Vietnam - a friendly and welcoming country

Friday, 2017-01-20 17:36:55
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I am an Israeli diplomat at the beginning of my career, and in the three months I’ve spent here I was deeply impressed by the growing friendship between Israel and Vietnam, as well as excited by the great potential still ahead.

When I was first told I will be temporarily posted in Hanoi, I must admit I didn’t know how to react. I was fresh out of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ cadet course, and I knew very little about Vietnam. Naturally, I knew it is a socialist country, I was familiar with its complicated history of colonialism, wars and struggle for independence, and I have some friends who travelled here and mostly spoke of the beautiful natural scenery and delicious local food.

All of the reading I’ve done about Vietnam’s history, politics, international ties and economic growth couldn’t prepare me for the experience of Hanoi everyday life. As I landed I was met with a lively and vivid city, filled with music and culture, restaurants and markets, lakes and parks. I was especially impressed by the combination of modernisation and preservation, best seen in the many pagodas and monuments around the city, and in the old city, pedestrianised and buzzing on weekends.

The openness to foreigners and to western culture is what surprised me the most, and was dramatically different from what told me those who came here 10 or 20 years ago. People are friendly and welcoming, and even though I do not speak the language yet, it didn’t prevent me from having a great time with my new Vietnamese friends. I found out that I love Vietnamese food, and that being a really bad singer doesn’t prevent me from enjoying karaoke.

On a professional level, I am very glad to see the growing cooperation and friendship between Vietnam and Israel. Diplomatic relations were established in 1993, and are rapidly improving in the 21st century. Today, trade between Israel and Vietnam has reached US$2.3 billion (ten times higher than in 2010), bilateral agreements are being singed and ministers from both countries lead official delegations.

Every day we encounter new cooperation initiatives in agriculture, high-tech, public security and more. That being said, I feel that we are only at the beginning of our journey. With Vietnam continuing to open up to the global markets and to take on environmental challenges, we would like to see more Israeli travellers, entrepreneurs and investors arriving here and getting to know your beautiful country. And of course, we would also love to see more Vietnamese coming to Israel to travel, do business and study. You just might love our people, food and culture as much as I love yours.

From the Israeli embassy in Hanoi and all of the people of Israel, I wish you all a happy and prosperous new year.

Ilay Levi