“We come in many different shapes and sizes, and we need to support each other and our differences. Our beauty is in our differences” – Quote of Carre Otis, an American model and actress.

The greater the diversity and difference, the more limited my knowledge becomes. This is not the first time I have talked to foreign mates, but the first time talked to a person from the Middle East. The Middle East, from what I heard from my surroundings and my history textbook, has always been a politically unstable region, often with complex disputes. But then, when I had a Zoom meeting with some partners from The United Arab Emirates through a virtual exchange program on September 5th, I realized what I had known was just on the surface. I am very glad that I had a chance to meet them. We talked about our country, about the specific place that we all treasure. One of my partners introduced Abu Dhabi, the capital of The United Arab Emirates, and I introduced Ho Chi Minh City and the rice fields in Vietnam. But here in this blog, I want to talk about the differences between her place and my home town Cu Chi, a suburban district of Ho Chi Minh City. The comparison between a city and the countryside is perhaps a bit lame, and unfair, but this is the moment that will help me broaden my mind more about.

I could say that it is hard to find the similarities between these two, which makes me really surprised and interested, and stimulates me to find out the answers. Based on the information that my partner provided along with what I searched online, the environment (topography, climate, etc.), the culture (customs, religion, language, cuisine, costume, etc.), and the living standards in Abu Dhabi are all things I have never experienced. The biggest difference to me is Abu Dhabi is a modern religious city with a strong economic situation and high technology. It has become the center of the oil and gas industry and finance. Meanwhile, Cu Chi is a poor area, with most of the population being farmers and low-wage workers. Much of Abu Dhabi is a large, arid, sandy desert with year-round hot weather, even warm winters. Cu Chi is located in a semi-plain area, has fertile soil favorable for agricultural development, and has a tropical monsoon climate divided into two distinct seasons: rainy and dry. In terms of language, the people of Abu Dhabi speak both languages Arabic and English. Cu Chi people use Vietnamese only. In terms of cuisine, Abu Dhabi has many typical dishes such as potatoes soaked in honey, pomegranate juice, and grilled goat meat. Cu Chi has a quite diverse cuisine with typical dishes of the Southern region such as grilled rice paper, Banh Chung, spring rolls, broken rice, and fresh tropical fruits. In terms of costumes, people of Abu Dhabi usually wear a rough shirt and white pants for men and a traditional long coat and scarf for women. People in Cu Chi are usually the Ao Dai, the traditional Ba Ba shirt, with conical hats, synchronized hats, and flip flops. Abu Dhabi has a mix of Arab and Western cultures, with a variety of museums, theatres, shopping, and arts events. Cu Chi has an awe-inspiring war history, especially its dugouts and war memorabilia. While Abu Dhabi has Islamic daily practices, world sports events, Western and Arab festivals, and theaters, Cu Chi has traditional festivals and customs such as the Ba Temple Festival, chatting together under the shade of coconut trees, singing and dancing together, or having fun on the street on holidays. However, a fact that makes me surprised the most is the treatment between people. My partner, Saara said that “it’s unlikely to easily see familiar faces and we don’t have a compact community” and “not everyone is friendly to one another if they’re unfamiliar with them”. This is completely opposite to the people of Vietnam in general and the people of Cu Chi in particular. Perhaps because we come from the countryside, everyone is simple, honest, always loving, uniting and helping each other.

Despite the major differences, I believe that these two places still have something in common. That is the respect and preservation of traditional culture, religion, and customs. When I praised Saara’s hometown and said I wanted to visit it after she showed me pictures of Abu Dhabi, I could feel her happiness. I felt the same way when I received positive reactions from Saara about Vietnam; I was truly touched. Then I realized Saara and I had something in common. We both talked about the places where we were born and raised. We were proud to mention our homeland. We both felt the intimate relationship between that place and the blood flowing in us. Most importantly, we were both interested and respectful of each other’s cultural differences, wanted to understand each other, and wanted to protect the uniqueness of each individual. We loved those differences. It is because of those differences that life becomes so diverse and interesting. The famous author Fujiko F. Fujio once said, “Only because each person has their appearance, the world has a colorful appearance.” And that is why we were able to connect and have a very pleasant conversation. Thank you very much, Saara, and thanks for our differences.








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  2. nguyengh Avatar

    Hi Thao, it’s so nice to find another student from the same country and hear your thoughts about the exchange partner program. Your blog is amazing, I must say. You did a great job in showing the differences between Vietnam, your home country, and Abu Dhabi’s unique culture. Through your essay, I learned that even though we don’t come from the same country or speak the same language, it’s so nice to know and connect with people around the world. Oh, and I especially love the quote “Only because each person has their appearance, the world has a colorful appearance.” by Fujiko F. Fujio. Good job!

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