Different Culture and Perspectives in Vietnam

          In Reading and Writing class, we are learning about anthropology studying how and why humans behave in a certain community. I think every human behavior has its own intention according to culture, tradition, history, and so on. Today I would like to talk about some of Vietnamese manners resulting from its geographical location. It seems irrational that geography can cause human behaviors, but when you know the subsequent real stories, you can judge whether it is true or false.

          Vietnam has diverse sets of culture depending on its areas, especially in the North and the South. Sometimes there are many opposite taboos and norms between these two regions, which cause misunderstanding between them. People in the South may have an antipathetic perception over those in the North and vice versa. For example, some in the South think that people in the North are miserly, whereas citizens in the North averse to the luxury life in the South. However, if they know about the rationale why people in the other side behave in a certain way, they can understand and sympathize with them.

           When I was in grade eight, my teacher used to tell me about the difference between the two regions, particularly the natural conditions. The nature in the South provides its people good weather to grow various crops, so they lead a sufficient life, and they are happy with what they possess. Therefore, they are liable to spend their money as soon as they have it and are more prone to helping others. Gradually, they create close relationships with their neighbors, and their solidarity become stronger, thereby they are more willing to express their feelings. In the meantime, people in the North often suffer from natural disasters such as flood and storm, heavy rain and severe coldness. Thus, during their life, they always need to fight nature, and thereby not being able to think about others while they are not sure about their life. Besides, they also need to save money with the fear of their inconstant life. That is the reason why people in the North are often very careful in their expenditure, which people in the South think that they are stingy.

             My teacher also gave me an example about the misunderstanding between the two regions. Some people in the South think that those in the North sometimes like to show off in an irrational way because North people often build very big houses while they actually have no money. However, if South people know that because of regular flood, people in the North have to build their houses more sturdily so that they can tolerate the natural disaster, they will show their disdain any more.

               In conclusion, I know that every culture is based on their conditions that everyone should know in order not to misunderstand and to respect others more, especially those in diverse regions.  

Thu Nguyen

Symbolism of Food In Sri Lankan Muslim Culture

Food plays a major role in all cultures.  Likewise, it plays a special role in my culture as well.  Especially, the role in food is well seen whith the arrival of guests.  Usually they are invited for lunch or dinner.  However, if the guest stayed overnight, then they are more likely to have the breakfast and leave the place. 

We, Sri Lankan Muslims, prepare pittu, rotty or hoppers for breakfast, usually.  We can make them with different types of flour; for example, coconut rotty with wheat flour, kurakkan rotty with kurakkan flour, parata rotty and many other types of rotties, and hoppers like string hoppers, milk hoppers, plain hoppers and egg hoppers with corn flour, rice flour and wheat flour.  Each variety is a different type of food.  We often serve banana and pudding for dessert.

Next, for lunch, we cook special vegetable rice and spicy curry including a complete diet with green leave salad and fruit. We serve faluda or some other items of soft drinks with fruit as desserts.  After an hour later, we usually have coffee or tea with short eats.

Then dinner is slight as always. Breakfast and dinner have almost always have been the same because that is the food that is not heavy.   We sometimes cook potato curry with gravy for diner, and all others are similar to breakfast.

However, during the especial festival days, things will be quite different as in all other cultures.   Though there are visitors or not, there will always be a cup of vattilappam, which so delicious – made of egg and some other ingredients.  This is so special during the festival days.  Though we go to some others’ places, we take that cup of food.  One cup of vattilappam will reciprocate the whole lunch or dinner whatever we had as a guest.

Finally, our day to day food is somewhat similar to the guest’s food. We don’t have desserts as like we the visitors have. We enjoy our food always.

Hairstyles in Nepal

After reading the article, “Symbolism of Hairstyles in Korea and Japan,” by Na-Young Choi, I came to know the social and physical importance of hairstyles in Japanese and Korean societies. The writer talks about significance of hairstyles: firstly, hair holds some magical meaning; secondly, hair expresses sigh of beauty; thirdly, hair helps to identify the marital status of women, and lastly, hair signifies the social status of the person. Encountering these values about hairstyles, I would like to present some similar beliefs and practices regarding hairstyles in Nepalese community.

Since the past, our elders have taught us not to be careless about our hair. If we cut our hair or if our hair falls then we should spit three times and then throw it. It sounds superstitious, but it is believed that our hair can be easily used by witches to perform black magic which may harm our lives. However, it is just a belief and is still practiced today.

Similar to the Japanese and Korean traditions, hair expresses a sigh of beauty in Nepalese culture. Generally, long, black, and thick hair is considered an asset of women; therefore, women prefer long hair than shorter one. Moreover, it is a bad sigh for girls to cut their hair short. On the other hand, men are considered to be smart and disciplined if they have short and well-combed hair. Long-haired boys are thought to be rowdy and ill-mannered.

