An Expat Opinion

Apr 18, 2012

‘Fartshion’: the joy of shopping in Hanoi

At any given moment on Tạ Hiện street, Hanoi you’ll find a tourist photographing this window for the Creative Oriental Crafts Kingdom (aka COCK). This sign is clearly no accident, but an excellent business strategy, as confirmed by the store-owner in this blog. As it reported:

“As it turns out ‘COCK’ stands for ‘Creative Oriental Crafts Kingdom’. Inside we meet the owner, Miss Huong. She greets us with perfect English and after brief introductions; she proceeds to tell us about the story of COCK… According to Miss Huong, the ‘COCK’ is part of her business strategy. Her front window featured large text ‘Try COCK today please’.”

It plays to an already well-established practice of tourists taking photos of Vietnamese signs, usually featuring the words “hung” and “bong” and “dong” and “dung” and “phuc”. Once you become familiar with Vietnamese pronunciation, these signs sadly become less amusing. But rest assured, I’m not entirely above it all:

You’d think that after 2.5 years of enjoying Vietnam’s premier ice-creamery, Nathan would have gotten sick of “Fanny” gags, but no, he hasn’t. Every time we go there — yes, sometimes for all-you-can-eat Fanny — I have to hear about how he’s going to put his dong into Fanny, etcetera. Never gets tired.

Maybe these stores all buy their signs from here:


Shop names in Hanoi seem to run along a number of themes, much like the hotel names. There’s the straight-talking ones, pretty unambiguous in promoting their products:

Or their sales channel:

Hmm, not actually, though.

Or the kind of customer they’re after (presented in ascending order of nattiness):

If you’re wondering what “men on TV” wear, it’s this:

Damn straight, that’s a leopard-print tuxedo jacket.

As with the hotels, there are also the stores which employ the “irresistible adjective” technique:

For when you need something, you know, classy and fabulous, to wear on a date with, just for example, a man on TV.

But the irresistible adjectives adopted by store owners sometimes take a strange turn, like this:

And this:

“Mysterious” isn’t a quality I tend to look for in fashion. However, I can imagine some mysterious clothes being teamed quite nicely with something from here:

Then there are the shops which, through no real fault of their own, just can’t help but play right into my puerile hands:

Coffee does that to you too, huh?

And also provide a lesson in why attempting wordplay in a second language is a very risky thing indeed:

Oh, Fartshion, you’re my absolute favourite. No business strategy in the world could contrive to come up with that.

Tabitha Carvan writes the blog The City That Never Sleeps In about the lighter side of living in Hanoi, where this post first appeared. She contributes to a number of publications and is a regular columnist for AsiaLife magazine and Vietnam’s largest news site Dân Trí. You can follow her on Twitter here.

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3 thoughts on “‘Fartshion’: the joy of shopping in Hanoi

  1. Russell

    Miss Huong of C–k fame may be astute, if not totally original. But it worked so well for French Connection United Kingdom, so there’s no reason I won’t be trying a C–k at Birkenhead Super Centre some time soon… (sorry I dashed it, am assuming I’ll run foul of Crikey’s moderation)

  2. oberonsghost

    …And there’s the “Trendy Man” Hairdresser/Barber shop in Hurstville…

  3. Sean Doyle

    No need to go all the way to Vietnam. There’s a “Tran Ny” hairdressers in Footscray. They could have at least made the space between the two word a bit bigger in the shop window.

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