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Vietnam Today: A Guide to a Nation at a Crossroads
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
As a Vietnamese-American living in the US for 26 years, I consider this book one of the best ever written about Vietnam nowadays undergoing great changes. Very insightful,honest, fair,well balanced, non bias and not influenced by,for the better or worse, the American experience in Vietnam. Only a few corrections are recommended for next editions. First the Chams ( not Chans), are a malay group of minorities.The group living in Central Vietnam are mainly hinduist while the other group living in the Delta ( province of An Giang ) are mainly muslim.They never consider themselves as Vietnamese but Chams whose civilization was destroyed by the Vietnamese. The name of the late President of South Vietnam missed the middle name. He is Ngo "dinh" Diem, still highly revered by the majority of Vietnamese overseas. I appreciate very much the fact that the author use the abbreviation HCM City for Saigon instead of the full name which is anathema for many Vietnamese. Very clever and sensitive. The quotation about letting the windows open will let a few flies and mosquitoes flying in is one of the famous quotation of Deng Xiao Ping which changed the history of China. The sub title " a Guide " can mislead a few readers to think that this book is just another touristic travel book about Vietnam ( most of them not well written and superficial). This book is much more valuable and insightful than all the recent books about Vietnam. Congratulations !!!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
VietNam is land full of promise and potential -- yet is faced with pressing political and economic challenges. VIETNAM TODAY provides a valuable picture of VietNam, past and present, and defines the issues and trends of today. It is a very practical guide that captures the culture, politics and complexity of today's VietNam - a nation of 80+ million - the thirteenth most populous country - with the second fastest growing economy.
It is significant to note that more than two-thirds of Vietnamese were born after the last American GI left in 1975. This book describes the 21st Century VietNam where, for the first time in more than 100 years, a generation has grown into adulthood not experiencing war or foreign domination.
VIETNAM TODAY was written for those who will visit VietNam on business, as well as for travelers who come on holiday also who want to know something about the country they are visiting. Furthermore, it should be read by Americans who want to understand VietNam as a country - not the name of a war.
It provides chapters on geography, demographics, politics, economy and business, history, changes since the war, cultural differences and offers invaluable tips for dealing with Vietnamese. It describes how to work with the fact that VietNam is a relationship-based society in which everyone is tapped into a network. It makes the observation that mavericks and lone wolves are likely to fail in making inroads here.
Particularly helpful is Chapter 7, "How the Vietnamese See Westerners." It presents impressions and reflections - positive, negative and constructively critical - from Vietnamese who have worked with foreigners for many years.
Don't let the subtitle "a Guide . ." mislead you into thinking that this book is simply your basic travel book (for that, I recommend The Rough Guide to VietNam and National Geographic Traveler's new VietNam guidebook).
VIETNAM TODAY offers a vivid, compassionate view of a people and a land that captured my heart two-and-a-half decades before Ashwill set foot in the country. It helped provide a context for me to understand numerous things that I had observed but hadn't been able to fully comprehend. This book will not only change the way you think about VietNam, it may cause you to reflect upon how you view the world. That's a lot to get from a travel guide!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
Vietnam is a country that is changing extremely rapidly in both economic and social spheres, adding to the bewilderment that many Westerners feel when dealing with the country and its inhabitants. This book provides a historical, demographic, economic and political background which explains many of the present cultural stances of the Vietnamese and the effects that has on business dealings.

This is not a travel guide in the conventional sense -- it caters for people who want to make more in-depth inquiry into the nature of the country, the people and its systems. As such, it is written in an academic tone, backed up by numerous references from previous authors and illuminated by examples of interactions between people from communal high-context cultures like Vietnam and individualistic low-context cultures as seen in the West.

The scholarship is impressive and valuable, and only occasionally glosses over important points -- the explanation of the Asian notion of face as a simple desire to maintain harmony, is perhaps worth expanding into the concept of the deep-rooted fear among people with a communal and high-context mindset of being expelled from "the group".

There are many nuggets of wisdom in here -- businessmen in particular will find engrossing detail in the section dealing with endemic corruption, and the sly ways in which its true nature is often concealed. Trends in modern-day Vietnam are examined thoroughly, although the country continues to change at such a rate that what was true when this book was published in 2004 may be less so now, especially after the unforeseen economic problems which struck the country in 2008. The basic insights, however, remain as true as ever.

This is an extremely worthwhile book for people with a serious interest in Vietnam and the Vietnamese people.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
For its compact size, this book is the most comprehensive and useful guide available to understanding and dealing with the nation and culture of Vietnam. It's only four years old, so it's quite up-to-date. It covers Vietnamese history, geography, government, economics, education, communication, cultural values, common problems, and the process of building personal and business relationships.