Talking about the marital status, hair also helps to differentiate amongst the married and unmarried women. Most of the Nepalese married women tie their hair well instead of keeping it loose and messy because their hairstyles reflect their character in the family. It is also believed that women who are good at keeping their hair well-organized can maintain happy family lives. Indeed, on marriage, a bride’s hair is decorated with an attractive and peculiar style known as juro to adore her beauty. On the other hand, an unmarried girl can be easily distinguished by her pony tail or braids on both sides tied with ribbons.

Finally, hairstyle also depicts social status of the Nepalese. Straightening, coloring, and curling hair are very expensive, and these are usually done by people of affluent societies. While stylish haircuts and dead-lock are in trend amongst rich youths, simple and sober hairstyles reflect the moderate community adolescents.

In addition, shaving one’s hair signifies sorrow and defeat. In Nepalese culture, people usually shave their hair bald to show respect and grief for the deceased family member. Besides, it also symbolizes loss or defeat if someone loses a challenge or war.

Hence, these were some practices and beliefs regarding hairstyles in Nepalese community.

What does a Hairstyle tell about a Person.

Everyone of us has our own way of keeping our hair. Some have their hair tightly pulled back, whereas some have their hair untangled. No matter in which style people keep their hair, we always presume certain notion about that person.

Firstly, if a person has highlighted or colored hair, we have the blatant thought that the person belonged to a rich family. This is because hair cosmetics are usually expensive in all the places I know so far. Also, we tend to assume that the person is very stylish. This is because most people dye their hair with different colors in order to make themselves look punk or look attractive. Secondly, if a person keeps her hair tightly tangled, we believe that she is a very well- organized person. This is because most girls are being distracted by our hair while working. Sometimes while doing any kind of work, our hair falls over our face and distracts our concentration. In order to prevent from being diverted from their work because of their hair, they tie it. Also, having their hair tightly pulled back symbolises cleanliness. They look very neat and hygenic when their hair is tied. For this reason, girls student in Bhutan are made compulsory to tie their hair while going to school. Thirdly, if a peron changes her hairstyle daily, then we speculate that she is a inconsistent person. Just like her changing hairstyle, her character and behavior also chages. I don’t know how far it is true, but I heard from my friends that when a person changes her hairstyle, her behavior ,way of thinking, and personality also changes.

In Bhutan, people in the past had certain culture of keeping their hair. Men kept short hair no matter whether he is a farmer or an officer. However, for women, some office goers kept long hair, whereas farm workers kept their hair short. Nontheless, with changing time, people leave behind the culture and tend to cross the boundaries. Presently, both men and women, in order to live updated with fashion, keep their hairstyles in different designs. For example, some boys keep their hair long, which was not practiced in the past. Conversly, some women keep their hair short no matter wether she is a farmer, a student,or office goers. Some curl their hair while some straighten their hair. Therefore, I would say that no matter in which style or design we keep our hair, it always symbolizes something like the hairstyles that symbolised wealth, gender, sex, and marital status in the article “Symbolism of Hairslyle in Korea and Japan” by Na-Young Choi.

Hairstyle: My Perception

Long hair, or short hair, does it have to be the sign of beauty or social status? It seems a bit ridiculous. I mean everyone looks pretty and beautiful the way she is. I think it is somewhat very silly of us to believe hair has anything to do with the way we look. Most of my girlfriends in AUW consider long hair as a sign of beauty. Moreover, in the article “Symbolism of Hairstyles in Korea and Japan” by Na-Young Choi, hair represented one’s social status and wealth, hairstyles were expression of a woman’s marital status, and it is thought to fend off evil influence. Well, I was surprised how hairstyles played different roles. I, for one, never thought about hair in this way even though I have judged people by looking at their hairstyles. My grandmother, who thinks short hair is the symbol of beauty, and who happens to have short hair, told me once that unlike most Asian women, Bhutanese women have short hair with bangs across their forehead. However, the young women these days in urban areas are emerging with different hairstyles and short hair are infrequent in urban areas.

Today, short hair is more prevalent in the rural sides of Bhutan and it is less common in the urban areas. My cousins who live in the countryside have short hair as well, and they have never tried to keep it long. According to my grandmother, most women in Bhutan preferred short hair in the past and they considered it as a sign of beauty, and it was very rare to find women with long hair. She also told me that short hair looked more clean and tidy, and was much easier to handle. I am amused that hair played important role in a society because I never realized hair could represent one’s status or a person’s marital status. Even though I sometimes judge person according to his/her hairstyles, I never tried to explore further as to where he/she is from, or how affluent his/her family is. I still do not believe hairstyles defines ones status in society.

