Topic: “Write an essay on the following topic: “Discuss cultural differences as they exist in American and Vietnamese culture and suggest some ways to overcome them.”
The difference of culture impacts so much to the way to living, the way of thinking and the way of doing business. America and Vietnam have a big difference in culture, religion and business. However, we live in a world where it is called flat world, where there is no restriction between countries. It requires us to integrate in order to work and study together. America is a huge country with many races and cultures. American from all most regions in the world such as Europe, Asia, Africa, etc when they arrived in America they bring their culture, their belief and it had been maintained up to now. Because of mixed culture, people said that American culture is melting pot. Although American culture is mixed and still young, it influences to the economy, politics, military and lifestyle through the world. To Vietnam, the American market is one of potential and plentiful market. American market is always a challenge for Vietnamese exporters. However, if they can access to the American market, they can prove their strength to reach all most of the other markets in the world.
Nevertheless, American culture and Vietnamese culture do not have many similarities between cultural standards; making the two parties faced many difficulties and misunderstandings in the communication and business. Difference with Vietnamese culture, the American dignify the independence, confidence and make decision by themselves. They were taught to stand on their own feet when they were only a child. I just want to share an image of two mothers who takes her 4 year-old-baby to a swimming pool, an American mother and a Vietnamese mother. How they treat with their baby. The American mother will wear life jacket and then put the baby alone into the swimming pool. At the beginning the baby will face with his danger. Gradually, he feels comfortable with the water then try to learn how to swim. What Vietnamese mother does? She carries the baby in her arm while she walking into the water. And when the baby starts to cry and stick into her body.
She is immediately comfort and bring him out of the pool. We do not discuss which one is right which one is wrong here, but we must admit that American education better than Vietnam. We usually send our children to American school, rarely see any Americans send their children to Vietnam for study. The development of a person depends two factors: genetics and environment. Because of genetic factors, Vietnamese with small stature can hardly compete with the American in activities such as sport, outdoor activities. But with subjects which using brainpower and do not need to invest a lot of money such as chess, mathematics contest. Vietnamese can performance the same level or even better. We can say that the environmental of Viet Nam has not much advantage for personal growth, for instant habitat environment, family environment and education environment. Thanks to educate of family from very young age, Americans express their independence and self –confidence in their life so much. When they were a child, they have been taught to stand on their own feet, self-serving rather than wait for their parents or others help them.
Young age with small job. Children were assigned job at home and they understand and commit their job, some job that children can do at home such as clean and vacuum, wash dishes, cut grass in the garden, etc a little more growing, children do part-time job in the summer such as newspaper, milk delivery for pocket-money or a part of their school fee. It is not because of their family is difficult, but it is the way American parents want to educate their children. They want their children to know the value of money, know how to earn and manage money, helping their children ready to face with the challenges in future life. In contrast, Vietnamese parents tend to always comfort and pamper their children too much. They do not teach their children serve themselves and do housework such as cleaning rooms, washing dishes or washing clothes. Because they think that their children are too small to do such things and they will take more time to correct and make it right.
But they do not think that if they teach their children how to do it; it may take time at the beginning, however their children can do the job better day by day. The majority of students are provided living expenses, tuition fee by their family until they graduate university. Even when the children graduate from university, their parents reply on relationship to find job for them. Sometimes, some parents arrange marriages for their children; look after their grandchildren while their children go to work. It is the culture and lifestyle of Vietnamese people. On the other hand, most American students choose classes, their discipline, self-pay all or part of the tuition, to find work, to plan the marriage themselves, rather than rely on family. The way of teaching in Vietnam is also different from in America. In Vietnam, during school hours, teacher is the person who is dominant in talking; students just listen and take note what teacher says.
They rarely express their point of view. In the United States the gap between teachers and students closer, in class students ask teacher many questions to clarify issues. According to American, they assume you understand something if you do not raise questions. One highlight point that American students have a lot of experience in taking examination. This is really important skills that Vietnamese students should learn from them. When talking about American’s characteristic and American culture, we cannot help talking about individualistic attribute. Americans believe in individual capacity. In their dream, their hope, their plans are related to individualism. Individualism of Americans is highlighted differences between themselves with other people. They work as their own way and do not care what the majority of people think, what the majority of people do. As long as they feel interested in what they do. Individualism of Americans is not selfishness, but as an opportunity for individual self-development and social development. Americans also participate in clubs, group, organizations and associations.
