Vietnam: developing a better understanding of culture, tradition and lifestyle

Hanoi; Vietnam. What an enjoyable experience it has been for the past ten days. There were so many differences in culture, tradition, and lifestyle, which enlightened me in some ways. Rather than saying there has been a change in perception, it has given me a broader view and understanding of what to expect when travelling abroad. The contrast between the United Kingdom (UK) and Vietnam is striking regarding lifestyle, culture, history, environment and more. Vietnam was, in some ways, similar to Bangladesh (my ethnic background) and gave me the idea that many LEDC (low economic development countries) were very similar in that aspect, as many resemblances connected me back to Bangladesh, where I am from.

The experience of this trip for me was significant for several reasons. First, I only sometimes travel, or when I do, I only go somewhere with others. Therefore, I must learn how to board a plane, explore the city independently, and make new friends. This has given me a better understanding and confidence in travelling and allowed me to enjoy different cultural settings and be more adventurous.

Alongside this, we had the privilege of having Vietnamese students join us during the trip. They have helped us with what we needed, including learning about the country, culture and education. But, above all, they helped us to communicate when language became a barrier.

As I study Psychology, this module has given me a better value for my course when compared to the others, as this opportunity is often rare. A field trip should be integrated into many modules; it enhances and broadens students’ perceptions.

Before going to Vietnam, I had a research question, mental health, that I wanted to explore further. I wanted to learn the Vietnamese perceptions of mental health issues and the availability of treatments. During my stay, due to illnesses, I visited the pharmacy; and saw so many pills available on the counter and no direction or information on mental health – mental health seems wholly concealed from the public. This contrasted with the UK, where getting specialised drugs without a doctor’s prescription is impossible. In the UK, whether in the pharmacy, hospitals or doctor’s practices, there are always leaflets or posters to help advocate awareness of mental health issues and provide treatment access.

This could be because of cultural differences. For example, mental health issues are not openly discussed. In addition to this, in my coursework 1, literature review, that I had written before the trip to Vietnam, I read that there is little awareness regarding mental health.

While conducting my field trip in Vietnam, I discussed the issue with my new Vietnamese classroom friends; I did not realise how much of a stigma there was towards mental health; this did not apply to just gender but as a whole.

On the other hand, due to my limited time there, I do not want to make a general conclusion. If I had the opportunity to stay longer, it would have helped me to understand the problem better.

Overall, I’m thankful for this opportunity and experience; it has helped me broaden my perception and provided me with new skills, and if ever given the opportunity again, I would take that chance.

Amina Khatun

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