Ghana and Vietnam: Attitudes Toward Strangers

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Ghana and Vietnam: Attitudes Toward Strangers

Ghana and Vietnam two flags on flagpoles and blue cloudy sky background

Ghana and Vietnam: Attitudes Toward Strangers

Ghana and Vietnam: Attitudes Toward Strangers

By John Powell

Although we are constantly reminded that all human beings share most of our natural characteristics in common, there are undoubtedly noticeable differences between people of different race and nationality, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the attitude to strangers. In this respect, Ghana and Vietnam are clearly at opposite ends of the visible spectrum. In one, every new face is greeted with a wide grin and an eager attempt at conversation and in the other the foreigner is made to feel that some strange transformation in transit has rendered him or her invisible.

It is unfair to compare any country to Ghana, which has often been described as the friendliest place on the globe. Ghana has the advantage that its national language is English so it can speak to the whole world in a way that a community locked in its own vernacular cannot. Not only do Ghanaians speak English, but they want to use it to greet and converse with every visitor. The children may call out 'Oboroni' (European) but their next words are almost invariably 'How are you?' Adults may say 'Akwaaba' but repeat immediately, 'You are welcome!'

Vietnam is making great efforts to learn English. It is a compulsory subject in every school from the age of entry. So far, however, only those people employed to interact with foreigners, for example in the tourist trade, use English freely. There are a few survivors from an era when the schools taught French, and an intermediate-age group with a smattering of seemingly reluctantly acquired Russian, but most people are shy of trying to communicate in a foreign tongue. However, the issue seems to go deeper than a problem of communication.

A generation of Vietnamese may have been persuaded to be suspicious of all foreigners but this seems to have resonated with something fundamental in the national psyche. People everywhere are capable of shunning people they don't like, sending them to Coventry, as the English say, but it is a conscious action requiring at times considerable effort and concentration. The Vietnamese, however, seem to have a capability to be blind to what doesn't immediately attract their interest, and the neglect is achieved with no apparently effort.

Anyone doubting this curious phenomenon has only to walk down a busy street in Hanoi and not dodge a person on an intercepting path. This experiment should be attempted only by someone of robust physique and good health, and with a similarly endowed target, because there is a high probability of suffering a collision. The stranger may be invisible, but he is not immaterial, and as such is capable of giving and receiving a bruise.

All comparisons are invidious, and everywhere there are people who diverge widely from perceived national stereotypes. In government ministries in Accra one can find plenty of officials with the international standard blank face, and there are a few policemen and policewomen who have learned not to smile, although most still do. Similarly, there are plenty of greeting smiles in Vietnam, especially in old Saigon, with street vendors and motorcycle taxi operators eager to practice their English. Whatever national stereotypes are formed, it is important to remember that they must be subject to constant revision, as the nations become more closely integrated.

My novels set in Ghana: The Colonial Gentleman's Son and Return to the Garden City, as well as my children's book: Saint George: Rusty Knight and Monster Tamer, are available on amazon at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Return-Garden-City-John-Powell/dp/184624949X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1442856892&sr=8-1&keywords=Return+to+the+Garden+City, http://www.amazon.co.uk/Saint-George-Rusty-Knight-Monster/dp/1910508195/ref=pd_rhf_dp_p_img_2?ie=UTF8&refRID=1EEZ4CA5ZNVKJ0ZZNGTN

Article Source: https://EzineArticles.com/expert/John_Powell/921287


John Powell

Career in Ghana In February 1971, I took up a post at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana, where in January 1972 I was appointed the first director of the Technology Consultancy Centre (TCC). I started a grassroots industrial development programme in Kumasi and Tamale that attracted the attention of the Ghana Government and international aid agencies, and in 1986 I transferred to the Ministry of Industries, Science and Technology in Accra to extend the programme to all ten regions of the country. In 1997 I took up an appointment with UNIDO in Vietnam and worked on various small enterprise development projects in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) until 2001 when I moved to Liuzhou in China to serve the EU-China project until retiring in May 2002.

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