Vietnam's mooncakes a sweet way to grease wheels of commerce

Vietnam's appetite for mooncakes is rising as adults use the annual treats, traditionally enjoyed by children, to grease the wheels of commerce.

Mooncakes are a sweet, round delicacy given to youngsters and offered to ancestors during Vietnam's Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on Wednesday.

But in Vietnam's rapidly developing economy they have taken on increased importance for grown-ups who use gifts of mooncakes to build business relationships.

Most of the cakes sell for about one dollar but others, sometimes elaborately packaged and made with expensive ingredients like birds nest or crayfish, can retail for almost two million dong (101 dollars).

That is almost three times the official minimum monthly wage for civil servants.

"Those are for the rich, and for bosses," Nguyen Thi Hoai, 42, who makes her living collecting used paper products, said outside one of the many temporary mooncake shops which have opened around Hanoi.

High-priced mooncakes "are for someone who wants to show off," a housewife who gave her name only as Huong said as she passed a shop where cakes sold for between 200,000 and 700,000 dong.

One boxed gift contained eight small mooncakes, their traditional accompaniment of tea, and the modern twist of a bottle of wine - all for 1.5 million dong.

Tran Hung Lam, 38, a motorcycle taxi driver, said he saw some people carry out five or even 10 big boxes of high-end cakes from a shop near his parking spot.

"Not worth the money," Lam declared.

For many people, though, they are.

One woman who works for a large private firm said mooncakes are a way to thank clients, business contacts and bosses for their support.

The cakes are a way to "expand relations," added the woman who declined to be named. She said her company bought its mooncakes from a luxury hotel, not an ordinary mooncake shop.

The state Vietnam News on Friday quoted Nguyen Xuan Luan, deputy director of a major national bakery firm, as saying orders of its luxury Golden Moon cakes were up 20 percent on last year.

Large companies order the cakes to present to staff "and partners", said Luan, of the Kinh Do company.

Thang Long-Hanoi brand mooncakes had also sold well, even at 1.8 million dong for a box of four, he was quoted as saying.

More down-to-earth cakes, which can look something like an Australian meat pie, often contain a green-bean paste and come in a cheap plastic wrapper.

They are commonly given to teachers during the festival, which originated as a way to mark the end of harvest and is also celebrated by Chinese communities around Asia.

Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the most important celebrations in Vietnam's Chinese-influenced culture, is a time for children to receive toys and is marked with colourful lanterns and lion dances as well as mooncakes.

"It is traditional that one offers a box of these special cakes to someone that you want to please or owe a favour, like your landlord or the local police," said a supplement to the Vietnam Economic Times.

Gift-giving is part of the culture in Vietnam, but the country is also rated as one of the world's most corrupt.

Everyone from traffic police to health workers and teachers are widely alleged to receive payoffs.

Gift-giving is not necessarily corruption but could be, said Matthieu Salomon, international senior adviser to Towards Transparency, a local non-governmental organisation acting as the "national contact" point for Transparency International, the German-based global anti-corruption network.

"It depends on the value of the present," said Salomon, whose group is not a chapter of Transparency International.

"It also depends on how people perceive the present, especially whether they feel obliged to offer it and whether people who receive it think they have to give something in exchange."

Nguyen Thi Tham, 39, who earns about 60,000 dong a day, said she did not know whether giving cakes constitutes bribery.

"But Mid-Autumn Festival is the time to show gratitude to certain people," she said.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Estates Contracts & Leases Manager

    £30000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Estates Team of this group ...

    Guru Careers: Brand Manager / Marketing Campaign Manager

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Brand Manager / Marketing Campaign Manager is req...

    Day In a Page

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future