Feature Country: Vietnam and culture shock

Jane Le, a junior marketing and international business major at John Brown University, was born and raised in, Hochiminh, one of the biggest cities in Vietnam. Her parents were originally from Binh Dinh but moved to the city to look for jobs. Jane and her brother, Nick, had the desire to study abroad and when they were older, they had the opportunity to attend high school in the U.S.

“My first year in America was full of culture shocks, yet it was eye-opening,” Le said.

She attended, Wheaton Academy,  a small private Christian high school in West Chicago.

Le explained that the most difficult thing she had to get used to was the way many Americans in her school greeted each other. 

“’How are you?’ Is just like a greeting, I thought they actually cared about people, so me and my roommate, she was also an international student, kept talking about how we wouldn’t know if they truly care about us or if they were just greeting,” Le explained.

She graduated from high school and decided to apply to JBU. She originally wanted to attend Wheaton College, but eventually decided to follow her brother and enrolled at JBU. She explained that she did not want to be a burden to her mom and she wanted to find a school her family could afford.

“One of the main assumptions I get from many Americans is that I come from a rich family or that I have the money,” Le said.

Le explained that in Vietnam every child is guaranteed that their parents will pay for their education. She said she was surprised when she learned that many college students help their parents or even pay for all their school bills.

She explained that some people kept pointing out the fact that she did not have to help with her tuition.

“This is not a harmful stereotype, but it can sometimes be annoying,” Le said.

Le had to get used to many cultural differences but there are two main culture stereotypes she had to face.

“Not every Vietnamese does nails, and no, I do not know how to do your nails, and no, I would not charge you for that,” Le said.

She explained that a lot of her friends in high school asked her to do their nails and that that was one of the strongest stereotypes she had to deal with. She also had to confront people with differing ideas on the Vietnam War.

Her high school assigned her a host family, and Le explained that her host dad was one of the people she disagreed with on views of the Vietnam War.

“It was fascinating how we both were taught very differently, the way American history taught him was way different than how the Vietnamese education system taught me,” Le said.

“History is written based on the writer. History is biased, you will never know the truth if you were not there,” Le said.

She explained that her host dad was very surprised and believed she had not been taught history right.

“I was really mad, but I decided not to say anything because he was my host dad and I didn’t want to ruin the relationship,” Le said.

Le was taught that those in the south of Vietnam were traitors because they fought against communism and allied with the US. “At that time America tried to stop the spreading of communism because they thought it was the same communism like the Soviet communism,” Le said. “A lot of Vietnamese saw this as a civil war, we didn’t think we needed the American help.”

She explained that communism in Vietnam is giving the government the power to administrate the country. She said that all the land properties can be taken by the government and that even the websites are controlled by them.

She also explained that there is no freedom of speech when referring to the government. Le stated that citizens are arrested when they express unconformity against the political system. Le said she doesn’t like the government controlling everything but she likes that because of communism, Vietnam is less chaotic.

“Communism started with good intentions, they were trying to be good and equal, that was the idea, but then power corrupted communism,” Le explained.

Le said that living in another country can be frustrating because of cultural differences but it opened an opportunity for her to learn and understand about the culture in the U.S. and other parts of the world. She encourages JBU students to take advantage of the diversity in the institution.

“Be more accepting, step back and listen to the international students, be open to trying something new,” Le concluded.