Camping for the night at 24-hour cafes becomes new routine for young people

By Thanh Nga   April 19, 2022 | 04:43 am PT
It is 9 p.m. and Nguyen Van Nam walks into the cafe, chooses a spot from where he can observe people, takes out a laptop and begins working.

For this 27-year-old sitting and working all night in 24-hour cafes in HCMC has become a habit in the last two years.

Besides his laptop and papers, he also has a thin blanket in case it gets cold in the coffee shop.

He says the silence and cramped space in his rented room inhibits his flow of ideas. He works in the media and creativity is a crucial element for people like him.

Besides, working alone in his room makes him feel like time is standing still while he is racing to get work done.

"I go to a coffee shop when I want to be productive. The sounds of people chatting, coffee grinders, people typing, and traffic on the street reassure me that everything around me is also moving quickly".

Nam, who is still single, enjoys coffee shops also because he feels less lonely there amid all the people around him.

"Everyone else here also rushes to complete their work, which helps me forget that I'm working late at night. I no longer have a feeling of being misplaced since it feels like everyone who comes here to work is in the same boat as me".

Normally he enters the cafe at 9 p.m. and leaves at around 6 o’clock the next morning after finishing his work.

People work through the night at a 24-hour coffee shop in HCMCs District 1 on April 5, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nga

People work through the night at a 24-hour coffee shop in HCMC's District 1 on April 5, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nga

The 24-hour coffee shop model first appeared in HCMC around 2012 and became popular two years ago. These are the first choice for young Saigonese when they need to work, study or simply spend the night.

Ngo Van Thanh, manager of a cafe in District 1, says each cafe normally has four or five branches, mostly in central districts or near universities. They typically have a capacity of 40-50 guests and begin to bustle around 9 p.m though some smaller shops manage by letting customers sit on the sidewalk outside, he says.

Though guests are from a variety of backgrounds and age groups, the majority are students and office workers, he says.

"Sometimes the coffee shop becomes a place for husbands who fought with their wives to spend the night.

"On average, there are three to four customers staying the entire night".

Nguyen Thuy, 24, plonks her feet on the chair opposite in a 24-hour coffee shop in Binh Thanh District and says, "I come here almost every day to work, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends".

She has been "addicted" to sitting in cafes since she was a student, and does not have a favorite place since she prefers to regularly change the vibe. She likes 24-hour places with a large number of customers coming in to work at night.

In March 2012 a team of scientists from the University of Illinois in the U.S. published a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, an academic journal covering research on the psychological aspects of consumer behavior, that said moderate ambient noise levels of 50-70 decibels at places such as cafes boost one's productivity and creativity.

Dr Kobe Desender of Germany's University of Hamburg stated in a study that seeing many people working actively in a public setting such as a coffee shop makes a person more productive.

Customers at a 24-hour coffee shop in HCMCs Binh Thanh District on April 5, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nga

Customers at a 24-hour coffee shop in HCMC's Binh Thanh District on April 5, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nga

Thuy goes to cafes every day of the week because relaxing in a cool place and sipping coffee and working in a crowded place motivates her to do her "best work". Gradually working from coffee shop has become an indispensable aspect of her life.

These cafes are also typically packed with students in the exam season.

Nguyen Tue Nhu, a sophomore at Ton Duc Thang University, says she sits in a cafe four to five nights a week and studies in groups during midterm and final weeks.

"When studying at home, it is easy to become bored and fall asleep since there is no one else to study with. When I go out to a coffee shop, where the atmosphere here is lively, and review materials with my friends I feel happier and less lonely. I also find that studying like this is much more effective".

As young people’s demand for places to work and study grows, so do the number of 24-hour cafes.

"Many 24-hour coffee shops have nine or 10 venues in various locations," Thanh says. "It has now become a temporary resting place for night owls."

Nguyen Van Dung, 29, of the southern Kien Giang Province, has become a frequent customer at Thuc (Wake), one such cafe in District 1.

He is a shipper who often has to make delivery late at night and often comes here to spend the nights. He says though it can get crowded, it is still quiet and safe enough for him to rest.

"Sometimes when I am tired of working, I think of going home. But it is too boring and lonely and so I stay here".

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