Living in style
by Cong Thanh
DA NANG — This is Nick Jonsson's fifth year living and working in HCM City. Previously, the Swede had business interests in Thailand, the UK and Australia – a far cry from the chaotic hubbub of Viet Nam's main commercial hub. He is the founding head of the Sophie Paris Viet Nam fashion company.
|Swede life: Nick Jonsson (right) enjoys time with his family in HCM City. — Photo courtesy Nick Jonnson
Jonsson graduated from Bond University in Australia with a degree in communications and a Master's in public relations, which no doubt imbued him with the skills necessary to see his company's work force grow to 15,000 in Asia.
Despite his busy work schedule, the father-of-one says he enjoys an exciting life in HCM City watching football, playing golf and spending time travelling with his family.
With almost five years of life in Viet Nam under his belt, Jonsson is also very active in the European and Scandinavian business communities, and is currently vice chairman of NordCham Viet Nam.
"My wife and I made Viet Nam our home over five years ago, and we have always loved living in HCM City. Sure there are some frustrations from time to time as we continue to acclimate ourselves, but on the whole it is an incredible time to be living here, watching the country change and develop, and watching our family change and develop along with it," he said.
"Our son, Percy, was born nearly four years ago, and to him, Viet Nam is simply home. One of my favourite things about living here is living among the Vietnamese people, and indeed every day at work I am amazed by the resourceful and entrepreneurial people that walk through our doors and look to Sophie Paris to bring their fashion dreams to life. It's incredible to see and incredibly rewarding to be part of."
HCM City is a crazy town, with its frenetic pace of life and emerging business culture, but work-wise, it's a tremendous place to be, and a great place to base Sophie Paris with its young and increasingly cosmopolitan population, which dovetails perfectly with the natural Vietnamese entrepreneurial spirit to shape the success of our business, the fashion guru said.
Jonsson tends to weekend outside of the city. He is a keen golfer and his whole family loves the beach. That is why he escapes to Phan Thiet City as much as possible.
The downside of living in HCM City is the lack of infrastructure and the chaotic traffic, which is worsening as the city's population and the number of vehicles on the road increase, he said.
He recalled that in his earlier days here he used to get around on a motorbike, but since his son was born, he said he preferred the safer option of driving a car or taking a taxi.
"My wife Sofi and I tied the knot nine years ago. She is also Swedish. My son, Percy prefers Vietnamese food above all others, but my wife and I tend to go half-half; Western once a day, Asian once a day," he said.
Jonsson said he had travelled quite extensively in the country, but that these days he tended to stick to the coastal towns within easy striking distance of HCM City, such as Phan Thiet and Vung Tau, or to spend weekends by the pool at home.
Even after four-odd years in Viet Nam, Jonsson said he was still awed by the Vietnamese people's frenetic pace.
"I walk downstairs and see the crowds of people clamouring for our newest collections, looking to build their businesses and build their wardrobes, and still find myself marvelling at the development of the nation and the entrepreneurial spirit that pervades my own office each and every day," he said.
Jonsson said his parents live in a small town in southern Sweden and that they normally come to visit him once a year. He also goes home to Sweden about once a year but prefers it when his parents come here – "It's way too cold at home."
He said it was hard to imagine two places more opposite than their small, sleepy, southern Swedish town and the mad metropolis that is contemporary HCM City.
However, he does find himself missing the quiet life and chilly weather – a trip up the hill to Da Lat City is always an enjoyable and refreshing journey to a crisper climate, he added.
He stressed that his favourite thing about Viet Nam continued to be its people.
"In a city that is changing so fast, it is captivating to watch the way people are adapting to this pace of change, and putting their own twist on how they see this change being adopted. I see it every day at Sophie, with young people coming in, looking for us to make their fashion dreams come alive, and it's both exciting and fascinating," he said.
Jonsson has opened a showroom in Da Nang and plans to open another in Ha Noi – to bring yet more colour to colourful Viet Nam. — VNS