Working in a cafe

Cafés are no longer just places to catch up with friends over coffee. They’re places to work. So what kind of work is everyone actually doing?

It’s no surprise that in a city like Hanoi, there’s an abundance of people making their way through life on computers in cafés. Café culture is huge, with tourists, expats and locals frequenting cafés each day for one reason or another.


The Statistics


We spoke to 11 people in three cafés in Tay Ho, Hoan Kiem and Dong Da, that we saw working. We asked them where they were from, what they were doing, and what they thought about doing their work in cafés.


“Working at home is boring, so I decided to come to the café because it’s near my house. I’m doing online marketing for my start-up company,” says Quang, 23.


Of the 11 people, three were Vietnamese, one German, one Canadian, three English, two American, and one Portuguese. Almost everyone that we spoke to had one main job, and at least one job on the side, or a major hobby.


“I am an English teacher, but right now I am working on a video documentary about Hanoi,” says Raphael, 23, from Canada. “My friends are always perplexed by what I’m doing in Hanoi. I’m trying to give them a portrait of my life here.”

Working in a cafe

Working in a cafe

The Approach


“I’m definitely a café hopper,” says Jenny, 25, from London. “I’m writing an article for Intrepid Travel and looking for a job in Melbourne.”


We spoke to her at Hanoi Social Club (6 Hoi Vu, Hoan Kiem) where we also spoke to Portuguese architect Hugo, 41, who “[manages] construction and engineering projects in Vietnam.” He was working on a project in Nha Trang, but that’s all he could tell us.


Five of the people we spoke to were happy to talk to us from the start. Five others were a little hesitant, but after some warming up they were happy to chat.


There was one person, a lawyer from Germany, who actually approached us to ask what we were doing, and although he said he was happy to answer our questions, he asked to remain anonymous and did not want any photos taken.


Almost everyone we spoke to when asked: “What do you like about working in cafés?” mentioned something about the atmosphere. At Clickspace (Villa 15, Lane 76 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho) we spoke to Chelsea from America and Gill from England. Both moved here to teach.


“We can’t get much done in the house, it’s too distracting,” they say.


“[The cafés are] very suitable for learning. Learning at home is boring,” says Van Anh, 22, who was doing an English tutoring lesson at Tropical Forest Café (located around 300m down the unnamed street between lane 252 Tay Son and Thai Thinh).


“I don’t like working too long in the same spot, I like to go somewhere different for a different vibe to keep me motivated,” says Quang, 23.

Working in a cafe

Working in a cafe

The Conclusion


All of the people that we spoke to were doing the same thing. That is, working while in a public space. It seems that public image, and a positive atmosphere, are common reasons for people to go and work in cafés.


“When I’m at a café, everyone can see what I’m doing. I can’t get away with just going on Facebook. I have to actually do what I’m here to do,” says Libby, 28, from London.


While most of us may look like we are working hard at the cafés, there’s always a chance we are just avoiding our responsibilities.


“I’m writing a post for my blog,” says Kiersten, 25, “but I am supposed to be doing my taxes.”


Photos by Sasha Arefieva

Amelia Burns

Amelia - known by her friends as Millie - is a young Australian who moved to Hanoi at just 19 years old. She originally came for just one month but before she knew it she'd met the love of her life and began to live out her dream career. She now lives in Hanoi semi-permanently and writes both for pleasure and for work.


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