I. Questions regarding Vietnam

What is the typical characteristics of Vietnamese people?

Generally, Vietnamese people are friendly, generous and helpful. However, the first impression of Westerner about Vietnamese and Asian in general is that Vietnamese are closed, conservative and strict. It’s true that it takes more time for Vietnamese to get to know, understand and share everything with new friends. But after a period of time, we will be definitely a good friend. A Slovenian friend of mine refers us to Scandinavian people for our characteristics.

How important is the professional work in Vietnam? How many hours a day working the average citizen . How many vacation days is a year?

About professional work, it’s really important for several reasons:

  • First of all, personally, it’s a dream when I can follow my dream job as a financial manager or working in financial sector.
  • Secondly, in Vietnam, due to culture reason that we are required to achieve higher and higher milestone every day. Vietnamese people value social status so much that it creates negative pressure on young people like me.
  • Lastly, living standard is on the rise and so does the cost of living. It may sound materialistic but the truth is young people (especially 1990s generations) are under a lot of pressure from parents, society and many other factors in pursuing our own happiness. Vietnamese people are struggling between traditional value (which is more popular in Asian countries) and personal value.

About social life, it seems that parents in Vietnam have a lot of authority. How big a role it plays? Are discussions with parents, including criticism of their decisions and behaviors are acceptable?

Vietnamese children grow up with much stricter authority than Western children in general. It happened because of 2 main reason: Asian cultural background and memory of poverty.

Asian cultural background and Vietnamese background have strong impacts of the way families orientate their children. We have many rules of speaking, behaving, etc that don’t exist in Europe. Moreover, Vietnamese appreciate social status (especially older generation, it’s changing with young people who are more affected by Western culture).

Secondly, most parents in Vietnam were born in the time of war, time of poverty. They underwent and witnesses the hardest moments of Vietnam. As a result, they grew up with many sad memories that have affected the ways they educate children. This is related to their desire for higher social status and materialistic value. For example, parents normally intervene their children in choosing universities, advise them to apply for the job that creates more money and bring them higher social status rather than following their dreams. After all, sometimes they make me feel uncomfortable and angry but you will understand their feeling if you understand their story.

At another aspect, is the status of women in Vietnam and Poland similar? Is the education of women as important as for a man?

I found out that both Vietnamese and Polish women are family – oriented. However, the prejudice on the role of women in Vietnam still exist, especially in the rural area, preventing them from fully achieving their potential and fulfilling their dreams.

II. Questions regarding Quan Do’s preparation for the internship in Poland:

When average Wietnamese hear the word „Poland“  what does he think? What do Vietnam people know about Poland?

  • Many people still consider Poland as a communist or developing country like the 90s except for those who have visited this country.
  • Poland is in Eastern Europe rather than Central Europe.

If you lived in Poland and could take three (or more) items from Vietnam, what would it be?

  • A cooking book for living in Poland
  • A history book to represent history of Vietnam
  • A camera to capture every single moment of living and travelling

III. Questions regarding time in Poland

What prejudices (anxiety, fear) you had before coming to Poland? Have they confirmed?

Before I arrived in Poland, I had been worried that Polish are reserved and not so friendly. Moreover, I didn’t expect many Polish people would speak English. Lastly, during my flight from Munich to Krakow, I was on board with many people in their 50s and 60s which made me think this city is full of elders.

However, 2 months in Krakow has totally changed my mind about this city and Poland in general.

First of all, Polish people are really friendly and open, especially after you talk to them for a period of time. 2 friends from IAESTE took me and my friends around the city on my first day in Krakow and prepare us with all the basic things for living such as shopping, phone card and public transport. I also have a special friendship with the receptionist at the dorm although she cannot use English and my Polish is “surprisingly incredible”. But after all, we can manage to communicate with each other. In general, Polish people that I met are kind and polite, they are even more open than Vietnamese in many aspects!

Secondly, many Polish can speak English fluently and are willing to share their stories or help me during my stay in here. And yes, they are very young, energetic people, (haha).

How do you like Polish landscape & weather? Is it similiar to yours?

In terms of weather and landscape, two countries have many differences because of geographical location. Vietnam lies in tropical climate and is close to the equator, which makes the country hot and humid. Average temperature in Vietnam is about 25 – 27 degree. However, there is significant change between winter and summer as it can be up to 38 degrees in June and July – summer time. Meanwhile, the average lowest temperature is 10 degrees and it just happens in the North. Getting further to Southern part of Vietnam, weather completely belongs to tropical climate with 2 separate seasons: drying season and raining season.

Secondly, with 3,000km of sea, Vietnam has one of the most beautiful coastline in the world. Moreover, we also have the highest mountain in Indochina as 75% of country’s territory is mountains and hills. Besides, we are home to 3 Natural and 8 Cultural Heritage Sites recognized by UNESCO. Travelling in Vietnam can take you through every type landscape from mountain, hill to sea and even desert (yes, there are deserts in Vietnam).

What is the difference in cuisine between Poland and Vietnam?

However, generally speaking, Vietnamese cuisine has more advantages than Polish because we are in tropical climate. As a result, our ingredients are more diversified and better than many other Asian countries. Our cuisine focuses more on creating balance flavor from many factor, along with distinguish appearance. On the other hand, Polish cuisine focuses more on nutrition factors and as one tour guide told me in Wroclaw, Polish dishes have more fat because winter is really cold in Poland.

