High hopes dashed: international students returning to Vietnam experience work culture shock

By Thanh Le   November 15, 2022 | 04:37 pm PT
High hopes dashed: international students returning to Vietnam experience work culture shock
Students wave Vietnam and U.S. flags to welcome President Donald Trump to Vietnam's capital city Hanoi, February 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy
Vietnamese students studying abroad have high expectations of making important contributions after returning to Vietnam, but many find they can no longer relate to local work culture.

"Even though I had great hopes of making valuable contributions to my country, I was completely shocked by the lack of professionalism of the company I got into," said one returnee who did not want to be named.

More than 21,600 Vietnamese students studied in the U.S. between 2020 and 2021, it is estimated. Although there is no official report on the number of people returning home every year after completing their studies, it is said that the number is on the rise.

Many people want to use the knowledge and skills they have acquired abroad to establish a career and make valuable contributions to their country, but such hopes are belied, more often than not. Many say they have experienced a culture shock on their return.

Disillusioned soon

One VnExpress reader, Nguyen, said: "I was in the 10th grade when my family and I moved to the U.S. After more than 10 years with no significant career breakthrough, I was invited to work at an international hospital in Vietnam. In the beginning, I was under the impression that my knowledge and abilities could help my home country more than the U.S. Besides, you do not have to pull strings or ask for help while working in a private environment as you might have to do as a civil servant, so I accepted, quickly.

However, upon returning, I quickly grew disillusioned with my new job. Although I work in a private environment, in reality, most of them are still people who have moved from the state, so even though I work as a manager, it's no different from begging. There is a lot of management overlap in the hospital where I work. Even the director or general director is afraid of the deans in my department. I feel isolated because I am unfamiliar with this kind of working environment.

It is also worth noting that our work practices do not follow any particular schedule; almost all tasks are usually assigned right before the deadlines. My colleagues and I have had to work from 8 a.m. to 6 a.m. the next morning just to sum up numbers. The data storage file is still the same as it was in the 90s, full of heavy excel files. The desktop cannot be loaded as it freezes every few minutes."

Naïve assumption

Reader Hung Q Nguyen had a similar tale to narrate.

"Having lived abroad for quite some time, I wanted to return to my country to work. On the one hand, I wanted to stay close to my brothers and my aging parents. On the other, I felt there was no better place to dedicate oneself than in one's own country. Nevertheless, soon after returning, I wanted to leave. Some people think that's because I'm unable to find work abroad. Others think that the work-life quality at home is not too bad now.

In reality, my experience has been completely different. The companies I work for are unprofessional and lack equipment and financial resources in many areas; the administration is confusing... Many people in the company have the habit of taking undue advantage of others because they are afraid that some are more competent than they are. Some like to gossip and make their own assumptions.

Now I see that my thought about going back to dedicate myself was naive. Obviously, that does not mean I'm giving up. How can I give up after so many years of working abroad?"

Professional environment

On the topic of attracting talented people to return to their homeland, reader Dinh said the key factor was creating a professional working environment.

"Talented and virtuous people are always present in society, and it does not have to be that those that study abroad in developed countries are best placed to help the nation.

Studying abroad and using knowledge to serve the homeland is great, but the most important thing is that the head of the organization must be a competent individual with integrity to attract great talents and develop their potential.

The talent of the leader here is not about having knowledge in all areas in the world; it is the ability to win people's hearts. Salary is important but not the deciding factor. For example, the company I used to work for was a large corporation which paid a lot of money to employment agencies to find talented employees. However, after a short while, most such employees resigned because of one reason: the attitude of the business owner.

In the mindset of many company heads in the country, the owner is in complete control and no matter how good the employee is, he is just a salary man... You want to recruit talented people, but if you do not want to listen to suggestions and criticism, then how can your employees achieve their full potential?"

The opinions expressed here are personal and do not necessarily match VnExpress's viewpoints. Send your opinions here.
go to top