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5 Cultural Differences Between the UK and Vietnam


Introduction

When we talk about the cultural differences between Vietnam and England culture, we can think of many things; namely Literature, Style of Music, Arts, Religion, Language… and I will tell you some dissimilarities of the two cultures. This blog will describe some of the likenesses and contrasts between the UK and Vietnam!

UK and Vietnam flags

Many Vietnamese traditions are beautiful to witness and you will really enjoy gaining a better understanding of life here.

Family structure

For example, in Vietnam, children are the most important members and the centre of a family. The other members (parent, grandparents, uncles, aunt) pay special attention to them. The central role of elderly people in the family is to raise their grandchildren. It is a lovely tradition that gives the adults more time to themselves, seemingly keeps gramps feeling young and develops respectful community for, and connected to the elderly. It is not uncommon to see elderly people taking their younger relatives to school on the bus, or playing with them outside, which always makes you smile on your way to work.

Drinking culture

Bia Hoi Junction Hanoi

There is a lot of cheap, cold, draft beers, in Vietnam and many people sitting on a plastic stool on the side of the road. That pretty much sums up the bia hoi experience.  Bia Hoi is a draft beer, made with no preservatives.  You will see lots of people sitting around, drinking, talking, eating, and people watching. One thing to avoid is to drink without eating, at least a little something – generally sliced cucumbers served with salt, chilis, and lime, or fried battered corns. Have you ever heard of the Snake Wine? It is quite popular in Vietnam. They put the whole snake (or scorpion) into the bottle and then pour the rice wine into it!

Nevertheless, a few cultural differences I have noticed are a little bit harder to get used to, and you’ll just have to learn to live with them when living in Vietnam.

Cultural difference Number 1: Munching and belching is normal in Vietnam!

The first cultural difference I discovered was on a business trip on the second day of my internship. For lunch, we stopped at a restaurant by a river, and quickly I noticed the loud eating going on in the room.
Loud eating is considered rude in most countries in the world. But not in Vietnam. You may also see people dropping litter or food scraps, on the ground as they eat, but again this is completely normal. You will find used napkins, food scraps and cigarette butts on the floor of lots of traditional Vietnamese restaurants.
But reassure yourself, not everyone eats loudly though, and not every restaurant is dirty!


So, here is your challenge; be prepared to eat loudly as well! It is widely accepted and interpreted as you are enjoying your meal.

InternVietnam - cultural difference Food
InternVietnam – Food

Cultural difference 2: Wild driving

Wild driving as a cultural difference

One of my favorite things about living in Vietnam is the madness that runs wild on the roads. I’m talking about scooters, motorbikes, motorcycles,electric bikes… tonnes of fun!

In fact, because of all the unpredictable swerving, it seems drivers are more observant, with quicker reactions than most in the UK. Not to mention they get you from A to B super quick and so cheaply! Upon that realisation, and having taken many more taxi journeys, I have become increasingly trusting of the local drivers. However, I will welcome the orderly and comparatively peaceful roads with open arms when I return home.

On the other hand, driving in Vietnam is sometimes quite frustrating. There seems to be a lack of rules, or a lack of enforcement of rules. If you ask a Vietnamese person what the rules of driving are, they will look at you like you are coming from another planet.



Cultural difference Number 3: Non-existent queuing

Vietnam queue
InternVietnam – Vietnamese queue

Being British, I have had queuing drilled into me at an early age and can’t help but be overwhelmed with annoyance if someone queue jumps. In Vietnam, however, queuing seems to be more along the lines of a polite suggestion rather than a strict social norm.

Many times I have been queuing for the cash desk in a supermarket and, as it reaches my turn, someone walks in front of me and places their items on the desk. You soon learn to become more pushy and assertive, as well as perhaps a little more impatient. Although it can become a bit of fun, I still can’t quite overwrite my innate desire to respect a queue.

Cultural difference Number 4: The nap after lunch

Cultural difference: napping everywhere

The Spanish cannot beat the Vietnamese when it comes to napping! Napping in Vietnam is an art and the people here are professional nappers.

Vietnamese people can take a siesta almost everywhere from hammocks made of rope mesh and suspended by cords at the ends to under the trees and in the bus next to strangers, pavements, right on the concrete floors, pavements or motorbikes. At elementary schools, taking a nap is mandatory, little students have to listen to their teachers, transforming desks made with two wood panels into beds to sleep after lunchtime.

