Monday, November 2, 2009

Cultural Preport: Vietnam

Yesterday evening the entire shipboard community gathered together in the Union for cultural preport. Preport meetings are a vital part of preparing everyone before we enter a new country. For most of the students, Vietnam is a country they have never visited before. The cultural preport gives everybody vital information that is designed to help ease their transition into a new culture. Aside from basic country information, these meetings discuss differences in culture that students may not be aware of, but are an important part of ensuring acceptance by the native people they encounter in each country. The other half of the preparation takes place the following day in logistical preport, and focuses on providing information that will help students stay safe and make the most out of their stay in a country. Information covered will include everything from where the closest post office is located to how to get in touch with the Dean on duty in case of an emergency.
The July 2009 estimate of Vietnam's population was 86,967,524. Unlike many of the other ports on this trip, there is no core religion that ties the country together. In fact, in the last census, over 80 percent of Vietnam's citizens responded that they did not have a religion. There are, however, significant cultural influences that govern the way people behave, and how they interact with one another. For example, the family is extremely important in Vietnamese culture. As a result, it is quite typical for people to live with their parents even after they marry. There is also a very strong sense of respect for elders, and students were advised how to greet older people and even how to give them money when shopping (with both hands cupped) to avoid unintentional signs of disrespect.
One of the other important issues that was discussed was the government. Vietnam is a communist country, whose constitution was enacted April 15, 1992. Although it may be difficult to see the differences in a country caused by government type during a stay as short as ours, the students were encouraged nevertheless to be observant while in port.
The students favorite part of every cultural preport is when they start talking about food. In Vietnam, some of the specialties include Com (rice), Gio Lua (lean pork pie), Cha Ca (grilled minced fish), and Banh Tom (crispy shrimp pastry). They were even given recommendations of places with the tastiest food! To keep everyone safe and healthy, they are advised to only eat cooked food.

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