The idea of work as an identity and vocation is still new in many parts of the world. Vietnam, for one, is a country where, despite recent changes toward modernity, 85 percent of the population still lives in rural areas. Work is for them arduous and repetitive, really nothing to talk about. In fact, the Vietnamese colloquial for work is keo cay, which literally means "to pull the yoke."
"What do you do?" is a meaningless question when everyone has his feet in the mud, his back bent, his skin scorched by an unforgiving sun.
Yet as an immigrant to America, I am all too aware how a strong work ethic ultimately helps newcomers succeed. Hard work was a vehicle that took my family out of poverty and deposited us in that much-coveted, five-bedroom suburban home with a pool in the back yard. And ambition transformed my cousins, siblings and me into engineers, businessmen, doctors, and journalist successful American professionals. What we do has become an enormous source of pride, not only for ourselves, but for our family and clan.