Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Dung ‘Zaa-ding’

Zaa-ding (tone of ding going down) sounds like the word for family in Vietnamese. Family and relationships are very important in Vietnam and I get to experience this first hand every day when Mr Dung, his wife, their sons, his father, my interpreter and I, all gather around their dining room table for lunch. I am instructed to sit between Mr Dung and his father, who I have been informed, is over 80 years old, deaf and served as a soldier during the war (considering the war was one of the few things I knew about Vietnam before I was given my assignment, this is the only time I have heard it mentioned since I arrived two weeks ago).

This morning I was invited by Mr Dung to attend the opening of his sister’s new company. He has 6 siblings (3 brothers and 3 sisters), of which he is the youngest. I was introduced to all of them including the obvious head of the family, his eldest brother. They were all very welcoming and over dessert wine (at 9am! In a scene similar to the wedding when we were up and down toasting her and her company’s future success), pistachio nuts and something which resembled curried biltong (this is the most delicious thing I have tasted in Vietnam – I almost devoured the plate!) they invited me to come and visit each of their businesses. It turns out Mr Dung’s eldest brother is a Chelsea fan and has been to London to watch them play. This is unusual in Vietnam as all the people I have met so far have been avid Manchester Utd supporters. I do get a lot of brownie points for living in Manchester and for the sake of simplicity have had to declare that I am English (this goes against the grain for all Scots, as many of you following my blog will appreciate).

I later showed them photos of my family and friends and they thought my Mum (sounds like may-aa with the tone going down) and I looked very alike and that we were both ‘very young and beautiful’. They like your mother of the bride outfit by the way. They also think Pete is very handsome and looks like a Vietnamese man! I was then told that I have the mannerisms of a Vietnamese woman. I wasn’t really sure what was meant by that, but smiled and laughed anyway. It seems a little Vietnamese can get you a long way ;-)

You will gather that we have to do a lot of smiling, which I naturally do anyway, but what was mentioned to me yesterday, by one of the other IBMers, demonstrates how close our team has become over the past two weeks. She said that although I have a smile on my face, even in the most difficult and challenging situations (smiling is considered appropriate in these situations as it’s all about maintaining face) she knows me well enough now to be able to read exactly what I’m thinking through my eyes.

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