Culture shock can be described as the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to moving to a new social environment. When I asked my Grandfather what shocked him the most about Vietnam, surprisingly it wasn’t the weather, landscape or the people themselves but the fact that dog meat was one of the most popular meals during the Vietnam War. This cuisine is still very popular today, with over 5 million dogs consumed per year.
In Australia, dogs are viewed as ‘a mans best friend’ and it is actually illegal to sell dog meat and heavily frowned upon to consume it. Over 39% of households in Australia have a dog as a pet, highlighting the importance of the furry animals in Australian culture. In some families such as my own, there is more love for the dog than each other!
In Vietnamese culture eating dog meat is believed to bring good fortune and is very popular, especially in the north of Vietnam. Dog meat often features in local markets and as street food but is also present in high-end restaurants where it can fetch up to $55 a dish.
For an Australian visiting Vietnam, it is easy to understand how seeing a cooked dog hanging up in a market or receiving a dog dish in a restaurant may shock the person. This experience is almost comparable to seeing a cooked human as the animals are such a large part of our lives in Australian culture. However, it is important to understand that some Vietnamese do not have the same emotional attachment to dogs and for them it is just another meat just as Australians may perceive chicken or pork. To try and reduce the effects of this culture shock when travelling it is beneficial to look at it from the perspective from the other culture and realise that just because they may do something differently it is not necessarily wrong.