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Vietnam Today

A Guide to a Nation at a Crossroads

By Mark A. Ashwill and Ngoc Diep Thai

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Review by Allison Martin

Vietnam Today, A Guide to a Nation at a Crossroads is a unique guide to Vietnamese life and history for anyone who is interested in succeeding in a business or endeavor in modern Vietnam. If you are willing to spend a little time understanding the cultural influences on personal and business interactions in Vietnam, this book will be very helpful in your endeavors in what can be an exciting, and sometimes confusing and frustrating country.

Vietnam Today starts with an overview of the country, and then moves quickly into the history of Vietnam. Here, it covers the various occupations by China, France and the US, and the consequent cultural, emotional and political influences in effect today. This discussion highlights the somewhat ambivalent attitude toward America and Americans, which impacts businesses and travelers to Vietnam, both positively and negatively. The knowledgeable coverage of current events and recent history is especially useful, as there are only a few other references available which are as up to date and inclusive.

Much of Vietnam Today focuses on cultural interactions between Vietnamese people and Vietnamese and foreigners, especially Americans. It aptly explores the differences between societal expectations and unspoken rules between the two somewhat disparate cultures. The heart of Vietnam Today is its elaboration of Vietnamese social interactions and structure. Family relationships, relationships within society, education, and the role of women in this patriarchal society are addressed. Several chapters are devoted to explaining Vietnamese culture and manners in the context of business and society. Anyone working with Vietnamese people or staying long term in Vietnam will find these discussions and examples enlightening.

The authors bring interesting credentials to this project. Mark Ashwill is the director of the World Languages Program, a Fulbright advisor and an adjunct professor at SUNY Buffalo. Thai Ngoc Diep received her undergraduate degree in Vietnam and her master's degree from SUNY Buffalo. Both authors have ongoing, practical experience in working with Vietnamese. Mark Ashwill was the first U.S. citizen to be awarded a Fulbright senior Specialists Grant to Vietnam, and is also the founder of the U.S.-Indochina Educational Foundation. Thai Ngoc Diep worked in Vietnam with the US-Vietnam Trade Council and Ericsson.

Vietnam Today is a unique resource for anyone interested in understanding the underpinning of modern Vietnam. I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to understand the society of modern Vietnam, whether visiting or working long term.

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