Comparison of American and Vietnamese Culture

Topics: North America, United States, Vietnam War Pages: 6 (2252 words) Published: October 18, 2008
For this paper I will examine Vietnamese culture according to the five essential questions all cultures must answer (according to Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck). I will then take those answers and compare then to out culture here in America. I realize that some might argue that using North American culture as a starting point is an attempt to simplify this writing, but I believe that any initial examination of something new is most effectively done in comparison to what one already knows. The first essential question Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck ask is “how do they view human nature?” (Obilade 2008). The predominant view of human nature in Vietnam is deeply rooted in Buddhist thought. Buddhism teaches that humans are born to suffer through successive lives, that such misery is the direct result of hedonistic pursuits, and that true peace cannot be achieved without being released from the bondage one places himself or herself in by following said pursuits. To break this down then, it can be said that Vietnamese culture believes that there is great potential within all humans for good. The problem however, is that all humans are born with an intense drive to satisfy the desires of the senses (Wubker 2008).

To be sure, American culture is comprised of a multitude of religious thought, but it I believe it reasonable to say Christianity is still the most predominant religion. I would also go as far to say that Christian thought processes have had the greatest impact on how North Americans think about human nature. The Bible states that all human beings are made in God’s image (Gen.1.27). It also states that, although born in His image, we are corrupted by nature of having been born into this world (Rev. 2.5). Salvation is available however by acknowledging this “fallen state” and asking for God’s grace to purification through the name of His son Jesus (Acts 2.38). It is safe to say then, that both cultures believe that human beings exist in a corrupted state, but need not remain as such if they are willing to follow a path that relieves them of the burdens the corruption of their nature places upon them. The second question Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck ask is “What is the relationship between humans and nature?” (Obilade 2008). In the eyes of the Vietnamese, nature provides an aesthetic (as well as spiritual) representation of what it means to be human. Hallmarks of Vietnamese culture such as a desire for moderation, respect, and the importance of harmony all stem from the importance the Vietnamese place on their relationship to nature. This relationship is reinforced by the notion of Animism…or the belief that things in nature possess a soul. As evidence of their connection with nature, many Vietnamese name their children after natural manifestations. My girlfriend’s mother’s name “Camvan” is most literally translated the deep orange-reddish color seen at sunset (Wubker 2008). Americans on the other hand are not as intimately connected with nature. Yes, we love our national and state parks, but, by and large, we don’t ascribe the same level of spiritual significance as the Vietnamese do. Americans often view nature in terms of the recourses that can be gleaned to better their lives or at least allow their lives to continue at a level they’re accustomed to. Environmental protection has often come down to a matter of dollars and cents. American newspapers have frequently carried stories of cleanup operations or new regulations that were put into effect only when it was either no longer cost-effective to do otherwise, or it began to directly affect quality of life to the point that it could no longer be ignored. To be fair, there are very notable exceptions to this rule…but they are exceptions nonetheless. Putting the two viewpoints side-by-side, one arrives at a very simple conclusion. The Vietnamese consider nature in terms of what it gives them…Americans consider nature in terms of...

Cited: Obilade. Anthony. Communications 254: Intercultural Communications. Owensboro
Community and Technical College. 8 Sept. 2008.
The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2002.
Wubker Rita. Personal and telephone interview. 3 Oct. 2008.
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