This is no tourist guide; rather, it offers assistance in dealing with the Vietnamese as a people and a nation. It's ideal for those planning to live and work in Vietnam, or for those who work with Vietnamese living overseas, both temporary visitors and permanent residents. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Mr. Ashwill not only loves Vietnam and lives there, he takes a look at a Country that has seen it's share of pain and grown from the experience. If you would like to have a better understanding of Vietnam today, this is the book for you. I loved it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2013
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I have lived in Vietnam now for 6 years and do read extensively about Indochina; when i saw this book mentioned i wanted read anothers perspective on Vietnam and have found this book to be very accurate and detailed; its a great reference.
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on April 28, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Because I grew up when the Viet Nam war was going on, heard the controversy during the war and since its controversy still continues, I wanted to know more about this country. This book does provide some insights about the country, the people, their thoughts about everyone who comes to do business with them and their general temperment.

The young lady who does my nails is from Viet Nam and I see many other immigrants from this country and feel foolish because all I know about it is the fact of the war that took place there. This motivated me to get this book and it was quite an eye opener. As a people, the Vietnamese have been subjugated, as they say, "By the Chinese for 1,000 years, by the French for 100 years and by the Americans for 10 years." The book provides an insight about their values: do not judge someone until you know them well, your family is always your first concern, try always to reach a decision that accomodates the most people without placing blame.

This is not the perfect book about Viet Nam, but it is very good and worth the read!
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Format: Kindle Edition
Several years ago the pilot of my flight to Singapore announced that we were flying over Ho Chi Minh City, and I recall how this matter-of-fact piece of information cast me into deep reflection and wonderment. I realized then as now how much I had forgotten or let go of in regard to Vietnam. As Denby Fawcett, one of the authors of War Torn observes, “It was a ‘bad war.’ Nobody wanted to hear about it, and even if they did, they wouldn't understand.” Vietnam had disappeared from the horizon of my thought and yet its landscape was suddenly unfolding beneath me. Currently, thanks to Mark Ashwill and Thai Ngoc Diep, I can sort it out again, and make more sense of it via the multiple perspectives they offer.

Vietnam Today is a timely book, because it comes at the crossroads of history and the present. April 2005 will mark 30 years since the last US combat death occurred in Vietnam. So Vietnam is at a crossroads, not only, as the authors point out, in its political, social and economic development, but also in the US consciousness. For those under 35, Vietnam is not a memory but a possibility; for many us who are older it was a dominant theme, a part of our lives that produced physical or emotional scars and forced us to make life decisions about our values, politics and family relationships. As novelist Bao Ninh observes, “Those were the days when all of us were young, very pure, and very sincere.”

Even tugging firmly on the visor of my interculturalist’s cap to keep it from flying off as memory storms and current political events blow about me, it is hard review this book dispassionately. The authors’ solid historical overview at the outset helps considerably. Vietnam’s character and its spirit are the result of millennial struggles of which US involvement is only a recent though impactful chapter. This perspective is important. While there are temptations to draw out implications for US foreign and military policy as Iraq hovers between hope and tragedy, I struggle to push them to the back of my mind and focus on the good cultural advice found in Vietnam Today.

The authors provide a detailed and sympathetic profile of the communitarian, relationship-oriented Vietnamese character that will determine how one communicates, does business and collaborates there. Despite the pace of modernization, globalization and change, knowing and responding to this character is still essential for the outsider who would successfully engage Vietnamese at work and in social situations. Perhaps equally important are the authors’ descriptions of how outsiders are seen by Vietnamese who have worked with Westerners. Who you are for others is largely who they think you are; you will make progress in proportion to your ability to deal with others’ images of you.

I for one appreciated the authors’ sensitive and enlightening discussion of how they chose terminology and orthography for country and place names used in the book and for referring to US Americans, particularly given our role in the drama of Vietnamese independence.

Despite the thorough research and ample commentary found in Vietnam Today, the reader is left with more questions than answers, more cautions than certitudes. That is simply due to the nature of the subject matter and the honesty of the authors as they seek to present nation struggling to grow and transform itself into new possibilities, a population full of energy and willfulness engaging life as they find it. Vietnamese social and political systems are firmly in place and yet in often contradiction with what is asked of a contemporary trading partner. The authors do not abandon the reader as he or she questions the future. They provide a chapter of informed speculation on the directions Vietnam and the Vietnamese, culturally speaking, may take at the current crossroads in the 21st century.

Who should read this book? Certainly those doing business with or in Vietnam or those planning to do so, students of international business and opportunity seekers. I would also recommend it for the slightly adventuresome tourist, for veterans of the war generation who would go back out of curiosity or contrition. Both these groups will need a somewhat deeper cultural orientation as to what they can expect to find beyond what tour books offer. The book is also a gift to those of us who simply want to know more, to organize what we see in the news and read elsewhere, including other books on Vietnam.

In college I had two Vietnamese classmates at the time when the US was just beginning its “quiet American” role in Vietnam. Both warned me of the dangers to come but I could not hear them. One stayed in the US and currently works in the Vietnamese Community in Cleveland, Ohio—I spoke to him a few days ago; the other, who had become one of my closest college friends, returned home and disappeared without a trace—I am speaking to him now.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book provided an excellent overview of the culture of Vietnam. I'd recommend it to anyone traveling to Vietnam on business or for pleasure.
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