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Vietnamese nail salons mushroom in Prague

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The Czechs have become used to Vietnamese store owners and their shops that are now located on almost every corner and offer everything one needs all day long. And now there are also more Vietnames women. The hard-working migrants from Asia are getting involved in another sector – Czech women are using their services more often now and get beautifying manicure and pedicure treatments for their hands and feet.

“According to my estimates there are about 200 such shops in Prague. Manicure is a sector taken over by Vietnamese communities in other places around the world as well. For example, in the United States they control about 60% of the market and now this trend has come to the Czech Republic,” says Van Hoi, who is also a respected court interpreter. The first “nail factories” started to appear four years ago.

Although this number isn’t so high when compared to official ranking in the “most cosmopolitan capitals”, hairdressing businesses owned by African-Americans, Indian newspaper kiosks or various restaurants offering exotic cuisine belong among the attributes of European as well as overseas cities. Individual communities also staking out their business territories. In the Czech Republic, Vietnamese immigrant communities are among the biggest in the country. In the past years, the majority of them have moved from markets to shops.

“I’ve been living in Prague for twenty years. At first, I worked in a factory. A year and a half ago an acquaintance of mine convinced me to try the manicure business,” says Le Hiu, dubbed Leoš, who owns a nail salon in Prague’s Letná.

For Vietnamese entrepreneurs it is easy to start a business in this sector, as they can get good training in other countries thanks to other Vietnamese expats who live there. For example in the US, Vietnamese also have factories producing hairdresser’s chairs and other equipment; Czech Vietnamese can obtain training in the neighbouring Germany. Thanks to the manicure, Czechs are getting into closer contact with the Vietnamese community – when buying cigarettes or vegetables a polite smile is a sufficient way of communication, but a half-an-hour cosmetic session will not do without a basic conversation. Becoming familiar with the Vietnamese community may also have the form of, for instance, explaining that whittling one’s sole does not hurt but only tickles.

“The Czech language is, of course, very important. I require that my employees keep getting better in it, but the quality of service is the most important thing,” the entrepreneur Le Hiu says in very good Czech. However, he says his 14-year-old son, who will start secondary school next year, is laughing at his pronunciation, saying that he has learned to speak better Czech in ten years than his father has managed in twice as long.

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