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A Culture Specific Phenomenon/phenomena to Culture of Your Choice That You Consider Important in Communication

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International Business Communication

Linh Tu 1603300

Topic: A culture specific phenomenon/phenomena to culture of your choice that you consider important in communication.

Unlike Western and American cultures, Asian people are considered more conservative and tend to focus on preserving traditional values. They are often superstitious, family-oriented and most importantly, the younger are required to show respect to the elderly. Vietnam is not an exception. In each region of Vietnam, lifestyles may vary, but there are some customs which are cherished and accepted by the whole community, regardless of age, sex, beliefs and ethnicity. In the following paragraphs, I would like to describe thoroughly a cultural phenomenon in Vietnam that has greatly influenced the communication manners of several generations, which is the eating tradition.

To the Vietnamese people, the meal is very important because it is time for family members to gather after a long day of work and spend time with each other. In a typical Vietnamese household, there are often three generations living under the same roof, which are the grandparents, the parents, and the children. The first rule which is applied in every meal is that, the younger generations are not allowed to sit down and eat until the seniors are settled and ready. There are different seating positions allocated for each person based on their ages as well. Secondly, before the meal starts, younger members in a family are obligated to formally offer adults to eat first, in order to express respect, caring and courtesy. Once children in a family finished wishing their parents or grandparents a good meal, they also have to stand up and fill rice in the elderly’s bowls from the shared rice pot. Additionally, when the seniors demand a second or third serving during the meal, the juniors are always the ones to serve them. Thirdly, children must never forget to pass the bowls or dishes with both hands. The fourth rule is, since all the main dishes are centred on a round tray and shared by everyone, the younger should use their chopsticks upside down to pick up the best pieces from the shared dishes and place them in the elderly’s bowls. For example, according to the Vietnamese’s perspective, the thighs are the most delicious parts of a chicken dish; therefore, the juniors must give them to their parents or grandparents. (Phuong Ky 2016.)

In addition to the rules above, during meal time, participants are supposed to follow other table manners, such as not opening their mouth when eating, not pointing chopsticks to anyone, not digging into or eating directly from the shared dishes, and not answering phone calls. (Travel Sense Asia 2016.) The youngers also need to wait and stay at the table until others finish, even if they are already full. Misconducts are commonly punished stringently.

Thanks to this eating custom, I believe that Vietnamese people’s communication style has been dramatically affected in a both positive and somewhat negative way. It can be observed in classes that students from Vietnam tend to sit quietly and listen carefully to the teacher, rather than interrupting lecturers or classmates to raise their opinions. This behavior is often misinterpreted as inattentiveness and passivity, especially in Western people’s view. However, the initial purpose of such Vietnamese students is solely to show politeness and gratitude towards the speaker. Avoiding eye contacts during conversations with the teacher or someone older is also a habit reflected out of respect. In my perspective, this distinctive trait of Vietnamese people sometimes does result in negativity and misunderstanding. Because the majority of Vietnamese people have to experience traditional entanglement and are kept under strict disciplines since childhood, they are likely to be less flexible and creative compared to fellows from Western or American cultures. On the other hand, since the Vietnamese are used to obey the rules, they usually perform work tasks or school’s assignments according to correct given guidelines and in punctual due time. Furthermore, Vietnamese people’s ability to listen attentively and their respectful attitude towards their partners are valuable advantages in business communication and foreign affairs. As a matter of fact, Vietnam has recently been selected to host Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un’s second historical summit thanks to good diplomatic relations.

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