However, they are not mixed into the collective. They still keep their identity and personal choice. In contrast, the Vietnamese often afraid to show up, speak out their point of view. They are afraid of people around assess them arrogant, haughty. Final conclusion is often based on the idea of the group, the collective voting. Collective opinion is final one of the discussion, of the meeting. However, because the final conclusion is collective opinion, members of groups do not have enough motivation to try their best to achieve the target. Even, there are some members of the group do not do anything, just wait for the achievement of the group as well as get benefit from the group. When the failure happens, people blame of the group and the group protects its member. Finally no one takes responsibility. This affects negatively to other members who are active in the group. This demotivates them and makes jealous among the group. Thanks to individualism, Americans generally have high sense of responsibility. In worst case, if the plan was fails, they take responsibility.
However, the individualism of Americans is also included selfishness, ignore everything is happening around them, do pay more attention to others. They only care about what impacts directly to them. It may a reason of family relation not close as Vietnamese. Vietnamese is influenced by Confucian from Chinese; it is believed that life is eternal cycle of birth, never come to the end. If this life you live a good one, you will enjoy good fortune next life. Vietnamese people think that there is another life after the death. After the death the family member still sacrifice rice, burn model of house, motorcycle or stuff for daily life, so that the death can use. They worship death persons and every year they also celebrate death day anniversary, they prepare a special meal, invite relatives and neighbor come to eat and talk about the dead person. However, the Americans focus more on birthday party, on that day they open a party, invite friend and present the gifts. Punctuality culture: the American respects punctuality very much. In every appointment or date they are always on time.
The delay is understood as lack of interested, disregard the partners or do not know how to manage the time. In case, they are late because of unexpected reasons, they will inform their partner to apologize and request another time for the meeting, for instant ask 15 or 20 minutes more for the arrangement. And being “on time” in business situations generally means being about five minutes early in America. On the contrary, the Vietnamese get a bad name of “rubber band time”. Presence late 15 – 30 minutes late the meeting is normal. Even, in some seminars people may come 30 minutes to 1 hour in comparison with the invitation letter. Especially, there are some occasions which coming late is obviousness; coming on time is makes people surprised. It is weddings party. When you come on time, even the groom and the bride have not arrived yet. It is extremely odd to foreigner. Coming late has become a habit. Many people still think that coming late means they are very important person, to get people pay attention to them. People said that “time is money”.
Let’s imagine, there are 20 people in the meeting room, each person is late 15 minutes, how much time we wasted? Delay habit may be a result of agricultural culture. Going to the field 15 or 20 minutes late is no problem. But in the industrial economy, a chain with hundreds of people working, everybody must be on time in every second. If one member is late, all the chain will be late too. So people are very familiar with punctuality. Therefore, it is unfair to compare a developing country with powerful country in economic like the United States. However, when the society develops, the notion of time should be changed to adapt to new circumstances. Keep your appointments on time is one of industrial virtue which show that you are trustworthy and respect others around us. Because the Americans appreciate the time very much, they are always short, specific, go straight to the point in their negotiation. They do not beat around the bush as the Vietnamese often does. In Vietnamese culture, it is considered impolite when talking direct to the topic.
However, Americans like to talk directly to business first then talk about personal and another story. During negotiation or meeting, the Americans may interrupt each other to ask question or suggest his idea. This habit may be considered rude in some cultures, especially in Viet Nam. Therefore, the foreigner businessman should not be surprised when interrupted by American partner. Moreover, when going to meet their partners, they prepare information, figure very carefully and go straight to the point as soon as saying greeting and always push for the negotiation come to the end fast, get the most effective. This may be considered as a rude, tactless action in a culture of Asian countries, even in Europe. However, it is one of the factors that make the success of the Americans. That is really the American style. When Vietnamese negotiate, they create a group. During negotiation process, they get group idea, discussion or even come back company to get advice of their superior to make decision. The final goal of all negotiations of American is signing the contract with their partner.
They start with unacceptable conditions or demands, so that they have room to bargain. Typically, Americans will not be afraid to say “no”, they are straightforward and might disagree with you. Americans appreciate the virtues of honesty, transparency, accuracy and specific. If you are discussing a problem that you do not understand or do not know, just telling the truth and be honest. If they discover you are not honest, you will lose your credit. If your report has mistake, just say sorry and tell them how to solve the problem and preventive action. Do not deny or ignore. Negotiation environment, Vietnamese people often begin or end negotiations with recreational activities such as eating, singing and giving gifts. The space of negotiation is often in restaurant, hotel or even in karaoke. For Americans, these activities are not necessary. Sometime it may cause the opposite reaction. Americans rarely make a deal outside the meeting room.
