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A Brief Account of Holidays in Vietnam

Following the recent festive season, I thought it might be of interest to provide some insight into how the holidays are observed in Viet Nam.  Both Christmas and the celebration of the New Year according to the Roman calendar pass by with scant regard for the average Vietnamese working person.  Businesses tend to operate on their usual schedules and most people go about their everyday lives just as normal.  The wealthier Vietnamese people tend to be more “westernised” and might have a special dinner or family gathering for Christmas and/or New Year.

Most language schools offer their employees a couple of days off for these holidays and obviously this is appreciated.  The international schools provide the entire festive period as a holiday but, as a teacher who arranges my own private classes, I only received time off from work by my own request.

The majority of foreign teachers here like to celebrate Christmas and since relatively few have families, we rely on the strongly interconnected expat community in lieu of spending time with our relatives back home.  There are a variety of hotels and restaurants that put on special deals, ranging from Christmas dinners to buffets with open bars.  The latter is that for which I opted, primarily because many of my expat friends were also attending.  The cost was 400000 Vietnamese Dong, which might seem a lot but this equates to about $20. For New Year, again there are a variety of options.  Restaurants, pubs and nightclubs that cater mainly to expats offer special promotions and events in order to accommodate our aspirations to celebrate.

For Vietnamese people, the main holiday of the year is Tết.  This is the New Year holiday based on the traditional lunar calendar.  The date of Tết Holiday varies every year but this year it falls on January 23rd.  Most people leave the cities during this time and, as most city dwellers are from the countryside, they return there to their family homes for up to a month.  This offers foreign teachers the opportunity to travel as well.  I plan to visit Cambodia this year since I have never been there before and there are many things to see and do. Also, I need to renew my visa and it is much easier and more affordable if one leaves the country and reenters. Finally, it is a relatively cheap option – flights from Ha Noi to anywhere outside Viet Nam rise in price considerably around Tết but a flight to Ho Chi Minh City and then a bus to Cambodia is pretty affordable.

So regardless of where in the world you are and, however and whenever you celebrate your holidays, I would just like to wish you… chúc mừng năm mới  (Happy New Year)!



Note about the author: David Wilson is a British-born English language teacher working in Hanoi, Vietnam.

By admin

5 Things You Must Know About Japanese Culture Before You Teach In Japan

The most important thing that I learned from my experience teaching English in Japan is that culture is everything. So is attitude. Your attitude will often determine the quality of your experience. However, with a good knowledge of Japanese cultural values and communication styles, you will be more prepared and you will be able to maintain a positive attitude when you encounter situations that confuse you or cause you to become frustrated.

Let’s get more specific. The first thing that I recommend for any teacher who is preparing to teach English in Japan is to read as much as possible. Read about the country, the culture, the history and the people from a variety of sources and points of view and remember that everyone’s experiences and opinions are always filtered through their own perceptions and ways of viewing the world.  Arm yourself with knowledge and then check it out and see if it’s true for you.

Here are the things that I wish I had known before I moved to Japan:

  1. It’s about the team, not the individual: If you move to Japan to work in a school and most of your colleagues and supervisors are Japanese, get ready to work in a team atmosphere. Your individual achievement as a teacher is not as important as the performance of the entire school. In order to gain the respect of your colleagues, show your understanding and acceptance of this view in your interactions in staff meetings and company events, your willingness to work extra hours once in a while and your overall attitude toward the success of your school.
  1. Get to know your colleagues outside of work: In a culture like Japan, the cultivation of good working relationships doesn’t happen only at work. You might be invited to join the staff after work for a drink or dinner. You might be tired and you might prefer to go home instead. But joining your colleagues for a drink when you are invited is an important way of showing your dedication to your team members. Also, don’t miss this opportunity to learn about Japanese culture and practice your Japanese! I formed great friendships with my colleagues over sushi and drinks!
  1. Expect indirect communication: Japanese professionals tend to communicate in an indirect manner. This means that if they are not satisfied with your teaching performance, they are unlikely to tell you directly. In contrast, someone who comes from the United States or England might prefer to receive constructive criticism directly in order to improve. You won’t get that kind of criticism so you need to get smart about how to work with a different communication style. If you are aware of this, you might still become confused at times, but at least you will know that it is because of communication differences.
  1. Dress professionally: I worked in a language school that served everyone from business people to kids to grandmothers in Tokyo. Whereas in the United States, we might have a casual dress code for teachers, it is very important in Japan to look professional. The students will judge the quality of your teaching partly based on how you look, especially if you are working with business professionals.
  1. Open-mindedness, curiosity and a sense of humor will take you far: It all comes back to attitude. You are going to Japan to explore a new place, right? If you are in a rural area, people will stare at you. You will feel awkward at times. Everything will feel small at first. You will make hilarious mistakes with your Japanese! If you begin the adventure with a goal to learn as much as possible about the country and about yourself, you can’t go wrong.  Try to keep your mind open and you will have fond memories that will last forever.



Note about the author: Lindsay McMahon worked for Aeon Corporation in Tokyo in 2005-2006. She is currently running a private language and cultural training company in New York and Boston called English and Culture Tutoring Services