabert is concerned about traffic congestion in Vietnam, however, he says the situation should improve soon with a number of key projects to upgrade the roads and modernize the highways and railway lines.
“I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to return to Vietnam and contribute to the country’s development,” he says, adding that he will try to visit as many provinces and cities in the country as possible during his return to his second homeland./.