AIESEC Vietnam Intern Guide www.aiesec.org Welcome to VietnamThis guide will provide you with basic informationyou should know about Vietnam. It is intended as avery general guide, so do not limit yourself to it. Youshould do more research to be well prepared for yourstay in Vietnam. The Lonely Planet about Vietnamcan be a good resource. Visit the links at the end ofthis guide.July, 2008Content Welcome Congratulations on being matched as an intern in AIESEC Vietnam! We welcome you with open arms andWelcome Message look forward to both learning from you, and helping you to learn more yourself! AIESEC in Vietnam is a new AIESEC country full of challenges and opportunities, and we can’t wait to share it with you! Best of luck for in your preparation, and weGeneral Information look forward to working and partying with you soon! The following information is designed to help you to prepare for your internship experience. It should be a starting point to learn more about AIESEC in Vietnam,Google Group Contacts some basics about living in Vietnam, and what you can expect from your experience. Please use it as a resource to discover what kinds of questions you need to be asking yourself and your host LC to make the most of your time with us! We recommend that you read as much as possible about Vietnam (guidebooks, history, fiction, books by Vietnamese authors and information from the embassy). Look at maps, talk to people who have been here or live here. Vietnam, just like any foreign country, can be frustrating at times, f especially to a new visitor but believe us when we say the good times o more than make up for it! We have found that the most important r ingredients of a successful internship are a positive receptive attitude and a lot of tolerance. Once you gain the confidence to handle any situation here, you will have a really great time. So AIESEC Vietnam Family welcomes you to join us!
AIESEC Vietnam Intern Guide July, 2008 Your Responsibilities as Our Responsibilities as Hostsan Intern the LC and many other interesting people. Communicate with you before you arrive to ensure you are- Facilitate cultural exchange and discuss your prepared for your trip. problems with AIESEC members- Do your job with a positive attitude and to the - Pick you up at the point of your arrival best of your abilities - Help you with arranging accommodation- Complete expectation setting with us so we both - Help you with all the regular daily functions (shopping, can ensure we are meeting each other’s taking the bus, getting a bank account, how to use the telephones, how to order food etc.) expectations. - Take you to the organisation on the first day of your- Fill in the measurement surveys and give us internship feedback - Be there to answer questions and provide support- Help us help you this is only possible if you whenever we can communicate with us about any problems, - Help you get integrated into the culture concerns and expectations. Many things may not - Provide activities that can teach you about the be obvious to us and we need you to tell us. Ask Vietnamese culture and lifestyle us lots of questions!!! - Provide you with names and a telephone list of the- Never miss a party, because this is where you AIESEC members in your LC as well as information about upcoming events or activities. get to interact with the members and interns inGeneral InformationVisa Medical informationYou will need a business visa to work in You will find all the medical assistance you could need in Vietnam.Vietnam. Contact the Vietnamese There are a couple of international clinics, but it is cheaper to go toembassy in your country for the details. Vietnamese hospitals and they are just as qualified. Make sure youYou will be able to get a 6 month buy health insurance which covers you for your whole stay inbusiness visa and you can extend it once Vietnam. Scan and email yourself a copy of your health booklet inyou are in Vietnam. Scanning and case you lose it. Also bring it with you to Vietnam. In Hanoi and Hoemailing yourself with your passport and Chi Minh City, you do not need malaria tablets.visa is a good idea in case you lose yourpassport. 2
