https://www.duolingo.com/Songve

Stranger in a strange land...Groking culture in language.

Language and culture are inter-related. No where is this more evident than when you totally immerse yourself.

A few weeks ago I totally immersed myself in the Vietnam language and culture by starting living in Vietnam for about 6 months with native speakers. Family orientation is evident in the language by how we address ourselves, pronouns like "you" and "me" are replaced with kinship terms and there are so many I am currently in a state of confusion to remember them all.

Western culture in the US can be characterized by the emphasis on individuality. To help me adjust to a culture that emphasizes family, I explained to my hosts and friends that I need a little time during the day to explore the city on my own. To my dismay, I have discovered that our neighborhood is surrounded by McDonalds, Popeye Chicken, Pizza Hut, ad nauseum. That is not a healthy sign on several levels. With older people, I get to see the traditional Vietnamese culture but talking to their children, I see that culture eroding with the influence of so many multinational companies doing business with here. I am lucky to be so close to the traditional ways.

BTW, if you catch the reference to Heinlein you may be as old as me...

December 5, 2018

43 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern

To my dismay, I have discovered that our neighborhood is surrounded by McDonalds, Popeye Chicken, Pizza Hut, ad nauseum.

Which one did you end up going to?

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Songve

I thought I had replied to this most excellent retort. Anyways, I ended up going to Ad Nauseum, one of those Saigon "Beer Clubs"...

December 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern

You’re now tied with Rev Mother in terms of statements made that I intend to pirate and expand upon in my books.

December 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Songve

Did Rev Mother get banned? I noted all his comments are gone, like he got purged or shadow banned. rev, if you are out there, here's thinking of you.

December 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Lrtward

It is sad to see western (US) culture invading every corner of the world. It's like we're coming into someone else's home with muddy boots on and trashing the place up with no consideration whatsoever for their space.

I find that the more I learn about Spanish the more I grok their culture. In Spanish, you don't drop an item - it falls itself from you. No guilt!

Absolutely loving your posts, Songve!

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/ngraner42

I find it bad enough when I see these muddy boot prints in small town USA.

December 6, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Bakekujira

I have obtained Sapience. All notions of business and sustenance are temporary. Culture is a fleeting thing that does not exist outside the human mind. Heinlein's influence will not extend beyond his own species. Decay will spread to all adjoining waters.

化鯨

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Songve

When you get right down to it, the present moment is all we will ever have. You choice if it is heaven or hell. I prefer the former.

December 6, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Bakekujira

I have obtained Sapience. I choose hell. All who accept my presence shall despair.

化鯨

December 6, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Songve

Perhaps that would cease if killing whales ceased.

December 6, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Linda7Italian

Good to hear from you again Songve. Age is immaterial. Looking forward to more news .....

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Ryanaissance

I don't like how people from the west complain about our stores "invading" other cultures. If those people didn't find value in them, they wouldn't succeed. Its very elitist, possibly even racist, to want to keep other cultures "pristine" from Western influence. They are people, and they don't belong in cultural zoos.

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern

You have a point, but I don't think it's as simple as that. It's natural to experience culture shock upon traveling to a truly foreign nation. The opposite, disappointment upon witnessing the waning of a nation's uniqueness and traditions, also strikes me as natural. I don't believe either reaction is inherently racist; indeed, they often occur simultaneously.

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Linda7Italian

Witless. Thanks for saying it so well for me. Best regards.

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Songve

I love food from other countries and Saigon offers many specialized restaurants just as in US. La Fiesta Mexican restaurant in Saigon very popular. R&J Italian Lounge also popular and the list goes on.

Yeah, I may be elitist and even tasteist when it comes to McDonalds. Obesity and diabetes from regular consumption of bad food is not good and I have read from several sources that Vietnam is facing a health crisis in those areas.

December 6, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Linda7Italian

Nothing racist at all in Songve's travel update.

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Multi0Lingual4

I guess my questions is, if you're so worried about McDonalds and Pizza Hut and other such stores...what do you think of Hispanic/Latino/South American restaurants in the US? I know there are lots of Asian restaurants, too...I just find it a little silly. Hopefully someone can explain. Thanks.

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern

I think the objection has less to do with the ethnic origins of the food and more to do with our increasing inability to escape the enormous, ill-reputed corporations that are peddling it.

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Songve

When in US, I would have same objections to Asian and Hispanic foods if they were mass marketed and far from the cultural source. When I lived in NE US, one of the most popular restaurants in a Serbo-Croatian neighborhood in Steelton, PA was an authentic Mexican restaurant run by a woman who brought her original recipes. Her family was friendly and it was like you were at someone's home.

When I sample restaurants in the US or in other countries, I want the real deal and dislike seeing countries being Star-Bucked. Why make the effort to travel if you are going to experience the same thing?

December 6, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Davey944676

I had to google Heinlein, but good to know that you are still alive. :)

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/slogger

Try some of his stories. Note that the first story was his first attempt at fiction, and he had some learning to do. About a dozen of his novels are wonderful reading, but the later ones are not.

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Davey944676

I'll do that later, cheers :)

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/slogger

Fast food restaurants ad nauseam, eh? A rather disquieting phrase! Grokking . . . The first half of the book was the 2nd-to-last of Heinlein's books worth reading. Hope your foreign stay is great.

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/futurewitness

The concept of individuality vs. family is pretty interesting. You want to be your own person and stand out from the crowd (see: everyone screaming "nonconformity" in the West), but I think the idea of family is kind of grounding. "No man is an island," as they say?

