A few days ago, I read the article “East meets West” of young artist Yang Liu, a Chinese who has been living in Germany from over 10 years ago. The article explores major differences between Eastern and Western culture, especially beneficial for Western tourists on their first visit to Vietnam. Today, I’d like to develop on that topic, exploring Western – Vietnamese cultural differences.
1. Expression of personal opinion. Vietnamese usually don’t get straight to the point, especially sensitive matters such as borrowing or asking for a favor. We embrace subtleness while Westerners appreciate frankness.
2. Matter of punctuality. Culturally, most of Vietnamese people are generally not on time, from a few minutes to an hour late depending on the event they attend. Even though this attitude towards punctuality has changed dramatically recently thanks to commercial working etiquette.
3. Social and family hierarchy is an important issue in Vietnam’s society, where the younger is supposed to pay respect to the older. That is done in many way including how each person is addressed. An elderly person can not be a “friend” to a younger even though it’s literally friendship in Western view.
4. Expression of emotions: people avoid expressing inner negative emotions: anger, sadness, discontent, etc.
5. Queue culture. Look at the illustration and you will know. Even though this has changes dramatically like so many other things, queue is still not in the dictionary of some people.
6. Sun light. Clearly, we have wait too much of it. There’s nothing called getting tan or sun bathing here, please.
7. Children in a family. In Vietnam, children are the most important members and the center of a family. All of others (parent, grandparents, uncles, aunt) pay special attention to them.
8. Meal time. There are 3 main meals in a day and we emphasize the importance of all.
9. Travelling. We want to save all the beautiful moments in photos.
10. Bathing. Westerners like showering in the morning before working, while we prefer showering in the evening before sleeping.
11. Cuisine. Chopstick and Spoon vs Knife and Fork.
12. Beauty standard calls for bright skin. As bright as possible.
15. West and East in each other’s eyes. We are impressed with Westerners’s beret, sausage and beer while many Westerner are impressed with our conical hat, rice and tea.