What was the best dish you have eaten in Poland? How would you rate our kitchen (flavors, types of food in the context of Vietnam cuisine)?

My favorite must be Zapikanka – a kind of traditional bread with many different flavors. There are many other delicious dishes in the Jewish district of Krakow which I cannot remember but It was so good that I can show you the way to get there from Vietnam haha.

What are your impressions of our bakery? (machinery, the type of work etc.)

In Poland, the bread is treated with great respect (for example when you drop it to the floor, the bread is lifted from the ground some times kissed, some religious (mostly eldery) people bevore cutting a loaf make the sign of the cross on it – it’streated like a religious symbol).

Bakery in Poland, and Europe are more developed and favorable. Due to cultural and natural background, bread is more popular and baking technique is also much higher than in my country. I knew about the popularity of bread in Europe before I came to Krakow but I’m still surprised about its role in the society.

In term of technical aspect, baking machine is more modern with high technology standard but yet easy to use. It’s very different to my country where people still do it on their own without support from machine (in most of local shop with the exception hotel, restaurant, franchise or professional bakery).

Have you visited other countries during ur internship in Poland?

I didn’t have much time for travelling but I managed to visit Vienna, Paris and spent a few hours in Frankfurt. The rest of time was in Poland when I travelled to Warsaw, Wroclaw, Zakopane. Basically, I travelled almost every weekend as I left at late of Friday and came back on the early Monday. The transport system was much more efficient than in Vietnam.

What Vietnam symbols, sounds (images, ceremonies) makes you feel proud when you see them abroad?

It was the time when I visited Warsaw that I saw Vietnamese performing in a festival. It was the moment that my friends tried Vietnamese food. Lastly, it was the time when I introduced my country to everyone at GETH. Those moments made me not only proud but also happy. Most of Westerners know about Vietnam as a country destroyed by war with low economic development but I can show what have changed over the last 40 years.

IV. Questions regarding Quan Do’s internship & personal plans

Does the report that you made when working in our company, the practice here brought a lot to your education?

Surprisingly, the report I prepared for GETH made me realize that I didn’t know as much as I thought about my country. Research in general is an important part of my study (as an economic student). But after all, most valuable things I learned is not academic things. It’s about taking care of yourself, about thinking and understanding the difference of culture, religion that no school can teach me about. I had chance to meet amazing young people from all over the world and I am grateful for every moment in here.

What pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised you in Poland? What didn’t you expect?

I was pleasantly surprised with the traffic and living atmosphere in Krakow. I come from Hanoi, capital of Vietnam, a city with more than 7 million people. Normal life in my city is always busy and people rush for work, for children, for family. In general, it is a large city with many people and we do not have time for rest. As a result, traffic in Vietnam is normally overcrowded and a nightmare for travelers who visit for the first time, especially Western tourists.

In Krakow, I can feel a peaceful, calm life with people walking on the side walk, inside the park or in the city center. Moreover, traffic is pretty light in comparison with my city. It is my habit to stop for a while before crossing the road and driver will never stop for any reason. However, Cracowian are polite and calm as they will stop immediately and wait for others to cross the street. That is definitely something that Vietnamese must learn from Polish.

On the other hand, most people I met in Krakow, both Polish and other nationalities are really friendly, open-minded and have a good sense of humor (I think they are better than us). But yes, I found out that Polish people are very traditional and family – oriented (similar to Vietnamese), Poles are also more religious than Vietnamese with 95% of population are Catholic.

What will you miss when you return to your country?

There are so many things that I am going to miss after leaving here such as culture, religion, beautiful buildings with deep-rooted history. I took a lot of photos (almost 200 – 300 photos for each trip and I traveled every weekend for the last 10 weeks) which help me to memorize my time in here.

After all, the most important thing to me is people that I met: my friends, my colleagues and their story. I am a really bad person at sharing and expressing my emotion or my story. Instead, I am kind of listener who want to listen to other people.

The truth is people that I met come from Asia, Europe, South America, Africa. They are Catholic, Islamic, Orthodox. Every single story I heard from people in here helps me understand more about their country, background, about difference in culture, politics and religion. We shared our difficulties, our stories and dreams. See you again, Krakow.  – Quan

What are your plans for the future?

In general, I want to become a financial manager, working with plans and strategies, etc. Specifically, I will graduate from university next year and start my professional life. I plan to work for the next 2 – 3 years before pursuing higher degree such as MBA. As a young person, I want to travel to many countries so that I’m interested in opportunities that grant me a chance to work abroad for several years.

And, maybe, I will come back to Europe, or to Poland, or to Krakow J

Could you imagine, your stay for your work life in Poland in the future?

Poland, especially Krakow, is definitely a place to come back. Other trainees and I have a plan to return to Krakow within 7 years to a reunion. In term of working life, it depends on the opportunity that I’m looking for. As a result, there is now guarantee on coming/not coming back for work life. Let’s see what future may bring.

Interviewee : Mr.Quan Do

Student at NEU ( National Economics University, Viet Nam)

IAESTE Alumni at GETH, Poland.