East Eats West: When East meets West

East Eats West: When East meets West

It is worth pointing out that East Eats West (2010) is the most impressive book that I read when I moved to America. The author is Andrew Lam – a Vietnamese who was forced into exile from Vietnam as a boy. Lam explores these contradictions and transformations while describing his own path to discovering his voice.

Based on his own experiences, he points out the significant difference between the West and East education system in realistic pictures. What counts is that I enjoyed his stories that seem to represent the story of my life. Even though his personal experience is more dramatic, I can sympathize with him as a Vietnamese who live far away from the homeland.

No matter how different American and Vietnamese education system are, education proves itself as the vital role that affects on skills, value, and success of students. Spending more than twelve years in Vietnam school and three years in America, one of the most valuable lessons I learned in school was that only when students are persistent to work toward their goals can they achieve a brighter future.

There seems to be a consensus that there are a great number of differences between American and Vietnamese education system. In Vietnam, the student should strictly follow the school regulations. For example, the student does not allow to oppose or talk directly to the professors without the permission. As Lam claims that he should stand up with “arms folded in front and eyes staring at his sandaled feet to say ‘Thua that!’” (Lam p.24). No matter whenever Vietnamese students see the professors, they should behave in the formal behavior of their professors.

Additionally, because there is a hierarchy in school, the relationships between teachers and students are not same as a friendly relationship. Last but not least, lecture-based method plays the main role in Asian countries that student will listen to the whole lecture and take note. There is a lack of interaction between professors and students. As a result, if students have any questions, they need to look for the answers by themselves.

Since multiple choice questions are not popular in Vietnam, in order to gain a good score, students need to learn-by-heart a whole content of lectures. It is worth pointing out that students need to spend all their time for study, they do not have enough time to participate in some social activities or take part-time jobs.

In contrast, American education system allows students to express their opinion and questions freely. Therefore, it is easier for them to catch up the problems. On the contrary to Asian school, the relationship between a student and a teacher in the American school is quite friendly that students are more confident when they need to express their feedback and make a conversation with professors.

In “My Teacher, My Friend”, when Lam remembers about his professor, the author states that “… made me feel special when I – a stranger on a new shore – was terribly lost and bewildered”. This quote seems to be emotional enough for people can recognize how much he has appreciated what his professor did for him. It is worth pointing out that their relationship not only as a student and a professor but also as friends that they might to share their hobby and study together (Lam p.24).

In America, professors also encourage students to join activities outside the class that not only help them to gain real experiences but also dedicates themselves to the surrounding community. The author mentions that his professor encourages him to join a book club where he can improve his reading skill and learn more knowledge. What counts is that this method motivates students to capture information in a practical way. Therefore, students feel excited to learn new things.

The main difference between American and Vietnamese education system is about studying method. While Asian system pushes the student to learn-by-heart, American system provides more realistic knowledge that helps them understand the information deeply.

In “My Teacher, My Friend”, it is worth pointing out that Mr.K – Andrew’s English professor is the main factor that motivates Lam to become a successful author in advance. The more time the author spends to study with Mr.K, the more he recognizes what kind of career he should pursue when he grows up. Moreover, he becomes more confident to reinforce his potential skills since his professor is the one who wakes them up.

One of the emotional parts of the story that touched me is the note that sent from Mr.K’s friend to let him know about the death of his professor. “ Most of us know what pleasure Mr.K got from your article…He sent copies to many relatives back East” (Lam p.29). Even though the author lost the contact with his professor a couple of decades, Mr.K still cared about the author until Mr.K passed away. In the professor’s funeral, Lam is the only student who joined and cried as a child.


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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