AIESEC Vietnam Intern Guide July, 2008 Vaccination Here is a link with information on which shots you will need: Flying to Vietnam There are many international airlines flying to Vietnam, but it can be expensive. If youre from the West, an option can be to fly to Shanghai (China), Singapore or Hong Kong, and fly another Asian airline from there (you can look on www.elong.com). You might need a visa for that though. There are also direct trains from Beijing to Hanoi (2 days ride), or buses from Hong Kong (about 24 hours to Hanoi). Money Registration ToiletsThe local currency is theVietnamese dong. 1 USD is worth Once you have found your At home or at work, you will mostapproximately 16,000 VND. You accommodation, your host will likely have a Western-type toilet. Incan use your bank card from your need to register you at the public places however, squat toiletshome bank account at most ATMs police station. Make sure they are not uncommon.to withdraw money. Check with do.your bank to see if your card is Temperatureusable abroad. Credit cards Food and Drinks(mostly Visa and MasterCard) are The temperature in the North (Hanoi)taken in tourist places and upper Food is one of the best things is quite different from the Southend restaurants and boutiques. It about Vietnam! Generally, a (HCMC). In the North, it is hot and dryis more common to use cash. meal consists of rice or noodles in the summer and cool and wet in theAIESEC will help you open a with other food like meat and winter. Bring warm clothes for theVietnamese bank account so you vegetables. You can also find winter. In the South, you will becan get your paycheck. Bring many international restaurants. wearing summer clothes all year long.cash in a major currency to Some small restaurants can be It is hot and wet in the summer andexchange for VND in Vietnam, as a little bit dirty, but the food is hot and dry in the winter. The humidityVND is hard to obtain outside the good nonetheless. Your can be hard to bear. You will need acountry. stomach will get used to street raincoat for the rainy season. food. Generally, food in theAccommodation North is salty and food in the Shopping South is sweeter. Do not stickAIESEC will help you find a place your chopsticks in your rice bowl. This reminds people of When shopping in stores, articles willto stay. Generally, you will share often have price tags. When going toan apartment with other interns incense sticks burning for the dead. Tap water is not drinkable markets or smaller stores, prices areand you will have your own room. not displayed, so make sure to learnYou can expect to pay 250$ a in Vietnam. Boil it first, or buy bottled water. You can find the prices so you don’t get ripped offmonth for your room. Apartments (ask an AIESEC member to help youare not luxurious, but they are many different types of alcohol, local and international. with that). Sometimes, you can alsoclean and comfortable. bargain.Vietnamese students usually stayin places that cost 30-75$ amonth. 3
AIESEC Vietnam Intern Guide July, 2008Clothing Transportation Going outA Western size S corresponds to a Use the public bus (3,500 To have fun, Vietnamese youth likes to go singVietnamese size L, so it might be hard VND) to go around the city, karaoke like in many places in Asia. It is notto find clothes that fit you. It is or take a xé ôm (motorbike the Western concept of karaoke where peoplehowever possible to get tailor made taxi). Make sure to agree sing on a stage in a bar while theyre drunk.clothes which will be cheaper than if on the price before taking Instead, your party rents a karaoke room in ayou buy them back home. This would the xé ôm ride. Usually a karaoke place with many rooms like this, andnot be convenient for things like bras ride will cost you between sing one after the other. Vietnamese peoplethough, so make sure you bring what 15,000 and 30,000 VND, like to sing well. Another thing they will do isyou will need. Finding big shoes can depending on the distance. go out for dinner together. Drinking is not aalso be a problem. Most people travel The best thing to do is buy common activity for girls. Guys like to drinkby motorbike or bicycle, so women a bicycle (new or second beer or vodka in eateries or street sidedont wear skirts very often as it is not hand) to travel around. restaurants. Ask them to take you there, it’sconvenient for this type of They are cheap, good fun to skull beer against old Vietnamesetransportation. Make sure to bring convenient, almost as fast men. There are many Western-type clubs inyour swimming suit to enjoy the nice as motorbikes, pollute less big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, butbeaches of Vietnam! and give you exercise. they mostly attract the foreigners.In your everyday life, just try to be Traffic Most Vietnam AIESECers are 18 to 22 yearsdecent. Wearing a t-shirt and shorts is old, and to some interns they might appearfine, tank tops and short skirts are not ‘childish’. Most of the Vietnamese studentsso common. At work, you will most To a newcomer, (especially in AIESEC) still have parties withlikely wear