It is inevitable for most of us to find fault and complain, it's human nature; opinion columns invite such complaints and allow people to vent their frustrations. Certainly, no society has found perfection as yet and we will all continue to struggle with its elusiveness, but during our daily lives we have other pursuits which include a variety of ways to enjoy our life. The people of Vietnam, and the culture as a whole, know how to find pleasure in very simple ways and are always up for a good game, food and social events; as Vietnam continues to evolve, the options become ever greater and there are many universal truths that we can share.
Close friendships in Vietnam are expressed in many different ways and often seem to trump the importance of friendship in other western countries. My most memorable experiences here have been relationships with Vietnamese people from all walks of life. I have always been treated as a special guest by those who I have come to know well and they have always been willing to go the extra mile to help with any problem. In fact, without such friendships, it would be much more difficult to navigate the intricacies of the culture and the manner of thought which leads to understanding one another - many hours have been enjoyed discussing both the differences and similarities between east and west.
Once differences are acknowledged and understood it is possible to share our similarities, and there is no better way to indulge in philosophy than by sharing the local favorite foods, combined with the ubiquitous can of beer and card games, with friends and family - it is a unique spectacle of the propensity for having fun, and it extends to all pursuits, whether at home or at work there is always time for laughter.
Although allowing time for mischief is important, there is also time for the value of education: The appetite for learning is perhaps the most pervasive aspect of the people and the culture. At all levels and ages the curiosity about the world and other cultures is unmatched. Education is the great equalizer and the ticket to a better life and everyone is well aware of this truth. Many are fortunate enough to travel abroad for study and return with a wider perspective in business and life. In addition, one of the great strides made in Vietnam is the increasing number of quality schools ranging from elementary to university and graduate school where an increasing number of students are able to enroll. Over time, a well-educated populace will provide for a more prosperous economy with greater capabilities.
Opportunities for young people to improve their lives through education, while still maintaining the values of family, friends and fun, bodes well for the future. Certainly there is much to be done and we often feel progress is not fast enough. As a youngster I would often get impatient waiting for mother to finish preparing dinner and would I'm sure often become annoying, but mother would simply say, "Good food takes time."
By James Johnson
The writer is an American expat who lives and works in Ho Chi Minh City