Monday, May 2, 2011

Comparing Life in England to Vietnam

Well folks, every 10 weeks I have to teach students how to write a compare and contrast essay whereby they are given information about 2 countries or cities and have to make an essay detailing the similarities and differences between them.  So, to show them I can also write one, I'll write a comparison essay between the two countries where I've spent most of life, Vietnam and England.

England and Vietnam are countries with different customs, values and economic development.  Despite differences, similarities can be identified between these two nations that I have spent the majority of life in.  This entry (essay) will describe some of the likenesses and contrasts between these important European and Asian countries.
The first major similarity is the popular sports in these countries.  Both nations share a passion for the 'King of Sports' football.  In parks all around England you will find children and teenagers playing football using jumpers for goal posts.  Similarly, in Vietnam, everywhere is a potential football pitch.  There are specific 'soccer' facilities and stadiums, the motorbikes and pedestrians often share the roads and pavements with budding footballers and badminton and volleyball courts are often usurped as football arenas.  Not only is this sport played, it is also viewed by millions of fans in both countries with the English Premier League being the most popular league.

Secondly, England and Vietnam are both hubs for cheap travel around their continents.  In Europe, Ryanair is famous for cheap travel between European cities and likewise,  Jetstar provides a similar convenient in Asia.  From England, in hours you can be in Italy, Germany, Spain, Poland and beyond.  This is even better if you hold a European passport as you won't need to apply for different visas to travel between these nations due to the freedom of movement established in the European Union.  Although there is no such paralleled agreement in Asia, Vietnam is close to China, Thailand, the Philippines, and Singapore and just a little further are India, South Korea and Japan.  Therefore residents in either locations are blessed with countless travel opportunities should they seek to explore them.

The final likeness is that they both having fascinating, yet contrasting, long histories.  In England, the royal family, the building of palaces and religious houses and the fighting of wars are considerable marks of British society.  This, in a different guise, is also evident in Vietnam.   The Vietnamese had a royal family until 1945 and palaces still remain, one of which can be found in Nha Trang.  Buddhism was established in as early as 2 AD and the Tran Quoc Pagoda in Hanoi is over 1,400 years old.  Both countries have also fought many wars, most notably in the 20th century with the 1st and 2nd world wars and the American war respectively.  It must be noted that England was a colonial country while Vietnam was colonised but this doesn't detract from the significance that the religious belief and ruling class have made to both countries.

*There have been omissions made to this paragraph, but it was not my intention to get stuck into long disposes of the countries' history

While there are a number of fascinating similarities between England and Vietnam, there are numerous differences.  Firstly, behaviour that is considered polite is vastly different between these countries.  To elaborate, in Vietnam calling 'Em oi' aloud to attract a waiter/waitress' attention is considered a polite action while the same action in England would be frowned upon as being incredibly rude.  To give another example, the English will always queue and wait their turn to be served in shops or when waiting in traffic.  However, in Vietnam there is no notion of waiting in line and nudging ahead of others in line isn't viewed as being an impolite action.

Another significant point of difference is in the climate.  The south of Vietnam has a sub-tropical climate has means the temperatures rarely drop below 25 degrees C (even at night), there are long dry periods with high humidity and two periods of about 6 weeks of heavy rain showers.  Right now, Saigon has extreme humidity which is an immediate precursor to the tropical downpours.  In contrast, England has a temperate climate with 4 seasons.  As is widely stereotyped about blighty, there is often a lot of rain, wind and overcast conditions.  However, the summers can be pleasantly warm without the sweat and discomfort of Vietnam.  The 4 seasons also allow people to set a natural body clock.  For example, the differing temperatures and amounts of daylight, means it is easy to know what time of the year it is whereas in Vietnam everyday feels the day so you can forgiven for not knowing which part of the year you are in.

Finally, the cost of living is enormously different.  As is true for most developed countries, England has an extremely high cost of living.  In fact, so much so that it is now incredibly difficult for young graduates to get on the house ladder without significant from their parents.  A reasonable London salary will barely allow a worker to rent a flat near their office without sacrificing their social life.  The price of public transport is very high, especially the trains, with the only saving grace being that the state provides education (up to university) and health-care are covered by taxation.  On the other hand, Vietnam is much cheaper.  If you are an expatriate earning a similar salary to home, you can rent an apartment in the best part of town, eat out every night and still have money to take regular trips overseas and rack up some savings.  Whilst health-care and education must be paid for, the trade off is certainly appetising to a lot of people.

Despite the distance of 5774 miles that separates England to Vietnam, the similarities for their love of football, being hubs for international travel and having intriguing histories might be considered surprising.  The differences of the weather, cost of living and behaviour are less shocking.  As someone who's lived in both countries, it is difficult to accurately compare the countries as overall there are many more differences that haven't been described.  Whilst England clearly is more developed, has better infrastructure, social services and, in my opinion weather, the trade off in terms of expense and standard of living is hard to ignore. 


  1. I have to write a comparison between these two countries for my French exam and I found the cultural differences extremely helpful! Thank you for posting. x

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