Nap-time is when you can observe the very slow pace of life by strolling through the streets in light volume traffic, feeling the chilling breezes going through your hair, and seeing an idyllic Vietnam in the midday.



Cultural difference Number 5: Loudspeakers everywhere !

Vietnam has about 10,000 loudspeakers. Loudspeakers are a throwback to the 1960s- 70s war years between North Vietnam and South Vietnam, when they delivered news and warned people to get into a bomb shelter for protection against attack from the air.

Nowadays, these loudspeakers still exist, with announcements covering a range of topics like residential clusters meetings, avian flu prevention, healthcare information and sanitation reminders all over Vietnam through the daily 6:30 AM and 5:30 PM broadcasts in a male or female voice. They begin and end with some beautiful music sort of patriotic rhythms.

If you stay in Vietnam, I am 100-percent sure the loudspeakers will wake you up in time.


InternVietnam - Loudspeakers
Source : https://www.mazevietnam.com/2016/12/10/10-strange-things-about-vietnam/

As a conclusion…

Throughout my time in Vietnam, I have attempted to fully immerse myself in the Vietnamese culture and have really enjoyed my time here because of it. Even these cultural differences that may be a little out of my comfort zone made my experience more enriched and interesting and, aside from maybe number 1, I wouldn’t want them to change.

Want to learn more about our destinations? Check the five majors cultural differences between the UK and China!

If you want to join us in Vietnam for an amazing experience, you can apply here!

Before your stay, Chinese Traditions, Comparisons, Cultural, How-to Guides, Learn about China, Zhuhai Blogs

5 Cultural differences between the UK and China

Before moving to live in China for two months, I was excited to embrace many of the cultural differences I would face. I had heard about the hole-in-the-ground style squat toilets and slurping of noodles. However, it was not until I actually came here that I understood slurping is actually a sign that you are enjoying the food rather than a rude noise frowned upon in western cultures.

My experience in China

slurping as a cultural difference source: https://www.roarr.me/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/china-slurping-noodles-small.jpg

I have now been living in Zhuhai for just over 4 weeks and throughout my time have noticed a variety of differences between Chinese culture and my own back in the UK. Many Chinese traditions are beautiful to witness and I have really enjoyed gaining a better understanding of life here.

For example, the central role of elderly people in the family and raising of grandchildren is a lovely tradition that gives the adults more time to themselves. Seemingly, it keeps gramps feeling young and develops a community respect for, and connection to, the elderly. It is not uncommon to see old people taking their younger relatives to school on the bus, or playing with them outside, which always makes you smile on your way to work.

I have also learned to enjoy Chinese drinking culture. Including constant toasting throughout a meal, as well as lowering your glass to a friend to demonstrate your respect. And, as an avid tea drinker, I have loved the use of tea to show friendship and hospitality, admiring the delicacy of some tea ceremonies.

Nevertheless, a few cultural differences I have noticed are a little bit harder to get used to. And you’ll just have to learn to live with them when living in China.

Cultural Difference Number 1: The whole animal served on a plate

The first cultural difference I discovered was on a business trip on my second day of my internship. For lunch, we stopped at a restaurant by a river and my boss ordered chicken and duck along with other dishes.

Whole chicken

To my surprise, a whole duck and chicken were placed on the table, including the heads. They had been prepared by being cut into equal sizes, regardless of whether bones were in the way.

This presents a further challenge; if you are a meat eater, be prepared to try and master the Chinese way of picking bones from your mouth as you eat. It’s something that seems so effortless to the locals! Even the tiniest piece of meat is likely to have a bone in.

Cultural difference Number 2: Wild driving

This is another I found out about early on, while taking my first taxi ride. I was shocked at how rude the taxi driver was being, swerving in and out of lanes, cutting in front of people and even driving in between lanes.

Cultural difference 2: wild driving

However, after living here for a month I have realised this is completely normal driving in China. In fact, because of all the unpredictable swerving, it seems drivers are more observant, with quicker reactions than most in the UK. Not to mention they get you from A to B super quick and so cheaply! Upon that realisation, and having taken many more taxi journeys, I have become increasingly trusting of the local drivers. However, I will welcome the orderly and comparatively peaceful roads with open arms when I return home.

Cultural difference Number 3: Non-existent queuing

Queuing in China source: https://believeityesorno.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/q-up.jpg

Being British, I have had queuing drilled into me at an early age and can’t help but be overwhelmed with annoyance if someone queue jumps. In China, however, queuing seems to be more along the lines of a polite suggestion rather than a strict social norm.