Therefore, entertainment expense is not included in their budget. Gift giving is not encouraged or limited by many America companies. A gracious written note is always appropriate and acceptable. The Vietnamese often introduce Vietnamese cuisine with foreign partners. Vietnamese people are proud of the delicious and special cuisine. However, not everyone can enjoy easily with cuisine of country when he has just arrived. There is a gap between eating habits, hygiene standards of Vietnam and America. The fear of being sick in a foreign country is totally understandable. So, if you want to entertain American partners should choose the restaurant equivalent of the class which they are staying. Most Americans love listening to music but cannot sing well. So, do not invite to sing in karaoke. It is impolite behavior.
The Americans appreciate enjoy coffee culture of Vietnamese. Instead of going to karaoke, restaurant for eating, let invite them to places with beautiful space, good view to enjoy the flavor of Vietnamese coffee. Last but not least, if you know the American partner brings his wife along with him. When you invite them to go somewhere for entertainment, do not forget to invite his wife too. They appreciate highly the courtesy of you through this manner. American is more dynamic and mobile in their job than Vietnamese is. They are easy to move from here to there for working and learning new things from the place they arrive. However, for Vietnamese, working in abroad is quite difficult. They think too much about the environment, family, friends and colleagues. Last but not least, spouses and children of Vietnamese employees are not ready to accompany with their husband to go to work in abroad. It is a pity limitation of Vietnamese labor. One more typical character of American is masculinity. In everyday conversation, Americans like to speak loudly and noisily. They are often uncomfortable with silence. Silence is avoided in social or business meetings. In negotiations, in business they are aggressive, decisive and assertive.
They also do not hesitate stating their opinion. They are not feared offensive as most Vietnamese people do. They are not shy in voicing their option and demand. Masculinity culture also reflects clearly in the way the American choosing the car. They choose strong, powerful energy, two-door sport car. On the contrary, Asian in general and Vietnamese in particular those with femininity attribute like small, economical, elegant and do not care much about their car engines power. Femininity cultures read more fiction and masculinity cultures read more non-fiction. Members of masculine cultures seem to be more concerned with data and facts: members of feminine cultures are more interested in the stories behind the facts. Masculinity attribute seems to play an important role in mainstream American culture. According to Prof. Geert Hofstede, famous social psychologist, he defines that Masculinity cultures are dominated by values, such as money, success, assertiveness and competition. Femininity societies, on the other hand, value relationships, care for others, and quality of life. Since masculinity of American is dominant, they are also individualistic. People tend to concern themselves more than others around.
The task is often more predominate over relationship. On the other hand, cultures define collectivism like many in Asia countries where people appreciate in cooperation and consensus. Another distinction which is often found in meetings the company is the Vietnamese seldom express their opinions. They keep quiet and then after the meeting there will be some “small meetings” outside meeting room to discuss the issues that should have been discussed during the meeting. Therefore, meetings often get less effective and take time. But the Americans are always on time, well-prepared with all information which may concern in the topic of the meeting, so that everything is available. The atmosphere of the meeting generally is friendly and comfortable, but serious in content. All participants in the meeting are expected to contribute ideas. The persons who are quiet may be viewed as a lack of preparation or having nothing important to contribute. Contract is extremely important to Americans in business. The contract of Americans is very detailed, thick; all terms and conditions as well as legal documents are showed in their contract; all risks which may occur during implement the contract performance.
So that, in worst situation happens, everything is included in the contract, just based on that implementation. Another point is Americans enjoyed word using into a contract. All terms, the notes which explained in the contract should be paid more attention. In addition, American’s law is strong enough to defend the legality of the contract, so we can say that contract is kind of legal document that has high valid in legal effect. Therefore, it seems that the Americans do not enter into any contract without the lawyer. The lawyer will help the organization make legal, right and sufficient contract Vietnamese’s contract is usually having a few pages only; making the fundamental points, if there is something not predicted in the signed contract, the parties may sit down again and negotiate for appendix or contract amendment. This comes from business concept based on the relationship of the Vietnamese people, build trust to work together.
Sometimes, some businesses are done just based on verbal agreement only. Americans value their private time, rest days. They usually do not arrange business appointments on weekend work. They spend their spare time for personal interests and family. They love outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain climbing, sailing and barbecue. In the meanwhile, Vietnamese often mix time for work and time for individual. Even, some people go shopping during working hours, meeting their friends, and on weekends they go to work or make appointment with customer. In their leisure time, Vietnamese people often go to coffee shop, gather friends to eat and drink or relax at home with their family.
In the era of modernization and globalization, studying and business go beyond national borders with more competitive. However, if we want to develop, we must integrate. Integration still maintains the cultural identity; learning or selecting the good things from our partners; sustainable development. That is the most important thing. Understanding these differences helps us to avoid cultural conflict between the two countries. Vietnam has very nice statement about this issue as “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”, “I know who knows hundred percent match wins”, “He who sees through life and death will meet with most success”
Courtney from Study Moose
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