Five Things You Forgot to be Grateful for this Thanksgiving

For the first time ever, I spent my Thanksgiving outside of the United States. While no one in Vietnam celebrates Thanksgiving, I still gave Thanks for the usuals: family, friends, food, health, technology. Living in Vietnam has reminded me to be grateful for a few more things.

1. Being a Fluent English Speaker

I forget how lucky I am to be a native English speaker. Almost every young person I have met in Vietnam is hungry to learn English. One student told me that he wakes up every morning from 4–6AM before he goes into work to study English. I wasn’t sure why there was so much motivation to learn English here, but knowledge of the language increases job opportunities and potential earnings. One architecture student told me that having a good grasp of English will increase his salary by 3x.

English is becoming the default language of the world. If a non-native English speaker wants to travel to X country, chances are she will not learn the language of X country. Chances are she will learn English, knowing that English will help her communicate to a good chunk of people in X country (and every other country in the world).

English is also the language of the Internet. Whenever I have any sort of problem, I just Google it. I forget that a vast majority of the information online is in English, and if you don’t know English, you lack this power.

Internet = Knowledge = Power

No English = Less internet = Less Knowledge = Less Power

Lastly, English is the language of academia. If you want a paper published in a reputable scientific journal, you are going to have to learn how to write in English. If you want to apply to any type of university abroad, chances are you will have to apply and learn in English. I can’t imagine writing a paragraph, much less an academic paper or a personal statement in Vietnamese.


How many citizens of the world can say that they can wiggle a few finger and have ANYTHING delivered to their doorsteps within two days?

3. A Relatively Stable Government

When I was in Guatemala a little over a year ago, the president of Guatemala resigned under the pressure of daily protests. He was then sentenced to prison for corruption.

Although the recent election season may make it seem like we are heading toward WWIII, I don’t think our government is going anywhere. It may be a rocky next four years, but our government is relatively stable compared to the rest of the world. The United States has the oldest still functioning constitution. I don’t think a lot of us are happy with our government, but at least we have a government.

4. A Reliable Health Care System

I do not have any first-hand experience with the Vietnamese Health Care System, but I have not heard positive things (sharing a bed with 2–3 other patients does not seem fun to me).

5. The Power of $$$

Almost half of the world’s richest inhabitants live in the United States. If you make $33,000 USD or above a year, you are in the top 1% in the world. 
Here is what just over $5 can get me in Vietnam:

$1.32 = 30,000₫ = A good bowl of Pho
$0.88 = 20,000₫ = A decent bottle of beer
$0.44 = 10,000₫ = Ice cream or Che (Vietnamese Jello Dessert)
$1.76 = 40,000₫ = Haircut for men
$0.13 = 3,000₫ = Cup of iced tea on the street
$0.88 = 20,000₫ = A motorbike taxi ride across half the city

Everytime I eat out here (2–3 times a day), I am reminded of how lucky I am to have been born in the United States and have a salary that is pays me in USD. This gives me the privilege to do work and travel in other countries and have these learning experiences.

Out of all of the places in the world that I could have been born, I happened to be born in the United States. Where would I be if I were born in Vietnam..?

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