formal pants and a shirt, Vietnamese traffic can orange juice, and never touch a cigarette. seem quite scary anddepending on the company’s culture. Most Vietnamese people consider the peopleA suit and a tie is not required since it chaotic. Don’t worry who go to bars and night clubs as just wantingis so hot, however, some of the larger though, you will get used to to hook up, therefore not a very positivecompanies, such as MNCs, may it. Cars usually have opinion (this usually doesn’t apply to foreigners priority since they arerequire you to wear a tie sometimes. as the Vietnamese don’t have the same bigger, so be careful as a expectations of foreigners as they have of their pedestrian. To cross the compatriots). So if you want to go to a bar withHygiene products street, just walk slowly at a a Vietnamese AIESECer, tell them in advance constant pace and where exactly you want to go. If going to a bar,In general, you can find most products motorbikes will go around most of your Vietnamese friends will not belike toothpaste and shampoo with the you. able to stay with you late (family rule). Somesame big international brands. P&G have a curfew of 8 or 9 PM. Better call theand Unilever are well established in other interns if you want to go out to a bar.Vietnam. Dating, Relationship, Sex The Vietnamese take relationships seriously, so they won’t be dating someone just for fun usually. Sex is usually kept for after marriage. Kissing in public is strange. You might find the Vietnamese to be ‘childish’: holding hands, having ‘teenager’ relationships. A note about ‘childishness’: In China, we had a discussion between Chinese AIESECers and foreign AIESECers as to how each group perceives the other. One surprising finding was that each group perceived the other to be childish: The foreigners thought the Chinese were childish because they giggle, hold hands, have teenager relationships; the Chinese thought the foreigners were childish because they have no discipline: eat junk food and candy, party out late, do things bad for their health, don’t study, do things they want without caring about what others think. 4
AIESEC Vietnam Intern Guide July, 2008 In the workplaceHoliday in Vietnam The working style will be very different depending on if you are in aJanuary 1 - Western New Vietnamese company or an international company. You can expectYears Day international standards in an international company. Vietnamese companies will often take long lunch breaks because it is common to take aJanuary or February - Tet; nap after lunch. In Vietnamese companies, you might feel like you do notVietnamese and Chinese New have much direction and constructive feedback. You will need to beYear celebration; this most proactive in engaging in communication with your company.important Vietnamese festivity ofthe whole year is celebrated an Be careful with your attitude at work. Colleagues will respect you becauseentire week from the first to the you’re a foreigner, but if you screw up you will lose their respect and it isseventh day of the new year hard to get back. The Vietnamese expect a lot from you since you areaccording to the traditional moon getting paid more than a Vietnamese employee.calendar; as the celebrationdepends on the phases of the Language can be a barrier, so try to speak slowly with your Vietnamesemoon, not the sun, it is colleagues. Also, sometimes they will act like they understood, but theycelebrated on different dates of really haven’t. Make sure they understand you by making them explainthe Western calendar; what you want them to do.traditionally, during the Tet dayslarge amounts of food areconsumed, because the Tet Languagedays are considered an omenfor the course of the entire year; Vietnamese is the official language, but there are many other dialects. Thethe belief is that if you eat a lot accent in the North is different from the South. Nowadays, Vietnameseduring the Tet days, there will be people learn English as a second language in school, so the youngerenough food during the whole generations have some knowledge of English. The AIESECers can allyear. speak English very well. People who work with tourists also speak English. Other than that, most people wont beFebruary 3 - Founding Day of able to speak English. You can also findthe Communist Party of people who speak French, as it is aVietnam; national holiday very common language to study due toMarch - day tocommemorate the Trungsisters, who in the year41 of Christian reckoningled a rebellion againstthe Chinese rulers;movable holiday, as itdepends on the mooncalendar.March 8 - InternationalWomen Day, which ispretty much like Valentine’sDay for Vietnam. Companiesoften organise events forfemale staff, and most mengive presents to the women intheir life (sister, mother,daughter, wife, girlfriend, etc.)April 30 - Liberation Day ofSouth Vietnam and Saigon;national holidayMay 1 - Labour Day; national 5