Also, the piece about being around all of these chain restaurants, even in a foreign country, was interesting as well, if not a little worrying. After all, while the older generations will passionately cling to the traditions that their cultures have taught them, the younger generation oftentimes don't care as much (not a bad thing 100%, especially when parts of said culture are pretty outdated). As you said, the culture erosion as a result of these international companies' influence spreading is pretty disquieting.

Thank you for sharing; I really enjoy your posts ^^

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/scilling

"No man is an island," as they say?

Nunc lento sonitu dicunt, Morieris … any cuisine’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in cuisine; and therefore never send to know for whom the taco bell tolls — it tolls for thee.

(with apologies to John Donne)

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/little_sharr

Marry me.

...

Wait... Did I say that out loud?

Totally joking. I'm not really that creepy (much).

But fast thinking on the Donne! I must also steal this beautifully bastardised quote for later and put it in the same mental file as 'Time wounds all heels'...

So thanks! : D

December 6, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern

Stealing this.

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/redneckray

If you wish authentic cuisine find a restaurant with several elephants in the parking lot.

Bring your own knife and fork.

December 6, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/juskat

I remember Dunkin Donuts in Athens & KFC in Manila...unfortunately these franchises are global...sigh... you have to search for local authentic cuisine. Good to hear from you Songve! Keep the posts coming, merci!

December 6, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Aidan424456

I drink fully of your reference.

December 6, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/macombdag

I consider McDonalds my Embassy when I travel. Sadly, the Vietnam McDonalds is very similar to the American Menu, according to a youtube video I watched. You should try it, I bet it won't taste anything like the McDonalds where your from.

December 6, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Songve

OK, I will really show my age with this one...last time I had McDonalds, hamburgers were 15 cents, fries 10 cents and milk shakes 20 cents. I had an uncle in the restaurant business and he made real hamburgers, not the ones with oat fillers and that spoiled me. He told me McD put rat meat, kangaroo meat and dog meat in their hamburgers and ever since I have not touched one. He went out out of business when McD moved in the neighborhood but ever since I went out of the way to find a local place that made real hamburgers. Nowadays, I won't eat any food with chopped, minced meat unless I know the cook.

December 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern

I once bit into a McDonalds burger and found it full of tiny bones. Maybe he wasn’t exaggerating.

December 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Songve

The bones were probably the most nutritious ingredient. That reminds me of the days when I was not so cautious about my diet. I was watching an autopsy on Public TV one evening and munching on some Kit Kat candy bars from a bag I bought at a discount. As I started unwrapping the third one, I noted a hole that went through the outer paper wrapper and the inner foil wrapper into the candy bar. It was if I was performing an autopsy of a Kit Kat bar. I carefully opened the bar and discovered a small worm wriggling around.

The rest of the bars also had holes so I ate 2 bars full of worms. Visions of a massive lawsuit swarmed in my head and the next day I took the bag and proceeded to the state entomology department to identify the worm and to determine if I should be immediately hospitalized for some kind of bizarre medical procedure to extract all the worms, that I was certain had multiplied into the millions over night.

The entomologist examined one of the bars and announced, "It is a common flour beetle/worm and is probably more nutritious than the candy bar.

December 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7

The etymologist examined one of the bars and announced, "It is a common flour beetle/worm and is probably more nutritious than the candy bar.

First, I love this story (though I feel bad for both you and the worms.) What a great response by that person though. It cuts through any panic and is matter of fact and perhaps even a little congratulatory. "You ate something good for your. Good job!" lol. I know someone who co-created a non-profit called MealFlour. You can guess the menu. (It's not kitkats.) ^_~

Second, I consider "etymologist" the slip of a language nerd and adore that. I believe the word you were looking for was "entomologist". The first studies language, the second studies bugs. ^_~

December 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Songve

I stand corrected. Thanks.

December 19, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/MinhTranDo

I think you can pay a visit to the countryside to explore Vietnamese culture. Since you're in the South of Vietnam, "the countryside" here means "floating markets" and other areas related to it; that's what I always think about when referring to Southern Vietnam. Actually I think it's simply due to the modernization and globalization. I'm living in the area that lies between the rural and the suburbs of Hanoi, and all I have to say is that the ways people of those areas live are pretty different. While life in the rural is gradually getting better and resembling the city life, there still remains a lot of cultural traditions and places for visitors to discover, just like my neighborhood. But after travelling for nearly 10 kilometers to get near to the center of Hanoi, where my university is located, visitors will see what you said on your post. A very modern, fast, Western-orientated life, with shops, stores, famous labels coming from many countries. No traces of any traditional customs here. And every evening you can always see men gathering in a beer restaurant, criticizing the goverment and complaining about their life, and get drunk soon. Also, people choose to eat out at KFC and restaurants rather than eat at home. Meanwhile, people in the countryside self-cook the daily meals and rarely go out in the evening. As a person who is used to the peaceful and sometimes too quiet life of the near-urban life, I can't even imagine being put into that busy city life.

December 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Usagiboy7

I stopped reading the book about a third of the way through. But, I have encountered a few different people randomly slip "grok" into our conversations. It was fun to be able to identify the reference. :)

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/Songve

He was interesting for his time but one can easily identify some of his misogyny in his writings. I didn't note it at the time. But in those days a lot was happening, especially draft age young men. Some were busy preparing to serve while others who had money were busy preparing their doctors for excuses.

December 6, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern

I'm reasonably familiar with Heinlein, but all I can think of right now is this Groke.

The Groke

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/SansErudition

Pretty adventurous of you to immerse yourself like that. I grok you, dude. I read every Heinlein book back in the day.

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/ArrigoC

I appreciate your adventurousness

December 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/KoloniaKnabo

I grok you speak rightly, Jubal. Although, I'm not that old. I read "Stranger in a Strange Land" on heavily yellowed paper.

December 6, 2018
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