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Differences Between The Vietnamese And Americans Cultural Studies Essay

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

As we know, conversation is communication between two or more people. It is a social skill that is not difficult for most individuals. Conversations are the ideal form of communication in some respects, since they allow people with different views on a topic to learn from each other. A speech, on the other hand, is an oral presentation by one person directed at a group. For a successful conversation, the partners must achieve a workable balance of contributions.

Literature review:


Concept of face:

There are many definitions of face. But in general, face is an image of self delineated in terms of approved social attributes. Goffman conceptualizes face as "the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself or herself by the line others assume he or she has taken during a particular contact." He also (1955) also argues that face can be lost, saved and/ or given. He (1967) further suggests two foci of face: self-face (one's own face) and other-face (other's face).

America and Vietnam place education highly, as they recognize its importance in shaping the children’s future. In both countries, the students go through twelve years of basic education, beginning at the kindergarten level. Both countries have put in place policies intended to improve the education system, and to improve the students’ performance. Schools in both countries have set regulations and rules which they expect the teachers and students to follow. In both countries, the parents and the government invest a lot of money and other resources on education, and the literacy rates are high. Both countries experience school dropouts at different levels. Both systems have public and private education sectors. The education system in America and Vietnam differs in different ways.

One not only defends self-face but also protects other-face during interactions (as cited in "cross-cultural and interpersonal issues", Stella Ting- Toomey, p49, 1994)

According to George Yule in "pragmatics" (1996), there are two types of face:

Negative face: a person joining in communication needs to be independent and has freedom of action.

He or she does not want to be imposed on by others.
Firstly, the courtesy for meeting others has a few diversities, compared to 2 countries. In particular, Americans shake hand with the opposite sex ordinarily, otherwise Vietnamese slightly bow the head or put the hands in front of the chest in order to show more respect. In addition, Americans afford to greet anyone in the family first, contrarily a Vietnamese salutes the head of a household or an older person first, then the youngest ones.

(George (1996), p.61)

Positive face: a person joining in communication needs to be accepted even liked by others. He or she wants to be treated as a member of the same group, and to know that his or her wants are shared by others (George (1996), p.62)

Other terms:

Cross-cultural communication:

"Culture is communication and communication is culture" (Hall, 1959).

Cross-cultural communication is communication (verbal and nonverbal) between people from different cultures; cultural values, belief, attitudes, etc has an impact on communication (as cited in "cross-cultural communication", Ho Thi My Hau, 2001). And we can realize cross-cultural communication on people through their reactions and responses to each other.

Moreover, the manner of expressing friendliness is a considerable contrast as well. For instance, people in America usually exchange cheek-kisses to reveal how much they like or love each other, but in Vietnam they never do that and it even causes shock to most married woman.


As James R. Silkena (2009) stated that "Face-saving may be defined as the act of preserving one's prestige or outward dignity" (p154)

Face-saving is one of the ways to preserve politeness when people joining in conversation.

As George Yule (1996) stated that "given the possibility that some action might be interpreted as a threat to another's face, the speaker can say something to lessen the possible threat. This is a face-saving act" (p61)


Politeness is an act of awareness of other people's face. Brown and Levinson is two major representatives on politeness and when we talk about them we no doubt talk about their model's politeness that is considered as the greatest impact on language research in general and on intercultural communication in particular.

The engagement ceremony in America involves the couple only and is often an intimate affair. The couple’s decision to get married does not depend on the parents’ opinion. In Vietnam, the engagement ceremony involves the couple and their families, since the couple has to ask for permission to get married. The couple’s decision to get married depends of their parents’ opinion. If the parents disapprove of the future spouse and does not approve of the marriage, then the couple does not get married. Many American brides prefer a white wedding dress. This is different in Vietnam, where red is the preferred color for the wedding dress, since it represents good luck and fortune. American wedding ceremonies can take place almost anywhere, depending on what the couple decides. This ranges from the church, government offices, beaches, gardens, among other areas. This is different from Vietnamese weddings, since the ceremony has to begin in front of an altar.

And according to Brown and Levinson, two main sides of politeness include positive politeness and negative politeness.

Positive politeness:

People joining communication want to be praised and respected.


a. How about lending me some money?

Hey, Bucky, I'd appreciate it if you'd let me borrow you money.

This kind of politeness is seen in every life and the speakers want the others to be pleased and glad.

That can lead to be easy for every issue for both speakers and listeners.
In the animal kindom, there are several animals that scientists considered to be of the same species. scientist have been able to prove, with much evidence, that animals of similar species may differ in class,size, body composition and structure. The cat and the dog are one of many examples. Although many may be thorn apart and confused by the simple idea of comparing between a cat and a dog, it still remains aparrent that these two animals, share several similarities and differences.

Negative politeness

In contrast to positive politeness, people joining communication want to be independent and not to be treated.


Could you lend me your money?

I'm sorry to bother you but can I ask you for your money?

Face saving act is more commonly performed via a negative politeness (George, p64).

In conclusion, in Brown and Levinson's model the complement hope and self-control are the most fundamental force of politeness.

Face-saving function as politeness:

Socio-norm view:

Face-saving has functions as politeness. People in communication consider preserving face-saving as one of politeness's issues.

Food preparation in America can take remarkably little time, or no time at all in case people choose to order. Some people buy precooked food, which takes little time to prepare. In Vietnam, the food culture is different, as Vietnamese will spend a lot of time in food preparation. Americans enjoy eating out at restaurants and ordering ready-made meals. Vietnamese prefer cooking their food and eating in the home. Many Americans choose to buy their groceries once a week. This is different in Vietnam, where many people buy groceries daily. Americans do not have a defined staple food. Vietnamese consider rice their main staple food. They have different varieties of rice, which they combine with other foods. Vietnamese consider a meal as incomplete with the absence of rice. Many Americans use a lot of oil when cooking, because they eat many deep fried foods. Vietnamese use oil sparingly when cooking. American food does not have many spices. This is unlike Vietnamese food, which contains a wide variety of spices and herbs. Forks, spoons, and knives are the main culinary items that Americans use when eating food. Vietnamese use forks, spoons, and knives sparingly, and they prefer using chopsticks.