Many times I have been queuing for the cash desk in a supermarket and, as it reaches my turn, someone walks in front of me and places their items on the desk. You soon learn to become more pushy and assertive, as well as perhaps a little more impatient. Although it can become a bit of fun, I still can’t quite overwrite my innate desire to respect a queue.

Cultural difference Number 4: Eat very fast

I’m sure I was once told that one of the reasons Chinese people are thin and live so long is because using chopsticks means they eat slower. What a misconception that was.

During lunch at work, my colleagues shovel down their food so quickly I sometimes wonder when they get a chance to breath. Often, after less than 10 minutes, I am left alone with the other InternChina intern whom works here, as everyone else has cleaned their plate and do not tend to wait for everyone before leaving the table.

Cultural difference Number 5: Spitting

This one is probably the worst Chinese habit I’ve put up with during my stay here, fortunately in big cities it is not too common. However once in a while, when having a peaceful walk along the streets of Zhuhai, you may be startled by a very loud snorting sound, followed by someone spitting. Although it truly is a disgusting sound, it is not considered rude here and so locals don’t even bat an eyelid. So, unfortunately you will have to learn to live with it and, unlike them, swallow your distaste.

Beautiful Chinese culture

To conclude:

Throughout my time in Zhuhai, I have attempted to fully immerse myself in the Chinese culture and have really enjoyed my time here because of it. Even these cultural differences that may be a little out of my comfort zone made my experience more enriched and interesting and, aside from maybe number 5, I wouldn’t want them to change.

Want to learn more about our destinations? Check the five majors cultural differences between the UK and Vietnam!

Cultural, Travel, Understanding Business in China, Weekend Trips

Travelling in and around China: Japan

China – the Kingdom of the middle- had a wide influence in Asia. In almost every neighboring  country of China you can still find traces of Chinese Civilization from hundreds of years ago. However, you can also discover external influences in Chinese culture – customs, habits, products or even whole lifestyles have been imported from abroad and been integrated into Modern Chinese Culture. One of those neighboring countries which China always had a very special relationship to, is Japan. I had the chance to get a return flight for only 3.000,- RMB to Tokyo so I took advantage of it and explored a beautiful and fascinating place not far from China.

InternChina - at Chengdu airport
InternChina – at Chengdu airport

Even though, Japan is geographically located close to China, the cultures are differing a lot from each other. As a German I can see the parallels rather between Japanese and Germans… but then on the other hand, there are a lot of concepts and ideas which are shared by the Japanese and the Chinese and make them very similar from a Western perspective!

To give you an idea of similarities and differences between Japanese and Chinese Culture, I want to share my experiences and observations with you.

InternChina - Park in Tokyo inspired by Chinese Daoists
InternChina – Park in Tokyo inspired by Chinese Daoists

InternChina - only in Asia
InternChina – only in Asia

japanese nightlife
japanese nightlife

Traffic: A lot of foreigners perceive Chinese traffic as more chaotic than organized (see our blog: https://internchina.com/surviving-in-chinese-traffic/). When I arrived in Tokyo, it was the complete opposite picture. Even though, more people seem to use public transportation at the same time, everything was very organized, calm and people act very polite. For Chinese people it seems normal to use their elbows, don’t cover their mouths when they are coughing or sneezing in public and shout into their mobile phone on any possible occasion – Japanese people prefer their little space around themselves, nobody talks on the phone in the subway and avoid under any circumstance to run into each other even if it is crowded. It was very interesting to see that crowded doesn’t necessarily mean chaotic.
***Be aware though, that in Japan cars go on the left side of the street!

InternChina - organized traffic in Japan
InternChina – organized traffic in Japan

InternChina - friendly reminder in Tokyo subway
InternChina – friendly reminder in Tokyo subway

Language: Japanese on the first glance seems to be much easier than Chinese because you don’t have any tones that you need to take care of. If you know Chinese, you already can read a good part of the Japanese characters (not the pronounciation though, but you can guess the meaning!) which is very helpful in a country which is not using Latin letters. However, on a long-run mastering Japanese language seems to become a lot more complicated and rather difficult to master as grammatical rules are similarly difficult to German grammar. If you want to make quick progress on speaking learning Chinese seems to be the better choice (see our blog: https://internchina.com/china-vs-europe-reasons-to-learn-chinese-in-china/).

