When in Hanoi, do as the Hanoians do by Trần Thu Ngân

In Vietnamese culture, we have a saying that goes “Nhập gia tùy tục”, which shares a similar meaning to the title that I have chosen for this blog. The saying, as we know, emphasises on our adaptability, flexibility to a new environment so that we can get on well with the surroundings that we have never experienced before.

Having a chance to spend a couple of days with students from the University of Westminster, I am astonished by the way they tried to behave like a real Vietnamese citizen. They got in lines, covered their shoulders before entering Ho Chi Minh mausoleum; they burned incense at the One Pillar Pagoda; some of them even brought home calligraphy when we visited the Temple of Literature. More surprisingly, they somehow managed to use chopsticks in the meals which, from my perspective, is truly challenging for all foreigners who have never used that. They were “going native” to some extent, apparently. They asked us a lot of questions about our daily life, especially they did care about Vietnamese meals, “Do you like to have dinner at home or somewhere outside?”, “What stories do you and your family members share during dinner?”, “What do Vietnamese people often say before starting a meal?”, etc. I appreciate all the questions raised by them since I know they were longing to get deeper into Vietnamese culture, maybe not only through the stories and legends that students in HANU told them but also through small details, customs, daily behaviours that have gradually formed Vietnamese identities.

It is also noticeable that among nearly 20 students coming from the University of Westminster, not all of them are indigenous people. Their homeland may be in Russia, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Bulgaria, Romania and so on. Each of them represents a unique culture and distinctive values, but they all gathered in Hanoi and seized every precious moment in this 1000-year-old city. They leave me with a strong impression of cultural diversity and the idea of “integration without assimilation” – my own observation that I enjoy most after this short trip!

After my lovely friends spent more than a week in Hanoi and Ha Long Bay, tasted traditional cuisine and met local people, I hope that they can have a general picture of my city and my country which is expected to arouse their curiosity to explore more about Vietnam and to attract them to come back here in the nearest future.

For me, meeting these active, smart and enthusiastic people is definitely a great pleasure. I was also given tonnes of love, appreciation and unforgettable memories from them. My dream is to visit London someday, to fully experience the beauty of that place which I have just heard through the stories of my dear friends. Hopefully, London will warmly welcome me when I get there!

Last but not least, I would like to express my sincere thank to all lecturers at Faculty of International Studies, Hanoi University as well as at the University of Westminster for creating such a valuable and wonderful trip for us!

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