A family is a key factor that significantly affects the growth of every person in Vietnamese belief and is an important part of Vietnamese culture. Therefore, the Vietnamese always put their family first and take many efforts to maintain the traditional Vietnamese family values.
In traditional Vietnamese family values, multiple generations are living together to take care of each other. A typical extended family in Vietnam often includes grandparents, parents, and children. Moving out of the family at the age of 18 is not common in Vietnam, and the Vietnamese still live with their family until they get married. Sometimes, other relatives such as uncles, aunts, and cousins can also live under one roof.
An extended family
A good relationship with all of our relatives and being loyal to the family is really important because we have a popular saying of “mot giot mau dao hon ao nuoc la” meaning that “blood is thicker than water”. We can help each other when someone has difficulties. However, sometimes the number of relatives counts up more than a few dozens, causing some troubles with remembering and calling all of them with the right titles like uncles, aunts, or sister-in-law.
In the families, the workload is shared among the members. The oldest man is usually the head of the household, making most of the vital decisions on economic and social matters. On the other hand, women take responsibility for housework and raising the kids. The grandparents sometimes help with nurturing their grandchildren.
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The quarrels between members are frowned upon. They try to avoid the arguments to keep the family’s consensus. If there is any dispute, the head of that family will act as a judge. That is also why divorce was really rare in Vietnamese society in the past. Women believed that they should sacrifice for their husbands and children. They usually handled and tolerated all the unfair treatment to keep the peace for the children’s sake.
In traditional Vietnamese family values, people are taught to give the seniors, especially in their families, absolute respect. In our minds, the elders have gained more experiences in life; they know what is correct, what is wrong, so the younger ones should try to follow their instructions and listen to their advice.
Obedience is an obligation for every kid until they can be independent and can earn money for living. In the older times, especially in the countryside, the children even have to marry the ones assigned by parents or grandparents. Although the society is more open nowadays, some families still maintain this traditional custom because the families believe that the elders know best. In communication, when talking to the elders, people must use honorific titles to show respect for the seniors and add “vang”, “da”, or “thua” before and after any conversations.
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These traditional Vietnamese family values are also expressed through the table manners. In some rural areas in Vietnam, there are different trays of food in the same meals in a family. They often call “upper trays” which means the trays of foods for the seniors, for the men in that family. These trays sometimes have better food or freshly cooked dishes. And the other trays of food which is called “lower trays” are usually for housewives, women and the kids in the family.
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Some people criticize this is gender discrimination. On the other hand, others claim that this division aims to connect everyone better. The men can talk about business or essential topics while drinking some beer and wines. Meanwhile, women can look after the kids and enjoy the food more comfortably.
In some families, at the beginning of each meal, the offspring have to invite the elders before starting to eat in the correct order of hierarchy, from the eldest to the youngest on the eating tables. While eating, the younger also give the best part of the food to the elders to show their respect. The children have chances to learn about traditional Vietnamese family values day by day thanks to the small habits like those above.
You may also want to see Traditional Vietnamese Table Manners
To Vietnamese, having meals every day with other family members is extremely important, especially at dinner. It is one of the most crucial customs in traditional Vietnamese family values. In our belief, this is the time of the day when a family can gather and strike up conversations with each other. Parents usually ask the children about their days, how they get through a day, or if there is something new to them.
This endearing habit was formed from the early history of Vietnam and is still maintained by most families as a way to connect all the members. The image of a round tray of food put in the middle of a rectangular mat has become a symbol of Vietnamese cuisine culture.
Vietnamese tray of food
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Family meals are entirely different from the meals at restaurants or food stalls, they are much simpler, and foods like Pho, Vietnamese banh mi baguette, or some kinds of noodles are for banquets only. Every dish in the family meals is planned and prepared carefully by the housewives to balance the nutrition for their family members.
Those are the reasons why people away from home always remember the joyful family meals cooked by their moms and their grandmothers. People who often enjoy family meals in the warm atmosphere usually respect their families and also the traditional Vietnamese family values.
Tet holiday, also known as Lunar New Year, is one of the most important occasions and festivals in the years of Vietnamese society, the beginning of the good and new things. However, the main reason that all Vietnamese always looking forward to the Tet holiday is that Tet is the main occasion in the year when family members away from home travel across the country or back to Vietnam to celebrate the holiday together with their families. The second holiday that families gather, though not all celebrate, is the Mid-autumn festival.
Vietnamese family in the Tet Holiday
All members together, clean, and decorate the house with a branch of peach blossom and apricot blossom or a kumquat tree; then shop to prepare for Tet and enjoy the most delicious new year dishes that only eaten in Tet occasions such as sticky rice cake (banh chung), fruit jams, and Vietnamese pork sausage.
On the very first day of the Lunar New Year, the offsprings come to the grandparents’ home and give them the best wishes. All the relatives and cousins meet and chit-chat for a long time. Then, everyone comes to a local pagoda or temple to visit and pray for the best things to come for their families. During Tet festival, people also invite and welcome their ancestors back to enjoy this important holiday with descendants. This is a part of folk religion, known as ancestral worship, in Vietnam.
One thing that is particularly special in traditional Vietnamese Tet is giving out lucky money. The adults give tiny red money envelopes to the kids, and the young ones also give lucky money to the elders like parents and grandparents, which means giving them more luck and best wishes for the new year.
More of Vietnamese Gifting Etiquettes
Lucky money gifting custom
In the Vietnamese community, every family is considered as a part of a broader society. The family nurtures one's mind from their childhood. Traditional Vietnamese family values teach people how to become good citizens and continuously bring up their children as to how their parents did. Traditional family values are the most beautiful and unforgettable Vietnamese's core values.
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If you are invited to a Vietnamese family meal, make sure to join. Everyone is so fun and welcoming, despite the language barrier. I learnt some great Vietnamese dishes and Vietnamese phrases when visiting my girlfriend's family
Vietnamese are so hospitable, they always invite me to eat and drink during the holiday, and it is hard to decline the invitation as it will be seen as not giving face to the family