InternChina - studying Chinese
InternChina – studying Chinese

Saving/Losing face: Being in China for three years now gave me confidence to understand the idea of saving or losing face. For many westerners it is something very difficult to grasp and accept as a part of the Eastern Culture. It means a lot of rules, such as avoiding to name problems, not to negate or refuse anything directly or using a very flowery language. In business situations this can cause a lot of misunderstandings if you don’t understand these rules or are not be able to read between the lines. Japanese seem to follow this concept to an even further extent  than the Chinese, so I can imagine that for Westerners doing business in Japan is even more difficult to adapt to than doing Business in China. More about cross-cultural communication: https://internchina.com/cross-cultural-communication-in-china-west-vs-east/.

Eating and drinking: Japan offers a wide variety of traditional Japanese dishes, but also international influences can be found. There are many restaurants offering fusion kitchen and the Japanese interpretation of “Western Food”. Very similar to Chinese food, you can offer several dishes, which you can share with your friends. Of course, the best way is to get up very early in the morning and enjoy the freshest sushi in the world at the Tokyo fish market. However, excellent sea-food can be found in China as well – especially in coastal cities (e.g. Qingdao) sea-food will be offered and is part of traditional dishes. In the West we hold the prejudice, Chinese and Japanese wouldn’t drink a lot as they are lacking an enzyme to process alcohol. It is true, that the digestion/processing for a lot of Asians is difficult, but that doesn’t keep them away from consuming good amounts of beer (e.g. Asahi in Japan, Tsingtao-Beer in China) and rice wine (Baijiu in China, Sake in Japan). “Cheers” sounds very similar in Japanese (“Kanpai”) and Chinese (“Ganbei”). More info about eating and drinking customs in Asia: https://internchina.com/how-to-say-bon-appetit-in-chinese/.

InternChina - sharing Chinese food
InternChina – sharing Chinese food

great japanese food
great japanese food

sushi and sashimi
sushi and sashimi

Religion/Beliefs:  Chinese traditional beliefs are rooted in Confucianism, Daoism and the Buddhism which originally came from India to China. Japanese are traditionally Zen-Buddhists and Shintoists. Shintoists believe in “kami” (= spirits) which live in every tree, stone, house etc. Animism is a big part of Shintoism, which means, that each animal has its own spirit. That’s why you can find in Japan numerous parks with temples and shrines where people can pray to certain spirits. In China, there are only a few places left where Daoists and Buddhists can practice their traditional beliefs, modern culture dictates a very practical approach of practicing Buddhist and Daoist traditions. I was very fascinated by the parallels between Daoist beliefs and Shintoism. In both beliefs,  unity and harmony of humans and animals and nature in general play a significant role. Each country though developed their own interpretation of a universal truth. More about Daoism: https://internchina.com/a-visit-to-qingyang-temple-back-to-the-roots-of-daoism/.

InternChina - Daoist temple in Chengdu
InternChina – Daoist temple in Chengdu

InternChina - Shinto shrine for Rackoon dogs in the middle of Tokyo
InternChina – Shinto shrine for Rackoon dogs in the middle of Tokyo

InternChina - beautiful Garden in Japan InternChina - beautiful Garden in Japan
InternChina – beautiful Garden in Japan
InternChina – beautiful Garden in Japan

All in all it was a very interesting trip to Japan and I am sure to come back at a later point to enjoy the blossom of the Sakura trees (cherry trees) as it is said to be one of the most beautiful events in the world!

If you are interested in Eastern Culture, try an internship in China and see if you are ready for exploring the rest of Asia! Apply now and get a great internship in Qingdao, Chengdu or Zhuhai!

If you like this blog, please don’t forget to share it through your social networks with your friends!

Before your stay, Internship Experience

A few tips from our Zhuhai Office Manager

So you are thinking of doing an internship abroad.
Perhaps you’ve already made up your mind that you want to come to China. You have just discovered our website through one of our partner universities or on the web, have browsed around for a bit and found the most important pages: Internships, Studying Chinese, Accommodation, References and now this great, juicy-looking page: the Intern China Blog. So much interesting information, and so varied (don’t forget to check out our most recent posts on all the different topics!). But still you might think:

“I have questions… and it’s China – far away, different language, different customs – I’m not sure who I could talk to about this or if anyone can really help me…”

If this is the case, here’s what you can do:

1. Call our offices! Hop over to this page and pick who you want to contact; you can even email our General Manager in the UK to arrange convenient time-zone phone calls.

