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May 2024


Grab-ed by surprise…

As you know from past blog entries, I utilize one of the ride-hailing apps/services called “Grab” to get around town. Truth be told, I really enjoy using this mode of transportation; it gives me an opportunity to meet and chat with many interesting people…and…as I've said before, it keeps the streets a lot safer - I'm not out there driving a motorbike causing chaos and accidents.

Grab drivers are hard-working - they have to be. The Vietnamese news has run a number of features about Grab indicating that when it first opened the economy was good, relative to Vietnamese standards, and Grab drivers were able to make a good living. At that time, Grab drivers could work an eight-hour shift and make a decent wage. 

Things have changed. The economy in Vietnam is struggling and many people have turned to Grab and the other two services (Be and VinFast [the electric version]) as a means of employment. This, in turn, has flooded the market with drivers and severely increased competition. Drivers must now work 12-14 hour days/nights to make a profit. I always ride in the front passenger seat (I'll explain below) and it's not unusual to see the Grab driver's lunch and supper stuffed into the door compartments.

Grab transportation comes in two versions: cars (of all status levels [economy to luxury models]) and motorbikes. Because more people own a motorbike than own a car, motorbikes far outnumber cars (I'd guess at least 4:1, if not more). Also, given motorbike fares are half the cost of the economy level car (which I take), motorbike competition is even higher than for cars.

Grab drivers are predominantly male. In fact, during my collective two years of “Grab-ing” hundreds of rides, I have encountered one female car driver, and I have never seen a female Grab motorbike driver. 

When I “take a Grab”, I like to sit in the front seat, which always surprises the drivers. In Vietnam, the back seat is where the “person with the money sits” - think of it as “the poor person's limo”; and image is extremely important in Vietnam. That is, if you are taking a Grab car instead of a Grab bike, you have money; and if you have money, you “sit in the back” while your driver takes you to your destination. 

The way I look at it, however, is that by sitting in the front, I have more leg room, I get the direct benefit of an AC vent, and I get to practice speaking my rudimentary Vietnamese with the drivers; which they seem to enjoy (well most of the time anyway). I can also more easily take pictures of dashboard knickknacks.

Although my conversations with drivers are getting longer and they are very patient with me as I struggle along, it really only takes a few minutes before I've reached my communicative limits. Enter Google translate.  

During yesterday's ride my driver asked me, via GT: 

“Em thấy người ta nói ở bên Mỹ, nhà nào cũng có súng thế ra đường. Anh có sợ người ta bắn vào mính không hoặc là xảy ra mâu thuẫn người ta dùng súng không còn anh thấy ở Việt Nam có thích không ạ?”

Roughly translated to:

“I see people saying that in America, every house has guns, like on the streets. Are you afraid that people will shoot at you or if there are conflicts that people will use guns? Do you like it in Vietnam?”



JULY, p. 9

AUGUST, p. 9


OCTOBER,  p.g 2,  p. 3, p. 4

NOVEMBER p.2, p.3, p.4, p.5, p.6, p.7

DECEMBER p.2, p.3, p.4, p.5 p.6, p.7, p.8

JANUARY p.2, p.3

FEBRUARY, p.2, p.3, p.4, p.5, 

MARCH p.2, p.3, p.4 p.5, p.6, p.7

APRIL p.2, p.3, p.4, p.5, p.6, p.7, p.8, p.9, p.10, p11