The other day, I had an interesting conversation with Thomas, a German gentleman living in Saigon. He has been a consultant in many different industries. (His blog)
He has been living in Asia and hopes to continue to do so for a long time toward the future. Although he is a German national, he says that he is not too keen on mingling with the German community in Saigon. His mind is more international-oriented and he hopes to have more international friends, not only German ones.
I felt empathy with his statement. When an expatriate community becomes introvert, its ethnicity gets even more condensed than that of their motherland. German expatriate communities become more German than the society in Germany, and Japanese expatriate communities become more Japanese than the society in Japan. This is probably because these people try to overcome fear of living in an alien land by clinging to their own ethnic community.
That's the exact reason why I feel reluctant to dive deep into the heart of the Japanese community in Saigon. While, according to Thomas, the size of Saigon's German community is about 500, the Japanese community here is said to be much larger with the size 5,000. However, many of them do not understand much of foreign languages, either English or Vietnamese. When they don't speak a foreign language, how can they effectively communicate with local Vietnamese people and expatriates here? It is natural for them to just stay inside the Japanese community and form a dense and complicated web of human relationships there. It would resemble a small village in ancient times.
I think we need balance. Having friends from the same ethnic group can be comfortable. But if you wish to have a more exciting life, you need to take some risk and go beyond the complacency. We should be more open-minded and embrace different thoughts of people with different backgrounds.