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A Vietnamese Teenage Girl Compares Generations and Cultures, studying in the US

I think the rebellious nature is not always due to the lack of listening, but also the ego that gets hurt easily. In the past, when I was about to do something that I was aware of its benefit on my life, say spending less time on social network, and if an adult criticized me or just reminded me to do it, I would choose not to, or even hate the idea and do the opposite. I just felt like they didn’t really think that I was mature enough to be aware of what was good for my life. I realize it also happened the same way with my friends. I wonder if this is what our teenage brains are born to go through before it becomes fully mature. I don’t think that the adults meant to be bossy because I notice that it is natural to speak with some degree of authority/experience towards someone younger. I even sometimes unconsciously speak to my younger cousin in a somewhat didactic way until I become conscious of it and stop.

Also, I haven’t seen anyone mention about adult’s habit of comparing their children and students to another. This really kills one’s confidence and dream as mentioned in the chapter, and I have seen it happens to many of my friends from Vietnam and China. Besides, I don’t think it is right to tell the youth cliché such as “When you’re young, you always think that you’re right” or “When you’re young, you feel like you will never die”. Although these might be for good intention, they hurt our ego and deepen the gaps between generations. Just let time and mistakes eventually open our eyes.

On the other hand, I imagine how it would feel like to be my parents. Teenagers complained about generation gap, but I realize that we should also look at ourselves. We have moved too fast and left the adults out in our rapid transformation and monthly update of technologies. Even young people like us have troubles when updating our computers to Microsoft 2010, then is it too much to expect our parents who lived through the time when computers were as big as rooms to catch up with things like Facebook?  I remember sitting in the car with my parents and brother as we went to the countryside for vacation. My brother and I both plugged our ears with earphones of our devices, leaving our parents sitting silently in the front seats. And I was surprised by my own questions: Then what’s the point of this vacation? Wasn’t vacation a time for family member to connect with each other more?  I wonder how can we expect to be understood if we do not spend enough time with each other.

Regarding materialism among youths, not only does media, but the way adults influence their children also adds to it. In some families where parents are constantly absence due to work leave an impression on their children that making money is the first priority. In some cases, parents’ expectation in their children’s career implies the desire for material gain. For example, many parents in my country instead of asking “Why do you like journalism?” will ask “What can you do with that degree? How much will you earn afterwards?” They suggest careers based on the amount of salaries earn (like what Lily, the other Vietnamese girl, said about choosing a finance career in the Generation Gap chapter). I think this is due to the difference in the environment that we grew up in. For our parents, their lack of material in the past makes having a stable financial life a priority. Yet, for us, thanks to the gradual improvement in the economy of my country (which sometimes we take for granted), we tend to think about what fills our hearts, not just what fills our stomachs.

Besides materialism, I think media also leads to the need for attention. In my country, some girls show off their fashion styles, attractive bodies and relationships just to be called “hotgirl”, leading to many other girls trying the same way to earn the deceptive feeling of being admired. Recently, I have decided to deactivate my Facebook because it has led me into other’s life, but only on the surface. I got to know a person from their gorgeous, stylish photos and the status that reveals the happy sides of their life or relationships. I would confess that it did lead me to compare myself to others and felt being left behind. It created an unnecessary need to upload my photos and keep my page updated as if I were very famous. Yet, I realized it was a time-consuming illusion. Also, it creates a time-consuming habit of checking the latest image of others’ latest pictures or status – something that I don’t think necessarily better a relationship. I’m not saying that social network is bad, but it does lead some to abandon the quality of real life for the quality of an unreal one on the Internet.

I’m not sure if you have mentioned this in other chapters, but besides Americanization, there is another wave of Korean pop culture that strongly penetrates lives in many countries, especially in Asia. Many girls in my country and in China, as I have seen from my Chinese friends in US high schools, chase after Korean singer’s fashion style, latest dance, songs, movies and even speak Korean in their conversations. To be honest, after having lived in the US, I realize that it is actually girls from the middle-class families in Asian countries that are more fanatic about appearance and fashion. If here in the US, for most people that I have seen clothes are meant to be comfortable or fit the situation. In some parts of Asia, especially those with recent economic boom, clothes and make-up are meant to be trendy and make you look either elegant or “cute” due to the typical images and standards from Korean pop culture. In my countries, even girls in the countryside pursue the image of a fashion icon on social network because unlike in the US, fashionable fake brand names are so cheap to buy there.

Regarding modern and traditional values, I see a lot more freedom of expression among teenagers in my country. They are less afraid to show their interests, achievements, relationships or ideas. However, these expressions are sometimes called “Westernized” with a negative connotation and not accepted by previous generations. Premarital sex and teen pregnancy and abortion have become issues for debate in my country. The adults criticize girls for being too open-minded and blame it on the “Westernized” thoughts resulted from movies, music and youths studying abroad (like me). Yet, what infuriated me is that only the girls are blamed, and that their values are judged based on a physical condition. It is not the girls’ fault, but the tradition that has made open discussion about safe sex impossible in most families. And when traditional values hinder us, we find a more dangerous way to get away. According to statistics (probably by Google, I’m not certain), Vietnam is among the countries that have the highest number of search for pornography sites. Therefore, we cannot blame if tradition or modernity rotten a generation, but the clash between the two that leave us directionless.

For the most part, I agree that some traditional values should be maintained despite modern values, such as respect for the elders and teachers. I still believe that respect maintain social stability and lead to equality. I think the hardest part is realizing where the balance point is, where respect becomes dependence and obedience or where actively attacking a viewpoint becomes disrespect.

Yet, one thing that I find contradict is that even though my generation is influenced by materialism, we are not less concerned about our community. I actually see more and more people about my age being so committed to helping others and saving the Earth. Concerns for community does not have to be knowing your neighbor, activities inside your school only, but caring for people somewhere else in the world that we have never been to. Some might say, “Why don’t you care for the community that you live in first?” Yet, it is the same as asking selfishly “Why don’t you care for yourself first?” if we regard one small community an individual. This is the difference that the Internet and globalization has brought to my generation. We spread our concerns to other places that might be unrelated to us. Not only do I see this in the US, but gradually in my country when youths take charge of projects for selfless purposes.

 

 

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