[A journey in Vietnam] A cultural change

A cultural change or changes ?

During my stay in Vietnam, I have the opportunity to saw that there are many cultural differences between France and Vietnam. I find that one of the major cultural differences in Vietnam compared to France lies in relationships with others.

The first time I noticed it was the first time I went to the restaurant with my colleagues. It was in an Asian buffet and we were sharing the food. As a good western girl, I was only taking care of my plate and helped no one but myself. After some time, Anh Duc who was just next to me told me “Hey Myriam, in Asia we are used to sharing the food and to serve the other. It is a sign of respect and consideration. You can take some food and put it in the plate of other”.  After that, I observed carefully how my colleagues behave and did the same. It was very new for me because in western country, we do not share the food, we only eat what is in our plate and no one will give you something from its plate. A few weeks later, I brought my french friends to the same restaurant and we decided to eat everything with the asian way. It was really cool to take care of the other and to be took care of in return. When my colleagues have lunch or dinner, they share everything with the other. It is amazing! In France, food is a bit sacred and there are many codes to respect while having meal, and the codes are so different than in Vietnam. 


What can be considered as rudeness is for the Vietnamese a great frankness. They do not hesitate to tell you what they think of you or a situation. For example, a fat person they will call “fat” and not “plump”. They have a relationship with the body that is different they do not hesitate to clear loudly their throats in public for instance (in Western country, this is very ryde and no one  would do that). In my opinion, this proximity and this relationship to the body can be explained by the life in community traditionally led by Vietnamese, the typical Vietnamese family living in the same house and it brings together many generations.

Vietnamese youth are very ambitious and seek to move away from the traditional model of getting married young and caring for their parents and grand-parents. Advertisements show the new aspirations of society: we can see families with a small core: parents and children and no longer grandparents. Entrepreneurs like the leader of Vietjetair (a low-cost airline) Nguyen Thi Phung Thao are valued. This strong ambition is also reflected in the explosion of demand for private lessons for children, private schools. Education is a big issue and Vietnamese parents are all banking on it, they are ready to pay a fortune so that their children can access this quality education. Language teachers are in high demand and a growing number of foreigners are settling here to become teachers.

The craze for Western culture is palpable, whether in music, food or how to dress the Western model is needed especially in large cities like Ho Chi Minh but it is in competition with the Korean model. Finally, there is always a tension between tradition and modernity in all spheres of life.

When we enter a shop no one greets, at first I thought it was only in front of foreigners especially because of a language barrier. But I could observe that even between Vietnamese purchases can be made without exchanging a single word. They favor the efficiency that can be observed in the restaurant their goal is to go fast, the sense of service does not exist. In a line, you will be easily overtaken by someone; this happened to me especially at the gas station where all scooters were served before me because I quietly waited for my turn. Vietnamese find it normal to overtake the other or even push to get on the bus faster. If you want to be served you must impose yourself first.

The positive side of this cultural trait is found in the entrepreneurial spirit, everyone seeks to take advantage of the economic and open up onesbusiness because they are not afraid to fail, it is not sanctioned socially like in western country. Vietnamese are looking to the future because 70% of the population is under 35 (source: World Bank) and this can allow me to say that there is a great dynamism in this country !

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