America & Vietnam: Cultural Differences

America & Vietnam: Cultural Differences

I remember the first few months in the US, I recognized there are a lot of cultural differences between America and Vietnam that made me feel “Culture shock” – is a very real experience for many people who move to another country. I would like to share with you my experiences about the cultural differences between these countries.

  • Wear shoes inside the house: in VN, people must remove the shoes at home; however, in America, it depends on whether people want to remove or not. It really shocks me when I saw a friend of my parents did not remove his shoes when he visited us.
  • Communication: Americans will use body contact more readily than Vietnamese, especially hugging.Vietnamese communication-normally, not much eye contact, and communication can be quite long with a great deal of repetition.
  • Senior: These days older Americans remain at work after they retired. Ex: I have a friend who is seventy years old manages a startup company. When I get on an American air flight, what do I notice that is most Flight attendants are elderly people. Or if you join some volunteer activities, 20-30% are elder people who are 60-80 years old
  • Make a reservation for a popular restaurant: If you want to have lunch or dinner in a restaurant with a high review, you should wait in line no matter how the weather is; except luxury restaurant, we are allowed to make a reservation in advance (1-2 days or 1 week before)
  • Yield: This is one of the popular apps in American that you can rely (similar to Foody in Vietnam) when we want to search for a good restaurant. In my opinion, I think Yield review is quite precisely. Yield invests in high-end technology that the company can adopt a lot of effective methods to delete or remove the fake reviews. Moreover, Americans are enthusiastic to leave reviews that let others refer when they want to go to the restaurants. In contrast, there a few people prefer to leave the precise reviews on Foody.
  • Water: you are not supposed to drink tap water in Vietnam. While it is considered safe in the U.S. to drink tap water.
  • Expression of personal opinion: Vietnamese people  usually don’t get straight to the point, especially sensitive matters such as borrowing or asking for a favor. We embrace subtleness while Westerners appreciate frankness.
  • Umbrella: while Asian people prefer to wear umbrella because of sunshine and they also wear a mask or hat or gloves, American people never bring an umbrella since they prefer to walk in the sunshine. They just use the umbrella in case of rain. Every time when I wear an umbrella in my school, people give me a strange look:)
  • Mile vs Kilometer: in VN, it took me haft hour from my house to the office even though the distance is about 5 km. In the US, the distance from my house to office is about 25 miles = 41 km that it takes me 1.5 hours from my house to the office with traffic and haft hour with no traffic. Except for the traffic, the transportation in the US is so good with lots of useful signboards to guide people how to drive reasonably.
  • Keep patient: In the US, you still keep patient to wait when you make any kind of appointments from health check-up, eyes check-up to restaurants. For example, it takes me a month for my annual health check-up appointment. In contrast to Vietnam, people do not prefer to wait since they want to get the service as fast as possible.
  • Assembly services: In VN, when I need to buy furniture, I just need to make the order (in-store / online / phone), the furniture will be shipped to my house and the store staff will help me to install/assemble. However, in the US, you need to do by yourself from installing a table/chair/sofa and so on. Since the labor cost in the US is high, people prefer to do by themselves to save cost
  • Fee waiver: In VN, one time I forget to pay my credit card on time, It cost me $10 for this issue. In the US, even though the bank charges you for late payment, you can call them to waive it for you. If you provide a reasonable reason, the bank can waive for you.
  • Return & Refund: one of my favorite policy in the store is about return and refund. Depend on each store’s policy, you can return your stuff within 14 days, 2 weeks, 1 month or 3 months and get the refund quickly.
  • Friendly environment: “hello”, “how are you”, “how do you do” are popular greeting you can receive every day. In the US, no matter where you are such as in an office, street, school and so on, people will give you a friendly smile and a nice greeting. Americans are very open and greet everyone even if they do not know that person. That is why people feel comfortable and welcome. In contrast, Vietnamese do not greet strangers when they are outside walking, running, or traveling.
  • Enthusiastic: I just move to a new place, so I do not know much about my neighborhood. What makes me surprised is they are very friendly and enthusiastic. One day, I and my friend plan to mow the lawn; however, because the machine gets the issue, I seek the help of my neighbors, they not only help me but also introduce me to another neighbor to support me.
  • Cooking: one day, my friend named John stops by my house when I was cooking. He told me he was very surprised the way I prepared for my dinner when I told him I preferred to buy products at Vietnamese or Chinese traditional markets daily; therefore, I can eat the fresh food. It takes time for cooking Vietnamese food since the food has a lot of condiments. In contrast, he told me most of his food are dry and cool, easy to cook or just need to put in the microwave to warm it up. Additionally, in America, soup is eaten using a plate and spoon. Foods are divided equally among every family member and they do not cause rustles while eating. They are usually buying some food for the week because earning for living is hurry and busy
  • Outdoor activities: in America, people prefer to enjoy outdoor activities at the weekend or holidays such as hiking, camping, BBQ and so on. Since in weekdays, people are busy for working, they prefer to spend their weekend for family and friend by joining outdoor activities. In contrast, Vietnamese people prefer to go outside for eating both weekdays and weekends
  • Karaoke is not popular: it is hard to find a Karaoke store in America since this activity is not popular that makes me feel sad and bored. Since the Karaoke fee in a store is expensive, people prefer to buy Karaoke machine system at home. You can read more this information in my previous post: Karaoke: My Most Favorite Hobby 


Amy Nguyen

Amy Nguyen

I feel happy to share my experiences with you about Travel - Food - Life around the world. I hope to inspire you to Live-Love- Laugh :)



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