Guest writer Fleur, Managing Partner at Love Life, will be writing a series of stories about her adventures & misadventures as a foreign entrepreneur in Laos. If you relate, good for you. If you don’t, even better. Either way, do enjoy.
The Curious & the Mysterious
Surviving Lao Culture as a Small Entrepreneur – 02
Mind-boggling Mystery Monday
mind-boggling: adj. (informal) – “Intellectually or emotionally overwhelming.”
Last month, we launched our new menu. On Monday 21st January 2013, after weeks of slaving over new sundae recipes (which is a hard job but someone’s got to do it), training the staff, and designing the actual book, the “New and Improved” Love Life menu finally reached the tables.
It was, however, a bit of an anti-climax: that first day, the shop remained empty for most of the day, through to late afternoon and our usual rush hour. Thinking that maybe the news of a new menu had scared the customers away, we peaked outside only to see that all of our competitors’ shops nearby were equally empty. Where had all the students gone? What mysterious and unannounced Lao holiday was this? Or was something more sinister at play – an alien mass abduction, perhaps? The staff didn’t seem to know either. Our wall calendar is a gift from our chocolate suppliers and they’re Thai: no explanation for the customer void to be found there. I’d have to wait to be back home, to see if the Lao calendar graciously given by my Lao bank would shed more light on this opaque Lao mystery. Opaque and Lao, yes, but not that unusual. There are days like these, when the shop is empty for no obvious reason. And there are days when on the contrary, it is full to the brim – for no obvious reason either. As the staff cannot usually explain either phenomenon, I try and take it in my stride, using a complex combination of Gallic raised eyebrows and Bor Pen Nyang attitude in order to remain calm. And in Laos, remaining calm can be challenging for those prone to culture shock (as already demonstrated in previous stories of storming-offs impeached by sandals – and as many a story yet to be told will illustrate again… and again… and again.)
You may be pleased to learn that the Lao calendar at home did offer some sort of an explanation for the Monday Mystery. Sunday 20th was Laos’ National Army Day. And Sunday being Sunday, it did not count. As a result, so many schools were off on Monday instead. Or else a mass alien abduction did take place, and the customers we’ve seen since are clever decoys. There is little way to know for sure. For now, all we can do is wait. Business has picked up again, which is good of course. But opening a small business in Laos is an adventure.
It can be challenging. It can be frustrating. Sometimes it can even be fun. But most often of all, doing business in Laos is simply mind-boggling. One thing is only is certain, dear Toto: we’re not in Kansas anymore.
This article has been provided by Love Life: in the business of supplying home made ice‐cream, shakes and cookies to the people of the world! (Well the people of the world either living in Laos or passing through…)
Love Life, eat ice cream!