It is strange how we view at people and judge according to their hairstyles. My friends and I too look at people according to their hairstyles. For example, a man with shoulder length or waist length hair is usually considered someone who is a truthful lover of music whose genre includes rock and metallic music such as black metal, crust punk, death metal, and many more. Furthermore, a very short hairstyle that is neat and tidy is probably someone who is neatly trendy, appearing plain and simple at the same time. A person with a razor cut shag kind of hairstyle or people with hairdos such as Mohawk is someone who is rebellious and is coupled mostly with punk rock subculture. A woman with long hair is someone who is quite simple with fair amount of style. A person with too much color in his/her hair is someone who is excessively stylish. It is hilarious, isn’t it, defining people according to their hairstyle.

Hair Cut !

If we go out in public gathering or in market or in any town area, every head looks different from the other with different hair styles. These days it’s in fashion to color ones hair. Not just with one type of color but with multiple colors. One can see all the possible colors that a rainbow carries. Not only coloring the hair but there are various hair styles too. Some have hair styles like spikes—pointed outward, others have mixed hair styles, long hair from within and cut short from outside. There are names given to every hairstyle– curly hair, wavy hair, frizzy hair, choppy hair, Emo hairstyle, and many other kinds of styles.
The article, “Symbolism of Hairstyles in Korea and Japan,” reveals that the hair styles too carried traditional importance especially in Korea and Japan. The girls, married women, men, boys and others had different hair styles. Individuals had hairstyles according to their rank and their status. I never thought that a hair style could mean and signify so much. With every type of style, it carries a meaning. The hair styles that we see now days are just for the trend and to be in fashion but in early days it counted great meaning.
In Bhutan, as far as I know, the traditional hair style of female is French-style in the front. The hair was cut to eye length covering the forehead and the rest of the hair, at the back, was cut till the neck level. For males, they used to cut their hair simply short. On the other hand, the youth, these days have varieties of hair styles. With every generation there are changes in the hairstyles. Furthermore, with the exposure to media and fashion, the teens catch up with the latest fashion trend. They adapt every new style that is in the spotlight within no time and they keep up-to-date every news and events related to fashion.
In my high school in Bhutan, it was announced by the principal that students are not allowed to come to school with fancy hairstyles. I remember, one of my teachers scolding a student who came to class with his hair dyed in red color and had applied hair gel, which made his hair look like spikes. He was scolded for not obeying the school rules, moreover, the teacher made fun of him saying that if a potato is thrown on his head, the spikes-like hair would hold the potato on his head itself. We had a good laugh over that.

Their Feelings Towards Homeland

While reading the article “Narrating Location: Space, Age
and Gender among Bengali Elders in East London” by Katy Gardner, I started to
think about some of my relatives who live in abroad. As I started to match the
reactions of my relatives with the described characters of the article, I have
found many similarities between them. In this case, I want to talk about my two
relatives who live in America. One of them is rich and well educated while the
other one is from a poor background and not so educated.

Firstly, I have noticed that the migration issues are same
for everyone at the beginning no matter which background they are from. At first,
both of my relatives had same problems to adopt with the new environment. However,
it was easy for the rich and educated one to adopt with the new environment quickly
than the poor and less educated one. Moreover, while the educated one got a
good job there, the less educated one mostly worked as a labor. Since the
educated one was from a rich family, he didn’t need to send money to his home
in Bangladesh. Therefore, he used to spend his money for his own luxuries and
enjoyments. It was also very easy for him to make friends with foreigners and
get along with their lifestyle because of his education and fluent financial
condition. On the other hand, the poor one used to send the lion share of his
income to his home although he used to live in poor condition in America. In
addition, he also found it very hard to get along with American people since he
suffered from infeority feelings. As the living conditions of these two
relatives were totally different, their perspectives about the migrated country
were also very different. While the rich and educated one usually used to talk
about the wonderful and fascinating lifestyle of America to his relatives in
Bangladesh, the poor and less educated one used to talk about the hardship and loneliness
of migrated life.

Secondly, I have seen that the nostalgia and the eagerness they
feel for their homeland is also depend on their condition in that migrated
country. Whenever the rich one comes to Bangladesh, he mostly talks about the
negative sides of Bangladesh and improved lifestyle of America. On being asked,
he says that he never wants to settle back in Bangladesh. On the other hand,
the poor one always talks about his eagerness to come back to Bangladesh. He says
that he is staying in America only to support his family and as soon as he has
enough money to hold a business in Bangladesh he will come back forever.

Thus it shows that the perspective of migrants toward their
homeland is totally based on their experience and living condition in that
migrated country.

Is Lying acceptable?