Face-saving is concerned all over the world. And it is a universal one; however, the characteristic of face-saving is so different through the world.

And that is reason why it is concerned as socio-norm view in our society.

Preserving face-saving for ourselves and others plays an important role in preserving social relations among people.
In addition to greeting, eating manners is another difference between Americans and Vietnamese. To eat their food, Americans use a knife, a fork, and a plate, whereas Vietnamese use chopsticks and bowls. In a traditional Vietnamese family, eating manners is very tricky. For example, the meal only begins when the youngest person finishes greeting all of the family members. On the other hand, Americans do not greet their elders before eating. Instead, many Americans pray to thank God before they eat. In addition, Americans divide their meal into three courses: appetizer, entree, and dessert. While in Vietnam, people have their whole meal all at once.

As a result, people avoid losing face while communicating with others.

Face-saving function as politeness:


Person engaging in communication tries to save his/ her face in front of the others. In this regard, the speakers appreciate their independence or individualism.

Therefore, our group decided to choose topic "differences in starting conversation between Vietnamese and American". From this, we hope that people can have their ways to start effective conversation to create relationship.

And preserving their face in front of other people is the most important thing. As a result, they try to avoid being caused to lose face by themselves among people.


Person engaging in communication tries to save the other face in front of the others. Partner avoids lose the politeness and tries to follow the conversational principles.

In conclusion, each region has its own amazing culture and it can make people from others a little bit stunned. Even though, exploring them is an interesting job which may bring everybody some fantastic experiences.

In communication, other-face may be the most concerned one than self-face. This is one of the important issues in preserving politeness.

In brief, as in a study of Baxter (1984), the Japanese often concerns much more on self-face than others.

In contrast, the American people seem to concern much more on other-face than self-face.
Desserts are one of the favorite options at meal times in American culture. Desserts are not included in Vietnamese cooking, and one often takes a fruit at the end of the meal. Most American food consists of artificial flavoring and other taste enhancers. Vietnamese food rarely adds any artificial ingredient, as it consists mostly of fresh vegetables and herbs. Americans prefer having a light and simple breakfast of cereals, pancakes, or bread and jam, accompanied by a drink such as milk or juice. Breakfast is a serious affair in Vietnam. People take the time to prepare breakfast, and they will often cook a variety of dishes. Americans like fast foods and packaged snacks, and they take them at different times of day. Vietnamese rarely eat fast foods, and they often prepare their own snacks.

"There were also differences in the situations individuals thought maintaining self-face was important. Japanese wanted to preserve self-face inprivate, informal, and intimate situations. North Americans, in contrast, wanted to maintain self-face in public, formal, and nonintimate settings" (The challenge of facework: cross and interpersonal issues, Stella Ting - Toomy, p55-56)

Socio-cultural impacts on face-saving:

"The positive social value a person effectively claims for himself or herself" (Goffman, 1995, p213)

The concept of face-saving through is different from cultures worldwide.

In such a culture with strong face-saving viewpoint, all business could end up if one side or another is leaded to lose face.
Americans and Vietnamese enjoy having a wide variety of food options. People have the freedom to eat what they please. Both cultures eat cooked foods and vegetables, and they add fruits to their diets. They both use a variety of meat sources in their diet. In both countries, people eat three main meals of breakfast, lunch, and dinner during the day. Americans and Vietnamese use some culinary items when eating. The food and food cultures in the two countries differ in different ways. Food in the two countries differs by region. In America, southern foods are different from the foods cooked in the other regions. This is the case in Vietnam, where the food in the northern parts differs from the food in the southern regions, in the country. Several differences exist between the food and food culture in Vietnam and America.

In this culture, face-saving plays a more important role than business issues. On the other hand, in such a culture with weak face-saving viewpoint, all business could continue if one side or another is leaded to lose face.
In Vietnam, teachers do not encourage critical thinking. The students do not conduct research, since they do not have the means of doing so. Teachers usually apply lecture method when teaching. The students go the classrooms and take notes. In America, students engage in other activities outside the classroom. These include field trips and social activities. They engage in different games and sports, journalism, music, and other activities. In Vietnam, the students do not engage in other social activities outside the classroom, other than the normal play that children engage in during their learning breaks. In America, there are many opportunities for students to get financial assistance with their education, in the form of loans, grants, scholarships, and sponsorships. In Vietnam, there are few opportunities for students to get financial assistance from the government.

In this culture, business issues play more important than face-saving.

In Ho's view, face "is never a purely individual thing. It does not make sense to speak of the face of an individual as something lodged within his (her) person; it is meaningful; only when his (her) face is considered in relation to that of others in the social network (p 882)" (as cited in The challenge of facework: cross-cultural and interpersonal issues, Stella Ting - Toomy, p. 51)

To Vietnam, although C.kerbrat - orecchioni did not arrange Vietnam as in negative politeness society, we can realize it in some Vietnamese folk verses and proverbs like:

" Ta về ta tắm ao ta

Dù trong dù đục ao nhà vẫn hÆ¡n "

" Trâu ta ăn cỏ đồng ta

Tuy rằng cỏ cụt nhÆ°ng là cỏ thÆ¡m "

The view of face-saving is always associated with face-losing in Vietnamese viewpoint that is performed in:

"Tốt danh hÆ¡n là lành áo"

" Người ta hữu tử hữu sinh,

Sống lo xá».

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