Have you ever watch the movie ” Paris, I love you” or “New York,I love you”? Both movies are a collective work of many short stories which relates about the cultural and social aspects of a society.In this blog post, I am going to present my intercultural experiences in Vietnam in a movie-like format. Grab some popcorn and enjoy!
Setting: Trường Đại Học Khoa Học Xã Hội Và Nhân Vân
(Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City)
Main Characters: 4 NUS students(including me)
1 Spanish guy
2 Russian ladies
1 American guy
Uncle Kong (Korean)
Rest of our classmates are koreans.
Background: Last summer, I joined the school’s Vietnam immersion trip with a group of NUS students studying Vietnamese. In this immersion programme, we had to attend Vietnamese lessons in Vietnam National University for 3 weeks.Most of students studying in this school are in their mid 30s or 40s and quite a number of them are business corporates working in Ho Chi Minh City and a majority of them are koreans.
WARNING: The conversations held betwen our classmates were in Vietnamese(Pure 100% Vietnamese) as most of them do not know how to speak English.
Act 1 : “You took our seats!!!”
“Hi everyone ! These 4 young adults from Singapore will be joining our class for the 3 weeks.I hope we can all learn from one another.Let’s welcome them! ” said our Vietnamese Teacher.Everyone was all smiles.The lesson was enjoyable so far until the next day…
A young bearded spanish guy in his thirties raised his hand and said:” Teacher, why are these Singaporean students here? They have taken our seats!This school promised that there will be a small student to teacher ratio in class.Look, all these rules are stated on this paper here. It stated that there should only be a maximum of 12 students.”
” Yes! This is unfair.We paid the school for a condusive and interractive learning environment.The school is not conforming to its own rules! Can’t you shift the 4 of them to another class?” One of the Russian ladies glared at us coldly,along with an American who was sitting right next to her.She was shooting these cold glares that froze our bodies, posing a difficulty for us to defend ourselves.
Uncle Kong,our saviour,stood up for us and said: “They are only here for 3 weeks. Why are you blaming them? Can’t you accomodate them? ”
“Psst…Deenise,don’t you think this is interesting? They are all foreigners to this country and they are arguing and communicating in Vietnamese!” My Singaporean friend whispered to me.
Uncle kong started to converse with the rest of the korean students in Korean.I did not understand what they were saying but it seemed that uncle kong was trying to protect us. And the koreans were quite understanding and some of them told the teacher that they did not mind having us in their class.
Then,uncle kong turned to us and said : “It’s alright. Don’t worry about it. I will take care of this.” He gave us a comforting smile.
Act 2 : The fight
The next following day,our vietnamese teacher announced that she had brought up this issue to the school and the school had decided to give us a larger classroom.Everyone thought that the problem was finally solved but the drama continued,reaching to its peak.
When we moved to a bigger classroom,students complained that the classroom was too stuffy and the aircon system was not working.
Uncle kong started complaining to the teacher and made a big fuss about the poor air-conditioning system.
“Stop complaining!!! You are disrupting our lesson! ” The Spanish guy shouted right at him.
Uncle Kong jerked up from his chair and directed his clenched fist towards the Spanish guy.
One of our male classmates( not from NUS) went forward to stop Uncle Kong. To everyone’s surprise, our Vietnamese teacher said :”싸움을 그만! !당신이 진정해야합니다” . All of us were quite amused by that fact that our Vietnamese teacher could speak korean. And thank goodness, Uncle kong calmed down after talking to the teacher in korean.It seems like uncle kong was in a bad mood that day.The next day, we were asked to go back to the original classroom .Since then, we have became good friends with Uncle Kong because he is kind to us and that is why we call him “Uncle”.
Even if we are living in this highly globalised and integrated world, the differences in culture and religion are not going to dissolve or dilute away in the big melting pot. It seems that we are still drawn towards people and language which we are closely-associated to or familiar with.Communication becomes much more easier when people are standing on the same level or platform,maintaining an eye-to-eye contact. With the existence of so many distinct cultures, it is indeed an arduous task to level the grounds.