The street sellers of flowers bring a touch of culture to the streets on special days. They have unique stories and motivations for their work, providing an air of celebration while giving commuters the opportunity to purchase a special gift for a loved one.

As I ride through Go Vap District, I ponder the origins of these flower sellers and their reasons for choosing this line of work.

Bouquets of artificial flowers are sold ahead of Valentine's Day on a sidewalk in District 12, Ho Chi Minh City. Picture taken on February 13, 2023. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

Bouquets of artificial flowers are sold ahead of Valentine’s Day on a sidewalk in District 12, Ho Chi Minh City. Picture taken on February 13, 2023. Photo: Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News

While each seller has their own unique story, many of them are students who use these special occasions to earn some extra money for their education. They often take a day or two off from their studies to spend up to 18 hours selling the flowers they purchased the day before or early in the morning. It can be a challenging experience for these young entrepreneurs, but it also offers them an opportunity to get ahead and overcome the struggles of education and poverty.

Vietnam’s Central Highlands provinces, particularly Lam Dong and Dak Lak, are renowned for their high-quality produce, including beautiful flowers that are grown and transported to major cities in the country. Ho Chi Minh City, being a large consumer of these flowers, also relies on imports from overseas to meet the demand during big celebration days such as Women’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

Youth begin their entrepreneurial journey by visiting one of Ho Chi Minh City’s big flower markets, such as Ho Thi Ky Market. They either buy flowers on the spot or pre-arrange a delivery. After purchasing the flowers, they bring them home or to the roadside and prepare them for sale. These flowers are sold in various forms, from simple bunches to intricately arranged bouquets.

Roses are sold at Ho Thi Ky Market in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News

Roses are sold at Ho Thi Ky Market in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News

Ho Thi Ky Market, located in District 10, is a bustling hub for flower sellers. It offers a wide variety of bouquets, ranging from simple bunches to unique combinations such as packets of dried squid and money. Flowers are also sold in bulk, categorized by color. Most of these flowers are bought by street sellers, flower businesses, and wedding houses. The market is particularly lively in the mornings when fresh flowers arrive before sunrise. A visit to this market is a must for anyone looking to experience the vibrant flower trade of Ho Chi Minh City.

A bouquet made of money sheets is sold at Ho Thi Ky Market in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News

A bouquet made of banknotes is sold at Ho Thi Ky Market in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News

Despite the potential for significant profits, most sellers are fortunate to make around VND900,000 ($38) to VND2 million ($85) per day, taking into account the risk of unsold flowers. In the event that they cannot sell all their flowers, some sellers generously give them away as gifts to neighbors, reducing their overall profit for each special occasion.

Sunflowers are sold at Ho Thi Ky Market in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News

Sunflowers are sold at Ho Thi Ky Market in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Ray Kuschert / Tuoi Tre News

Similar to any culture and country, opportunities exist for young individuals to earn extra income. In Australia, for example, I would mow lawns, sell recycled cans, and wash cars as a young man. For Vietnamese youths and students, selling flowers on special days is their equivalent opportunity to support their education. This unique hustle allows countless young and striving Vietnamese to participate in Valentine’s Day, Vietnamese Women’s Day, and International Women’s Day.

With this opportunity comes a culture and spirit that is distinctly Vietnamese. Saigon transforms into a colorful oasis, with vibrant red, yellow, pink, and white flowers lining the streets. This infusion of freshness and happiness creates a pleasant atmosphere in the suburbs and a unique experience for all who witness it.

So, as we celebrate Valentine’s Day and Women’s Day, let us embrace the extraordinary spirit of Ho Chi Minh City. From the depths of my heart, I wish all women a fantastic Women’s Day and hope love fills the air for everyone this Valentine’s Day.