AIESEC Vietnam Intern Guide July, 2008 Communication Holiday in Vietnam Vietnamese are very literal when it comes to language, so you need to express clearly what you mean. They don’t understand sarcasm. Here are a few tips on May 19 - Ho Chi Minhs birthday; communication to make your life easier. national holiday 1. Double negatives: May 28 - holiday in commemoration of the birth, the enlightenment and the death of Q: You dont want to be late, right? A: Yes. (Meaning: no, I dont want to be late) the Buddha; national holiday Correct question: Do you want to be late? August - Trung Nguyen; Day of Q: I think we shouldnt do it. And you? A: Yes. (Meaning: yes, I think we shouldnt do the Wandering Souls; on this it) day the souls of the dead are Correct question: Do we have to do it? believed to wander to the ...or even better: we dont do it. habitats of their offspring; celebrations in Buddhist 2. Literal interpretation: temples; food is spread on house altars for the souls of the Another great share of misunderstanding with local people also derives from literal deceased and fake money is interpretation. Never expect them to be empathic, never expect anyone to burnt in honour of them; understand something not evident. This is just a cultural difference; the moveable holiday, as it depends communication just doesnt always work on the same way all over, especially here. on the moon calendar. September 2 - National Holiday Q: Did you receive that email I sent you last week? A: Yes. (Meaning: yes I received it. Attention, it does not necessarily mean it has been read) September 3 - Day to Correct question: Did you read and follow up my email of last week? commemorate the death of Ho Chi Minh in 1969; national Q: I asked you last week to do this, can it be done this week? (meaning: “you are holiday freaking late and I’ve been waiting for a week, can you do it quite fast, max for the end of the week?”) A: Yes (meaning: “yes, I remember you asked it. Yes it can be September - Trung Thu - done this week.” Attention: it does not necessarily mean that it WILL be done on this autumn celebration at which timeframe.) children parade through the Correct Question: not a question. Please, do what I asked you last week by this streets with lanterns; for this Wednesday 2 PM. celebration moon cakes are baked; moveable holiday, as it In other words, avoid any double negative and rhetoric questions. Ask clearly about depends on the moon calendar. any possible side of the problem, especially that obvious side you think is "normal". November - Birthday of Confucius; moveable holiday, as Safety it depends on the moon calendar. You do not face big dangers other than being scammed or robbed in Vietnam. People who work with tourists will often try to rip you off. There are also many pick pockets. There are even thieves on motorbikes who will grab your bag while passing by. Watch your stuff in public places or on the bus. 6
AIESEC Vietnam Intern Guide July, 2008Cultural aspectsCollectivism: Vietnam is a collectivist society, meaning the group is more important than the individual. In everyday life, itmeans people will always consider the opinion of family, society, peers in general before taking a decision. The notion ofprivacy and personal space is very different since many people live in a concentrated area. This notion of collectivism isalso observed with food: dishes are often shared.Family: Family is very important in Vietnam, like in most of Asia. It is normal for the Vietnamese to ask you about yourfamily or if youre married. It is a way of showing interest in you.Don’t feel weird when you ask a Vietnamese friend to go out at night and they respond: “Sorry, I have to be at home by10pm, sorry I have to go with my mom, sorry I have to have dinner with my family, I have to stay home do housework.” Asother Asian people, Vietnamese students live with their parents until they get married and sometimes even forever (aman can live with his wife and his family). Contrary to Western countries, Vietnamese students rarely stay outindependently. As a result, family takes a very important role in their lives and they need to take a lot of responsibilities intheir family.Age: Dont be offended if people ask about your age. Age is very important and people will address each other differentlydepending on if they are older or younger. Always show