Vietnam 100 years ago: lifestyle in old Saigon


Most Eastern towns have a certain similarity, but Saigon remains unique. It is essentially French. At present there are only six Britishers there all in banks and insurance offices, one good Scotchman hailing from Peterhead.

Business hours in Saigon are somewhat peculiar from 7 to 10 and from 2 to 4 afternoon. Five hours’ work a day is indeed sufficient out there for the most enthusiastic worker. A quiet siesta from 11 to 2 is absolutely necessary.

Hotel life is by no means cheap, but if one has one’s own bungalow and servants, and I may say the Annamites are capital little fellows, one can live very cheaply. Fish, meat, vegetables, and fruit abound, and one can build and own a house most moderately.

Commend me to the little Annamite ponies and small four-wheeled Victorias. With a pair one can rattle along at a good rate at a cost of Is 6d per hour, and 9d for each extra hour. This includes driver’s fee.

The whole colony has an air of peace and contentment about it, combined also with every evidence of solid commercial prosperity. Life here for a Frenchman must spell Katie-faction and success.

The Frenchman, however, takes his pleasures as well as his troubles less sadly than a Britisher, and is more ready to look on the bright side of things. Notwithstanding what reverses the French may up to now have had in Cochin-China, every one of them one meets appears to be the personification of success the big heart, the kindly hand, and the encouraging voice are there.

These French colonists are not only hewers of wood and drawers of water. They appear to live not only for gold but to make each other happy, and to touch, the one for the other, human chords with the magic fingers of sympathy.

One hears it often said that the French are light and shallow, but here in China is a colony built up by Frenchmen, and built up to the point where success steps in.

Sometimes I think Britishers look at life through the wrong end of the telescope. We follow our business, perhaps, with sometimes too single an eye to interest and with no eye at all to heart. We worship the machine, and give too little consideration to the man.

Text: Gypsy
To Jeih Pun, the land of 3850 islands, and elsewhere
Publication date: 1907
Topics Japan – Description and travel, Philippines, Indochina
Publisher: Aberdeen – Aberdeen Daily Journal
Photo: old photo from internet


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