Starbucks and Kentucky Fried Chicken aren't the only American brands entering Vietnam and changing the culture. The short film, "The Day Dreamers" by Vietnamese production team, Bluer Vietnam, showcases Vietnam's own brand of tattooed hipsters hanging out on rooftops, riding fixed gear bikes, skateboarding and fantasizing about crazy ideas. While there is no dialogue, the imagery of these hip Vietnamese youth tells a powerful story about Vietnam's cultural evolution: it strives to look like America.
I visited Vietnam twice in the past two years, and I was overwhelmed by the country's rapid modernization with rising skyscrapers, the first underground mega mall, luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and emerging youth subcultures in the realms of graffiti, street art, hip hop, BMX bikes, skateboarding, second hand "vintage" stores (yes, really!) and more. It is without a doubt an incredibly exciting time for the country, and especially the youth, who are growing up with access to the internet; the youth are quickly shaping their daily lives by adopting global influences and trends they witness online. By 2010, Vietnam had successfully achieved its global status as a middle-income country after being one of the world's poorest countries 25 years ago. I am ecstatic for Vietnam's progress and the infinite resources online that the youth now have access to. More access means more opportunity for everyone.
Nonetheless, a part of me still cringes a little when I think about the power of globalization and its impact to wash out Vietnam's unique culture and traditions. When I look at images and representation of Vietnam's youth today, do I want to see the exact same image of youth I'd see in America? Not really. As someone from Vietnamese descent born and raised in America, I've always cherished visiting Vietnam and relishing in the country's cultural differences. No matter where we're coming from, we should be proud of our differences -- they are what make us unique, authentic and original. I am in no position to set expectations for how Vietnamese youth should dress and act -- that is 100 percent within their own will. But I will say that seeing Vietnamese youth dress and act almost exactly like American kids makes me excited and sad at the same time. Every country's future lies in the hands and minds of its youth. With such an eagerness to embrace American style, trends and culture, I hope Vietnam's youth remember that they have just as much to offer and inspire the global community as they like to adopt.