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 the article “Symbolic Systems and Meanings,” we learnt about the symbols of different things in different cultures. As culture varies from one another, the symbol of same things varies as well. We learnt about the symbolism of food, symbolic and social meaning of space, and the symbols of politics and authority in various cultures.

In the article, it is said that the consumption of food is determined by the culture. In our culture, food plays an important role. The way we eat, we serve and the food itself has its own significance. Especially in Newari culture, which I belong to, each festival contains its own food items. The food items symbolize the festival; for instance, a food called Quati, made of different types of beans, symbolizes the festival Janai Purnima. Moreover, the food cooked in festivals, in rituals, during mourning and in usual days represents their meaning and significance. In addition, the way of eating together, as described in the article, symbolizes the unity of the family. However, in my family, the person who cooks is the one who eats at last when everybody else is finished. When guests are invited, the children and the male people eat first. Then, the female guests are served followed by the other female members. I have a small family. The eldest member of my family is my grandfather, and he usually eats first. It symbolizes our respect towards our elders and guests. Furthermore, often we eat sitting on the dining table, but in festivals we eat sitting on the floor, especially during Dahsain and Tihar. While serving food, we serve the food items in different plates and bowls made of leaf. The plate made of leaf symbolizes purity and is considered the purest one to eat. Similarly in some homes, leaf of banana tree is used while eating during festivals. Similarly, in our culture food is also the symbol of God. We worship food, especially rice during the festivals. That is why, throwing and wasting food is considered to be immoral.

While the culture of eating and serving food may differ from one culture to another culture, these small symbols of practicing things adds significance in all culture. Every culture has its own importance. We should follow and respect our culture while at the same time should not undermine other’s culture. In fact, we must respect them as much as we do ours because their culture is also the part of human culture.

Digya Shrestha