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Vietnamese Culture

5 Cultural Differences Between the UK and Vietnam


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!

Cultural, Travel

Differences between Chinese and South Korean Culture

During my recent trip to Seoul, South Korea, I was introduced to the Korean part of Asian culture. Although I never expected it, South Korea feels like a totally different world compared to China.

Appearance matters!

The first thing I noticed when I jumped off my plane is that Korean citizens look a lot more like westerners than the Chinese do. They have a higher nose, lots of them have bigger eyes and unusually western looking chins. This might be due to the fact that South Korea has the world’s highest rate of cosmetic plastic surgery! And this is no secret as you’ll find adds everywhere in metro and subway stations.

Differences between China and South Korea :korean plastic surgery
Adverts for Beauty Surgery https://images.gmanews.tv/interactive/korea-dashboard/Seoul%20Metro/images/06.jpg

You said queuing?!

The second thing I realized was that Korean streets seem to be boringly civilized. After 3 months in China, I am no longer used to cars that stop because I want to cross the road and people watching me weirdly when I try to make eye contact with the drivers or when I start my zig-zag run through the cars to get to the other side of the street.

And believe it or not, Korean people actually stand in line to wait for the bus! If the bus driver feels that the bus will become over crowded, the bus driver will kindly request the other passengers to wait for the next one. In Korea, no one would push you or push in to get onto the bus, it never became full at a point where no one was able to breathe.

Differences between China and South Korea: queuing
InternChina – Koreans waiting in line! https://media.oregonlive.com/oregonian/photo/2011/03/9394416-essay.jpg

Difference between Korean and Chinese languages

The third thing is that Korean phrases seem to be endlessly long. Hello, in Chinese “Ni hao”, is “annyeong-hasimnikka” and thank you, in Chinese  “Xie xie” is “kamsahamnida”. You will realize that there are other dialects that exist and make you feel even more confused when they start talking to you.

After this trip, I am really glad to be surrounded by Chinese all the time. In comparison to the length of the phrases, the Korean characters seem to be quite simple and look more like letters of a comic to me. Chinese signs are an art itself with the incredible amount of lines and dots in each character. Since these characters have surrounded me for more than three months now, I think the Korean lettering actually look a little blunt. But nonetheless I guess it is much easier to learn Korean as it uses an alphabet (Hangul) that only consists of 24 consonants and vowels.

Differences China- South Korea: Language

Seoul is a great spot for vacation during your time in Qingdao. You can either travel by plane which takes about 1 hour or by ferry, both are amazingly cheap. Here is a cool site which gives you some tips on where to stay in Seoul: https://triphappy.com/seoul/where-to-stay/84746.

The Korean culture was quite easy for me to adapt to. The fact that the people actually love to follow our known rules of behaviour, actually made this trip feel like vacation at home. But after a little while, I realized that I am ready and looking forward to going back to Qingdao. I want a real adventure and I guess this is where China really excels.

Want some more? Read our blog about the differences between China and the UK.

Want to find out what kind of adventures China has in store for you? Then Apply Now and see for yourself!

Cultural, Internship Experience

Becoming Chinese

If you have been living in China for a while you’ll eventually get used to all the behaviours that have freaked you out so much in the beginning. I prepared a little hit-list for you to check if you are still able to go back to your home country or if you have officially become Chinese.
I. Your new motto is: “Waiting in line is for suckers”

Especially for me as a German it was tough to see that there are no queues of people anywhere. At a bus stop I just see piles of people. And new piles building on the old piles. China is very unruly in this regard. But the longer you stay here, the more you adapt to it and after a few months you go on to become the king of the pile.

II. You expect bus drivers and other service people to abuse you.

In Germany there is a saying – customer is king. This is the way we are raised. You tell this to customer service in China and they will laugh in your face (and probably spit on the floor afterwards.) When back at the start you were shocked about the behaviour of service people you then kind of expect it to happen. And if somehow someone is friendly to you, you begin to ask yourself what the hell is wrong with this guy.

busy china
InternChina – Become the King of the Pile (https://www.travelblog.org/Photos/5838913)

III. You feel entitled to make as much noise as you want, regardless of time or location.

It doesn’t take long in China to meet people singing on the street extremely loud or walking into a random group just dancing on a public square. People in general are louder, more hectic and more outgoing. If you are from a controlled environment like Germany it can freak you out at the start. But you adjust over time and then there comes this one day where you realize you have become the guy who is singing loud in the middle of the street.

IV. You no longer bother saying “excuse me” when you bump into someone.

It happens every once in a while that people push each other out of the way in China (usually old people). You were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Saying sorry is for losers. You learn to walk a straight line and if there is someone in the way, you still walk that damn straight line. This is how you know you have truly become Chinese.

chinese belly
chinese belly

Speaking of becoming Chinese, here are a few things which you will notice when you have been in China a long time and have become fully immersed –

The last time you visited your parents you gave them your business card.

Your body doesn’t need dairy anymore.

You hold a knife and fork and don’t know what to do with them.

You can’t wait for summer so you can do belly-busting in public.

You see another foreigner and think ‘what is that foreigner doing in my part of town?’

Everything you are wearing was bought in China.

You no longer know any of the new Western songs on the KTV computer.

You no longer know the conversion rate for your currency.

You get excited about mid-autumn festival but forget about Halloween.

You prefer hot liquids in summer and cold in winter.

You would rather wait on the street for another ten minutes for a small cab, than pay the extra fee for a big cab.

Someone doesn’t stare at you and you wonder why.

You get offended when people compliment your chopstick skills.

You start enjoying the taste of bai jiu (a strong Chinese alcohol) ….well maybe not this one but perhaps one day…


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