Even though all of us have been taught not to lie from our childhood, why do we consider it’s ok to lie? It’s obvious that there is nobody in the world who doesn’t lie or who hasn’t lied in his entire life. Judith Viorst in her essay, “The truth about Lying” has mentioned different kinds of lies that fall under different categories. This essay tells that people tell a lie when they are in dreadful situation or when they don’t want to hurt others by telling the truth. Those people who think that they don’t lie will encounter with different examples in this essay which will make them accept the truth that all people lie and that they also fall in one of the categories. While starting to read the essay in our class, we were told to reminisce about any of the scenes when we had lied. At that time, nothing came in my mind, I was thinking that I don’t lie anymore as I used to in my childhood, but when I started to read the essay, I found that almost all of the examples Viorst made had been used by me.

Viorst says that lies are necessary in order to be congenial. For example, it is always rude to tell a person who is dressing up for a party that she looks absurd in her party dress. Even though she looks odd in her new dress, we will eventually say that she looks gorgeous so that she doesn’t feel uncomfortable in her party. Similarly, we never tell the dying person that he is going to die soon when he asks what the doctor had said regarding his health. In both of these examples, it is clear that the answers to both of these questions were true, but instead of being rude, the person lied to tell them the truth. It is obvious that if the person had given them the right answer, the one who had asked the question might have been demoralized. Therefore, it is true that lies are accepted by our society and it is ok to lie if it doesn’t harm others.

Gender discrimination in religion

While discussing about “Narrating Location: Space, Age and Gender among Bengali Elders in East London” by Katy Gardner in class, we talked about the space in Mosques for women in Muslim community. I wonder about why women are not allowed in Mosques or why there is separate section for women or men. We talked about different reasons such as because of menstruation cycle, because of household chores, because it is comfortable for women to pray in their house and so on. No matter what the reason is women have been and are always discriminated against men in every aspect. Though, today, the level of discrimination has reduced, in some cases such as in religious purposes they are still highly discriminated.

In our Hindu religion, women have high position in religious matters. There are many female goddesses who are considered superior than male gods. Furthermore, in Nepalese culture, we have a living goddess called Kumari. She is a small child and is worshiped as goddess until her menstruation cycle starts. When the cycle starts, the goddess in replaced by another child. From the history, Nepalese people have been worshiping her as Goddess. Moreover, there are no such restrictions for women to go temples. In fact, the number of women going temple to worship god is more than the number of men in our community. However, despite the fact that women are worshiped as goddesses, they are still discriminated against men. Similarly to Muslim religion, women are not allowed to go temples and pray during their menstruation cycle. They are considered impure during this period and are refrained from any kind of religious events. In Nepal, there are few temples where women cannot go to worship after their menstruation cycle starts. Although a female goddess is worshiped in those temples, women whose menstruation cycle has started cannot enter the temple. Moreover, until now I have not seen or heard about of any women priests in any temples.

Therefore, not only in Muslim community, women are discriminated against in Hindu community as well. The reasons may be the same or different but they are discriminated. Thus, women have to aware of this discrimination and have to stand up for their rights by their own.

Digya Shrestha

My Experience as a Migrant

While reading “NARRATING LOCATION: SPACE, AGE AND GENDER AMONG BENGALI ELDERS IN EAST LONDON” by Katy Gardner, the only thing that I reminisced about was the days right after coming to Asian University for Women. As those people were bound to remain inside a circle in this reading, my condition was also same. I couldn’t walk freely wherever I wanted. One difference that I found among these people and I as a migrant was that they were concerned about their country and place, whereas I am concerned about my family. Perhaps, the age can be the reason. The culture, environment, people and everything was new for me. That loneliness among the crowd of new faces, not being able to sleep due to wet pillows, and feeling everything in life has been messed up is what I still remember. I hated people and I hated being here then. Whole day I would miss my home and in everything I did, I would remember my mom. Migrating for me was not a good experience at first. Before coming here, there was fear of the new faces and new places which soon converted into hatred for those.

It has been eleven months since I came here and it is time to go back to my home and my people. But feelings are complicated. I love the people here and I am nervous to go and be with my people whom I left 1 year back. I fear of being an outsider in my own home and being lonely among my own friends and relatives. I had never thought that my life would take me in this situation from where I can see everyone is mine but the closer I go, the attachment gets weaker and weaker. I even don’t know if it is only my illusion, but things have changed and so have I. Sometimes I gather the memories and see myself in the mirror. What I see is I have come along very far from the world I used to be in. Messed up with these mixed feelings, I wonder what my days will be like when I reach my home among my family and friends. Whole year I panicked to be with my family and finally when the day is coming I guess my heart really don’t want to be there with them. Or maybe I want to be with them, but I don’t want to feel like outsiders. I exactly don’t know what I want and what this feeling is, but one thing for sure I have experienced that migration have changed my life drastically and I am still in confusion whether I have wanted my life to be changed this way or not.