Having A Cross-Cultural Conversation
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Politics and Activism

Having A Cross-Cultural Conversation

It's not easy, but it's worth it.

Having A Cross-Cultural Conversation
Jimmy Nguyen

Being the first generation of immigrant parents, there are a lot of things you inherit from your parents' culture. Some of the things are immensely beneficial. I picked up unwavering patience, intricate problem-solving, and delicious food from my parents. However, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. One of the worst things I picked up was how Vietnamese people handle conversation.

Vietnamese people are passive-aggressive.

This was a big problem for me because I never noticed it. One of my closest friends brought it up to me and being a teenager, I told her that was impossible. I knew myself, and I knew I wasn't passive-aggressive, right? Well, after a quick Google search, it turned out she was right. I had picked up this trait of conversation from imitating my family and their culture. To Vietnamese people, passive-aggressive remarks are normal in conversation.

Vietnamese people are prideful and stubborn.

I don't mean this in a negative way, because 95 percent of the time they are right and it is a beneficial attribute to have. If a Vietnamese person wants to remodel their house, there is nothing that will stop them. They will get it done no matter the circumstances. The problem occurs when they happen to find themselves in that last 5 percent when they are wrong. Coupled with that passive aggressive tendency, conversations turn toxic quickly. If the person thinks they can walk on water, they'd better hope that it's winter time and the lake has frozen over because they are going to try it at least three times before calling it quits.

Worst of all, Vietnamese people are quiet.

This one is the scariest because it means someone could be suffering physically or mentally and you will never know. Oftentimes when I am sick, I will not bring it up to anyone in my family because it is somewhat shameful to admit a weakness like that (the plus side is that if I tell my mother that I feel sick, she knows I am sick). As cliché as it sounds, everyone is fighting their own battles. Vietnamese people never complain, and if they do, they laugh it off as a joke. Asking for help signifies that they weren't strong enough or good enough to handle their own problems, and in a culture with pride at its center, this is a near impossible task.

What's the point?

Why am I sharing all of this with you? If you're Vietnamese, you already know these things. If you aren't Vietnamese, these things probably don't apply to you in the same magnitude. I share these things because they play a crucial part in the make-up of my life. Not everyone you meet will have the same cultural background as you and it is important to keep this in mind. There will be others who do not place the same importance on certain social actions yet will highly regard other things. Being able to view someone else's perspective, I believe, is one of the key aspects of life. In doing so, you can pick and choose the positives from a plethora of cultures and people, which will result in improving yourself.

The previous points in this article may sound similar to how your family culture operates. If that is the case for you, I have a few tips to help you out. One of the first things you must do is recognize there is a cultural difference between you and those around you. There is no right way to respond to situations regarding your culture; choose whichever one you prefer.

Concerning the passive-aggressive nature, it is a tough task to handle. The best way to attack this is to completely rethink communication. Instead of being frustrated and holding it in, voice your frustrations. I don't mean for you to blow up at people but find a calm way to express how you feel. For example, if someone arrives late to a predetermined event, you might want to resent this person. That will ruin the experience for all involved, so try saying this: "Hey, I know things got in the way but it makes me feel neglected when you arrive late." I know this may seem like a "duh" moment for many people, but that wasn't the case for me. I had to rewrite how my brain does conversations.

In regards to being stubborn and being quiet, you have to be open. There is no secret to this, and you will feel uncomfortable. However, know that people will care about you and listen to what you have to say. Whether that's your family, your friends, your therapist, or your pet cat, there is someone who will listen. You don't have to do life on your own, and when we share our troubles with others, those people will help lift us up.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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