respect to someone who is older than you, even if they areworking under you. It is very common for Vietnamese managers to be younger than the people working under them, asthe younger generation is more educated. However, they always show respect to people older than them. Even thoughyou are a manager but you lead an older man, a nice and respectful manner to him is always highly appreciated. OneVietnamese saying goes: ”you can live longer if you respect the old people”, thus, old people are the most respected.When you meet an older person, don’t forget to nod your head with a smile and greet them.Hospitality: Most Vietnamese are very friendly to foreigners. They are proud of their country as they have a great historyof victories against the invaders (Chinese, Mongols, French, Americans). They will be very happy to help you discovertheir culture. A host will always do everything to make their guests happy, so do not abuse this. A host most likely won’ttell you if you’re doing something they don’t like, but you will look bad in their eyes. A good present to bring to a host isfruits, a cake or souvenirs from your country. Do not bring milk, as milk is something you usually bring to sick people. Ifyou are invited to sleep over, hosts will often give you their bed and sleep on the floor. It might seem weird to you, but youshould just accept because it is very important for them to be good hosts.Non-confrontation: Vietnamese people are non-confrontational, meaning they won’t tell you if they have a problem withyou. For Westerners, this can sometimes be interpreted as hypocrisy, but it is really because they do not likeconfrontation and do not want to hurt you. If they don’t like the way you are behaving, they won’t tell you “You shouldn’tdo this, you should do that”, etc. Instead, they assume you should be aware of the basic ethical norms and acceptablebehaviours. This means you have to be alert for clues and pick up on very subtle messages. Also, they hardly say no iftheir answer could offend you. If you ask them to do something, they won’t say no since they don’t want to confront you,but it doesn’t mean they want to do it, or that they will even do it! Be careful not to pressure people to do things too much,because sometimes they will end up doing it to satisfy you, but they will be highly annoyed by you (but won’t tell you).Hiding feelings: Due to the non-confrontational aspect of Vietnamese culture, Vietnamese people are more closed, theyhardly express what they feel and think in fear of making someone feel hurt, disliked, looked down upon, etc. Forexample: if you invite a Vietnamese friend to your house, you have food, and you invite your Vietnamese friend to have ameal with you, most of the time your Vietnamese friend will respond:”I’m ok, I don’t feel that hungry”. Well, it is not assimple as what the Vietnamese speak out. They may feel hungry, but feel shy if you share food with them. If you asktwice or more, or convince them, they may say YES (when they feel you are really willing to invite them).Another story: a Western guy invited an Asian girl to go to a movie. She responded:”Sorry, I have work to do that day”even though she really wanted to go with him. Well, the guy thought she really couldn’t come, then answered: “Well, ok,hope you work well”. That girl felt really disappointed.Saving face: Honor is very important in Vietnam, so people do not like to lose face. This means you should be careful notto criticize someone in front of other people, as it will make them lose face in front of everybody. It is best to give negativefeedback in private. Making someone look bad in front of other people is highly humiliating.Customer Service: In your home country, you might be used to the customer being king, but don’t expect the same here. 7
Google Groups We have Google Groups for the AIESEC community (members, interns, alumni and friends) in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to communicate. Join them! Hanoi: http://groups.google.com/group/aiesechanoi Ho Chi Minh City: http://groups.google.com/group/aiesechcmUseful Linkshttp://www.intercultures.ca/cil-cai/country_overview-en.asp?lvl=8&ISO=VNCultural information from the Canadian perspectivehttp://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/Viet Nam News, Vietnams news in Englishhttp://newhanoian.xemzi.com/The New Hanoian: resources for expats in Hanoihttp://so-saigon.xemzi.com/So Saigon: resources for expats in Ho Chi Minh Cityhttp://www.livinginvietnam.com/Another Guide for Expats in VietnamThere is a TV program on VTV4 at 10PM which talks about how to live in Vietnam. The name is Living in Vietnam.