College and Dating. Northern Vietnam.

11 Dec

I wanted to understand what college life was like in Vietnam. Do they have sororities? Fraternities? All night keggers? Hook ups and throw ups? I wanted Ang to give me the 411 on college life in this wanna-be communist country. Here is part of our conversation.

Me: “So, in college..what did you do for fun? I mean did you have parties at friends’ apartments?”

Ang: “We call each other up. Meet at the sidewalk for green tea. Eat sun flower seeds. Talk. Laugh. Drink more green tea… Meet girls on the sidewalk. My friends have our own sidewalk corner. We go there…”

Green tea? Sidewalk? Sunflower seeds? Little different than my kegger college experience.

Ang said at his University, his professors taught them think. Professors would only give them half the answer and ask the students to do research. From what I was hearing, his university taught students how to critically think, analyze and come up with their own conclusions – unlike China where memorization and regurgitation are the way, the truth, and the light…

For a one-party, communist country, this slightly surprises me. I’m learning more about Ho Chi Minh – founder of the Vietnam’s communist party and the illustrious Viet Cong.

A focus of Ho Chi was education. He believed education would free the people of occupation. Ho Chi built schools everywhere. You question, what was taught in these schools. But, if we keep this high level, Ho Chi instilled a culture of education, knowledge and learning – regardless of subject matter.

This philosophy seems to be true today as well. Vietnam seems to be much more open than China. The V-nam government has tried to limit Facebook, for example, but the Vietnamese students have figured out ways around it.  Unlike China, the government is not stopping them.

Ang said that his friends know Vietnam needs to change – but needs to change slowly. His parents and grandparents are amazed at the progress, and yet horrified by it as well. So much has changed since the Vietnam War. Ang said the government still closes down newspapers and censors publications that go against party lines.

For example, they are building a huge hydro dam and the government will be relocating many tribal people. (Sound familiar? China and Three Gorges Dam.) People are upset and wrote letters to the papers. Papers printed it. And, followed up with articles. Government got annoyed. Shut down the paper. Had everyone fired. This is how the government controls what is said. But, the people know the truth.

Also, as a tourist, you are tracked everywhere you go. (Not the case with me..more on that later…) The government, according to Ang, wants to know tourists are safe. Whatever. Call what you want.

I asked Ang for an example. He said, Mae, our ethnic tour guide, had to send our passport information to the Tribal leader of the local village where we are staying tonight.

The tribal leader called the police to get approval. Once the police approves, then tribal leader allows us to come to his village. It’s the tribal leader who assigns the family to take care of us. Only certain families can receive tourists in their homes. Many homes are not equipped with standing toilets, concrete bathroom floors and spigots of cold water. This is the government’s way to ensure the tourists only see and experience what THEY want them to see. I say this, yet don’t feel like I’m being denied the REAL Vietnam, like China. You can go anywhere you like. I mean the Vietnamese passport process was the most lax yet.

Ang on dating…

Me: “So, you’re almost 26. Are you looking to get married… What type of girl do you like?”

Ang: “I like a girl who can cook, clean, take care of family. I like a girl who does not have a big, hard job. I want her to be home when I’m home.”

Me: “What professions then?”

Ang: “Teacher. I like teachers. And, bankers. The girls work in the bank. They are professional. I like their suits. And, they don’t work late.”

Me: “So, you would not date a shop keeper because they work weekends, nights…very hard?”

Ang: “Different here. I would date a shop keeper. They can close shop when they want. If my wife need to go home early. Not work. Then, she close her shop for me.”

Me: “Really……What if your parents don’t like your girlfriend? What happens?”

Ang: “I’m a boy. It does not matter. Boy says they like girl. End of story. For a girl, it is different. If parent’s don’t like boyfriend, then daughter has to break up with him. North Vietnam is very traditional, unlike South Vietnam. Daughters must obey parents. Sons, not as much.”

Me: “Yea, that wouldn’t go over well in our family… Do you agree with this?”

Ang: “Yes. Because I am a boy….”

Indeed you are.

Vietnam is progressing, but still has a long way to go. It’s interesting because I asked a young girl about dating in Saigon (Southern Vietnam) and she said her parents have NO say in who she dates. Just asking about dating gives you another glimpse into the difference between North vs. South Vietnam. The later controlled by Ho Chi and the South controlled by capitalist.

I hope Ang finds his woman – He deserves only the best.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply