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Hodan Abdi
Tess Boone
Dance 1010
07-15-2015
Life History Interview
Culture is the characteristics and social conduct of a specific group of people. Culture
defines the groups social habits, language, cuisine, religion, and arts. Different people have
different cultures. Some scholars define culture as the way of living for particular groups of
people in the society. This definition is usually based on the assumption that each person is
usually affiliated with a specific group. This paper will use an interview I had with a
Vietnamese girl to help explain the Vietnamese culture. I chose the Vietnamese culture
because it is not a privilege group in this country. Most of the people from the group are well
mannered and generally accepted by other groups. The interviewee was a Vietnamese girl
who happens to have a lot of knowledge regarding their culture. This is because she has been
raised in a traditional background. Hai, Kim-Ly Nguyen also happens to be my friend so I
believe that there will be no tension during the interview. Personally, I am anxious to get to
know more about the Vietnamese culture given that I have a little information regarding their
lifestyle. I believe that the interview is important in the process of learning other peoples
culture.

Nguyen is a Vietnamese national who come from Northern Vietnam in a city known
as Hanoi. Hanoi is referred to as the mother of the Vietnamese culture since most of the
people originated from the region. She stated that she was brought up in that region ever
since her childhood so she got to learn and master a lot of cultural practices. It can be argued
that the Vietnamese naming system is in most cases predetermined by the cultural beliefs. In

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other words, there was a cultural meaning behind her name. Firstly, the Vietnamese naming
system is different from the naming systems of most regions in the world. Most people in
other countries have names that begin with the given name to the surname. However, in the
Vietnamese culture, naming is done in the exact opposite manner. That is, their names begin
with the surname, middle name, then the given name. This means that the name Hai is her
family name. It is worth noting that their culture does not allow peoples last names to be
called in isolation. This explains why most Vietnamese people are commonly known by their
given name. The name Nguyen means the moon while the name Kim-Ly means a golden lion.
Therefore, her name symbolized the golden lion from the moon. Arguably, there are
implications that the names have on the Vietnamese people. Names actually have a lot to do
with the individuals character. As stated earlier, Vietnamese people are very social.
Therefore, the names have to relate to the societal expectations. For instance, people called
Nguyen are in most cases unique and they are expected to add significant value to the society.

I then asked whether the Vietnamese have a unique perception of the family. Nguyen
claimed that their culture supports the family structure whether it is nuclear or extended. This
support and respect are inspired by the Confucian philosophy and the Buddhist theology. In
fact, the Vietnamese people find their pride in the fact that they are a family-oriented group.
They believe that family is the basic social unit. However, the Vietnamese family structure is
patriarchal. There are different roles for women as well as men. She stated that their tradition
requires the women to be submissive since the men are considered to have higher status than
the women. Additionally, the tradition considers the boys to have a higher value than the
girls. Notably, the widowed women are expected to obey their eldest sons according to the
Vietnamese culture. However, each member must ensure that they work together under the
fathers or the eldest sons leadership. I felt like we share this idea of family, in my culture,

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family is very important and you have to give all your respect to elders. It is interesting to me
that widowed mothers have to obey their eldest son. In my culture, it is the other way around.

The Vietnamese people also happen to have a unique way of communicating. It is


through communication that you identify peoples characters. I, therefore, enquired regarding
the matter given that the Vietnamese people are very social. Nguyen stated that her people
greet each other by either bowing slowly or greeting each other. Additionally, her culture
forbids women and men from shaking hands. Therefore, the women should bow to men as a
sign of respect. Relatives are the only ones who are allowed to hug. Therefore, the individual
who fails follow any of the cultural standards is considered rude. She claimed that verbal
communication is not considered modest and effective in the Vietnamese society. Feelings are
expressed by a smile or silence. Smile in most cases used to express gratitude and respect
while silence expresses embarrassment or an apology. There are different types of gestures
used by Vietnamese people when communicating. For instance, frowning is used to show
worry, frustration, or anger. Pointing and summoning people using the hand is also
considered to be a sign of a lack of respect.

On the issue of sex and opposite sex, Nguyen started by stating that prostitution and
nudity are considered taboo in the Vietnamese society. Discussing the matters of sex as a
family is also not accepted by the society. She said that she cant date or marry who ever she
wants; her parents must like the guy first. Then, she can marry him. I asked her if she can hug
or kiss in public area, but she told me no. Because people will stare at you and think youre a
bad person. However, there are other taboos that she mentioned during the interview. For
instance, White headbands are believed to be used for funerals. Therefore, people are not
allowed to wear them on any occasion. Passing, items to another person should not be done

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using a single hand. It is also a taboo to pass items over peoples heads. Passing items over
peoples heads represents bad luck. People are also forbidden from asking personal questions.
For instance, questions like: are you married?
Do you have children and what is your net worth? are considered taboo. I went ahead and
asked whether the American culture affected the Vietnamese culture given that these are two
groups that have been integrating since time immemorial. She admitted that there were some
people in her country who have diluted their belief in tradition as a result of the interaction
with the Americans. For instance, some have adopted the culture of shaking hands as a way
of greeting. She also told me that she doesnt have a cultural Vietnamese dance, which I
thought was weird. She said that you can move with music but they dont have a dance that is
specific to her culture.

I asked if are there any privileges or constraints that she experiences as a United
States resident as a result of her race and nationality. Nguyen could not really state whether
they are privileges or constraints. In fact, she argued that it actually depends on the people
around you. For instance, you feel isolated when you are around people who do not want to
appreciate your belief. Her personal experience in Utah has been great since she made friends
who appreciate and respect her culture but she said that because of her English, she feels left
out during conversations. People in the US are used to living with people from diverse
nationalities, and thus there is no special treatment for Vietnamese people in The US. The
lack of customized treatment has helped in making the place comfortable for the Vietnamese.

This paper has thoroughly expounded on the issue of culture and its value to the
Vietnamese society. The interview has provided a detailed insight into the various
characteristics that define a traditional Vietnamese. Their culture advocates for socializing

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and unity at different levels. The basic social unit is at the family level. Therefore, there must
be the integration of the family as well as in the community. The women are considered
inferior to men and thus required to be submissive and obedient. Respect and obedience play
a major role in the promotion of unity. As a result of its importance to the society,
communication has to be effective. The Vietnamese culture believes in nonverbal
communication skills rather than the verbal ones. Nonverbal communication is mostly used
to convey feelings whether good or bad. This was really fascinating interview, I learned a lot
from the Vietnamese culture. I feel like their culture and my culture have many similarities
than differences. My culture also believes that women are inferior to men and if youre
woman you have to respect and obey your husband. And we have to look down when elders,
teachers and parents are talking to us to show them respect. All in all I realized that even
though we are different, we share many similarities.