Feeling Welcome in Southeast Asia

IBS Class Photo in Vietnam

Initial Fears

One of the biggest questions you need to ask yourself when deciding to study abroad would be: “Is traveling to a different country meant for me?” Seeing the world is something I’ve always want to do but I have been too scared to go alone and also feared how other people would treat me. I always felt different growing up in the United States because I think differently from others and I always felt out of place because I am a multi-cultural woman. I have longed to find a country or community that would be willing to welcome and accept me for who am I without judging me. Thus, traveling to Thailand and Vietnam made me realize how different people can act and speak to one another and that judgment is not a priority. In America, some people can be very self-absorbed and judgmental, but if you go to Southeast Asia, they are very open to speaking to foreigners and they show respect to everyone they meet no matter what cultural ethnicity you are. Just make sure to learn how to speak some words in Thai or in Vietnamese and they will open their arms to you as if you are family.

Going with the Flow

Thai woman at train market One of the goals I had before going to Thailand and Vietnam was to see if I could feel comfortable living in another country outside of the USA. I found out that I was able to easily adapt to Thailand and Vietnam because I had studied the language and I had watched multiple videos on Youtube about their cultures before going to those countries. I learned their customs and I learned what to say and what not to say and I never had any problems. Although there might be some judgmental looks or comments out of nowhere, I knew that not everyone was going to be 100% comfortable with me because I am a foreigner in their country. I realized that if I just went with the flow and let things go based on certain situations, then I was going to have a better time in these countries. That is what I did and I was able to have a fantastic time in Thailand and in Vietnam. Learning how to go with the flow helped me learn how to relax more in the USA. I tend to always be ‘uptight’ and I tend to ‘worry’ a lot, but I realized that if I just took it a step at-a-time and rolled with the hiccups, I was going to be able to stand up again and continue on my journey in life.

Corporate Culture

Vietnamese DishWhen I visited the multiple companies in Thailand and Vietnam, I could see a difference in the corporate culture between the USA, Vietnam, and Thailand. In Thailand, they will welcome you in with open arms and treat you to food generously. When you go to Vietnam, they are strict about time and punctuality and they are always trying to find ways to limit corruption. For the USA, it’s more about gathering at restaurants, coffee shops, etc to discuss sports or business. These different corporate visits in Thailand and Vietnam made me realize how similar business is in Thailand, Vietnam, and the USA. However, how people treat others is very different. One of the things I learned about doing business in Southeast Asia is to learn the language of Thai or Vietnamese. If I do choose to do business in Thailand, I would definitely need to learn Thai because then I would be able to work better with everyone. I even heard that while you are working in Thailand that you can take cheap language classes to learn how to speak Thai.

Finding Acceptance

Vietnamese foodOverall, traveling to Thailand and Vietnam helped me grow as an individual by helping me learn that there are other cultures in the world that treat others with respect. Thailand always respects everyone no matter what social status they are in and the Vietnamese will always greet you with a smile. Being in different countries helped me learn that even if I don’t feel at home with the USA, that I may be able to find a new home in a country that will accept me for me. When it came to accomplishing my goals during this trip, I was definitely able to learn how to fit in with the culture and feel welcomed. I didn’t judge any of the people in Thailand or Vietnam and I was not afraid to try different foods I haven’t tried before. Sometimes taking a step out of your comfort zone can help teach you if you are meant to be in a different country or become a major traveler for your career.

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Ms. White
Katie White

School: California Lutheran University

I attended the Winter Southeast Asia Seminar!

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