2. Write to our enquiries email, which will automatically forward your email to the Manager of the city you are interested in. If you are still unsure about the city, then don’t worry: any of my colleagues and I, can help. So email me!

3. Browse through our site or FAQ list.  Here are few questions that come up quite often (I will try to answer each one as best I can):

a. Will there be other foreigners in Zhuhai/Qingdao/Chengdu?

YES. InternChina is a growing company so there are interns all year round in our cities. They are doing internships, language classes or just enjoying the cultural exchange experience of living with a Chinese family. Some have finished their internships and decided to stay on longer as they’ve had such a good time. We even have a few who have been given full-time jobs at the end of their internship!

InternChina organises meals, events, trips and other activities which enable you to meet lots of new people and create strong friendships. Additionally, we are located in three economic hubs in China, so there are also many western companies whose employees live here full-time. This means that during your internship you might work with some foreigners or even meet a few when you go out for a meal or to the bar streets.

b. Will I be able to discover the culture and people whilst having a busy internship schedule?

YES. Zhuhai, Qingdao and Chengdu are three very different cities yet very similar in the sense that they are big enough to attract foreign companies and heavy government investment, but also small enough that you will need to learn the culture and some language to move around. It’s very different from Beijing or Shanghai – where foreigners tend to group together, speak English and in general only go to places targeted at expats.

Remember you are coming to China to discover the culture, the people, the places, the business world, the food, the crazy firework parties…. and this can only be done by being in China and living the Chinese way of life. The locals won’t invite you out, to dinners or special events if they do not get to know you! So get out there, take a foreign friend with you as support and go practice the language and communicate! This is the best way to improve your Chinese and Guanxi.

c. Will InternChina be available to help me out when I am actually in China?

YES. InternChina will always be there to help you on-site. We place interns only in the cities where we have offices: Zhuhai, Qingdao and Chengdu.

On your arrival in China you will come to our office where we will give you an introduction to your city using the awesome Welcome Package and answer any questions you might have. The main reason for this is so that you get to know us, where our office is located and how to get to there. So, if there is an issue and you need our assistance with anything, you’ll know exactly where you can find us, and we can also come find you quickly. Fortunately we are all very experienced and issues get solved simply and efficiently by our foreign and Chinese staff, so most visits usually tend to be of a tea-and-cake nature.

Remember, InternChina does not only provide you with an internship and accommodation, but also with:
– Social support
– Regular dinners, events and trips
– Cultural discovery
– Advice, assistance and help regarding all facets of your life in China

 

Excited about the prospect of working and living in China? Apply now for an internship!

Chinese Festivals

Spring Festival is coming!

The beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year is known as Spring Festival春节 [chūn jié] . It is one of the most ceremonious traditional festivals of the Chinese people, and also a symbol of unity, prosperity and new hope for the future. The Chinese New Year has 4000 years of history!

InternChina – Spring Festival

Chun Jie is coming and all people are starting their preparations for this most important festival. I have been growing up in the North of China but not I’ve already been living in Canton for over 12 years. Although the Spring Festival has the same meaning for all Chinese, the customs are really different. Today, I am going to talk about the Cantonese’s customs for Chinese New Year. For Cantonese, the most important thing to do for Spring Festival is strolling on the flower markets. The flower markets always open a week before Chinese New Year. In that time, usually long streets are full of flowers, and sometimes you can even find stadiums filled with flowers. People believe strolling around flower markets will bring them luck for the new year and so they will also buy some flowers to decorate their houses. The most popular flowers are orchids, orange trees, solanum mammosum, peach blossom trees and narcissus. So Cantonese are the most romantic Chinese! 😉

InternChina – Spring Festival in China


 Orchids

InternChina – Decoration

 

InternChina – Preparation

Another important thing for Cantonese is shopping! We will buy lots of nuts, candies, fruits and lots of traditional snacks, such as sweet white gourd, sweet lotus root and so on…

InternChina – Apples

 

 

InternChina – Full Supermarket

Yes, all sweets and chocolate!
You find something interesting? Yes, red colour. During Chinese new year time, if you go to the market or supermarket, you will find most of things packed in red – it’s China’s lucky colour.

Next important thing is Spring festival decoration! Yes, also all red and gold colours!

InternChina – Coloured Underwear

 

 

Finally, I want to say Happy Spring Festival to all of you!

You want to accompany Sunny on her next Spring Festival shopping trip? Send us you application now!

 

 

Email: info@internchina.com

Website: https://www.internchina.com