At some point in our lives, we all participate in the capitalist game. For example, my brother mowed people’s lawn for $5 an hour. He’s 10. My sister goes door to door during Girl Scout cookie season to sell as many boxes as possible. I also used to have a snow cone stand when I was their age.
But the difference between a successful kid who will inevitably be a successful business person is persistence. I just didn’t care to sell snow cones. My sister only wanted to win a bike. My brother gave up on his gardening business when summer arrived. But you should’ve seen them sell: not taking “no” for an answer, being adorable and helpful. It works. They played the game and they played it well.My brother and sister are as cute as this pup. How can you say “no” that?
So is there such thing as being too persistent?
I don’t think so.
Meet Sapa.Sapa A waterfall in Sapa
Sapa is a region in the northernmost part of Vietnam. For all intents and purposes, Sapa’s beauty is really owed to its functionality. People eat rice. Rice is cultivated on steppes. The rice steppes are beautiful. Therefore, Sapa is beautiful.
Hmong have lived there for generations. Most Hmong live in villages beyond the rice terrains. Some Hmong host homestay houses among the rice paddies.
Visits to Sapa are often guided by one or two Hmong ladies. Our guide walks seven miles every morning to get to her job of being our guide. She speaks three languages: one of the Hmong languages, Vietnamese and English. She spends practically all day with us and then walks back to her home seven miles away to tuck her kids in at night. She does this EVERY DAY: meeting brand new people, making friends with travelers and introducing us to a region she knows like the back of her hand.
The pay must be good enough for her to keep doing this every day.
Or maybe the pay is a necessary evil. After all, for some reason, Sapa has become a tourist spot. I have no idea how it got this way, but if I had to venture a guess, I’d think it was some traveler who “found” Sapa and spread the word to his friends until it became part of the capitalism “game.”
Every walking tour is accompanied with at least five more Hmong women. At every stop along the walk, they will ask you to buy their handmade goods (really, they’re handmade, I saw them make it). They’re downright persistent, as in plant-their-goods-two-inches-from-your-eyeline-and-tell-you-“buy from me”-persistent.Hmong ladies accompanying us on our walk. Look, they even made us horsies out of grass.
A lot of tourists are put off by these ladies’ persistence. But, I ask you: Why?
Persistence is such an inherently westernized concept. It’s so westernized, it’s even written in the Declaration of Independence as “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I can’t blame them for wanting to make a little money. It’s going to a good cause (to support their families). At least the Hmong ladies can take “no” for an answer. If you say “no thanks,” they will understand, because it’s all just business. I don’t even take “no” for an answer. Seriously, anyone tells me no and I end up just trying harder to get what I want.
Maybe it’s because Hmong haven’t discovered the usefulness of Etsy or eBay, or even a flagship storefront, which would be a more appropriate way to harass Westerners when they shop (it also makes us feel a little safer purchasing your products if you have 24/7 online customer support and preferably a great return policy).
But, at the end of the day, Sapa does not represent the downside to tourism. And, I still cherish the bracelet my husband bought me from a nice Hmong lady for 25 cents (and then was asked by other Hmong ladies to buy from them for about three minutes after). Instead, it represents the downside of capitalism. When in Sapa, don’t hate the player, hate the game.Sapa, shouldn’t be missed.
Does persistence pay off? What’s the coolest souvenir you’ve ever bought on your travels?