Key Aspects of Vietnamese Family Culture

Published November 5, 2020
Vietnamese family at dinner

The Vietnamese family culture is part of a patriarchal society. The modern Vietnamese family culture is sometimes different from the traditional one.

What Is Important in Vietnamese Family Culture?

There are three things that rank as important within the Vietnamese culture that are also true of the family culture. These include education/career, age, and the person's wealth.

Education and Career Most Important

Education is the most important concern within the Vietnamese family culture. Education is a status symbol, especially a career in medicine (doctor), education (teacher), or religion (priest). This is the result of the influence of Confucian teachings that place education first, family and elders second.

Vietnamese Family Culture Respects Age

Within the Vietnamese family culture is a deep-rooted politeness credited to Taoist teachings. When greeting an older family member, Vietnamese bow their heads to show their respect. This gesture is practiced with older family members who are recognized and greeted first in social settings. Obedience is important within the Vietnamese family culture. The younger family members are expected to be obedient as long as they reside in the family home.

Older Siblings and Being Respectful

Older siblings are also treated with respect by their younger siblings. Any animosity, anger or ill feelings are not expressed, and the younger siblings are always respectful of their older sibling(s).

Older Family Members and Caregivers

As older members age, the family assumes the caregiver role. A Vietnamese family would never willingly allow an older member to go into a nursing home. This would be a sign of disrespect. Care is given at home by respectful and loving family members.

What Is the Culture and Tradition of Vietnamese People?

Traditionally, the Vietnamese family culture avoids all kinds of disrespect. Even if a family member disagrees with another family member, they will keep their thoughts to themselves out of a display of respect. If a family member disrespects another family member, the relationship is broken, and the two may never communicate or interact with each other again.

Vietnamese Family Culture Social Mores and Etiquette

With politeness and respectful behavior highly regarded, the social mores and etiquette of a Vietnamese family frown upon open displays of negative feelings. Family members don't offer high praise to each other since it is considered a form of flattery or in some instances, it might be regarded as the person is being ridiculed or mocked. Taoist teachings espouse avoiding conflict and as a result, the Vietnamese are overly polite and avoid conflict by keeping their feelings and emotions under tight control.

Other Actions Considered Rude in Vietnamese Family Culture

If you speak too loudly or express disagreement with a family member, especially an elder, then you are acting rude. In fact, failing to show proper respect at any time is considered rude behavior in Vietnamese family culture. There are many instances when the lack of action is frowned upon as rude behavior.

  • Promises are serious commitments that should never be broken to avoid being rude and disrespectful.
  • Gratitude for favors and gifts is expected; failing to show proper gratitude is rude behavior.
  • If a family member does you a big favor, you are forever in their debt and should show your gratitude.

Concern Over Appearances

In Vietnamese family culture, how a situation may appear is more important than the reality of the circumstances. Saving face is always an important part of family interactions, especially in an effort to avoid appearing as something you aren't.

How Vietnamese Family Members Address Each Other

In a Vietnamese family culture, you will find that each member has some type of family name that is only spoken in Vietnamese. These could be equated to respectful nicknames or pet names.

Vietnamese Family Culture Relationships and Marriage

In the past, many marriages were arranged by parents, although many parents merely counseled their children about potential mates. The latter practice was more in-line with the majority of religious belief systems, such as Buddhism, that views marriage partnerships as predestined.

vietnamese family culture

Modern Vietnamese Family Culture Regarding Marriage

Modern Vietnamese parents don't arrange marriages and although they might offer counsel, for the most part they accept their children's choices in a mate. That doesn't mean there aren't certain cultural expectations about who makes an appropriate and acceptable mate. A high-ranking career in medicine, education, or religion is still a top priority as a social status symbol.

Premarital Love and Sexual Relationships

Some traditions still stand strong with modern Vietnamese families. This includes certain unspoken rules about relationships that most modern Vietnamese families still follow. For example, premarital sex and couples living together outside of wedlock are viewed as unacceptable behavior. Couples engaged in this lifestyle are believed to be showing disrespect to their family values.

Marriage Family Practices

Traditionally, children lived in their parents' home until they were married. Newlyweds were expected to live with the man's family. This practice created multi-generational households. Elderly people simply never lived alone, but with their adult children and often adult grandchildren and so on. They helped with raising the children and revered as very important family members.

couple laying in hammock

Vietnamese Family Culture and Divorce

Vietnamese consider divorce an admission of failure and shame. This attitude is responsible for low divorce rates among Vietnamese populations, although divorce rates for Vietnamese families is on the rise in America.

Vietnamese Female Culture and Influence of Western Culture

The patriarchal stronghold within the traditional Vietnamese family culture has loosened significantly for American Vietnamese women. The influences of the Western culture have impacted the traditional Vietnamese family norms and Vietnamese women's roles.

Changes in Vietnamese Women's Roles

Traditionally in Vietnam, married women assumed domestic roles and stayed home to raise their children. At the same time in America, Vietnamese women shed the old traditions and moved into careers while also raising a family. In fact, modern American Vietnamese couples share the various duties of running a household and raising a family, just like other American couples do.

Vietnamese Family Culture and Important Key Aspects

While the traditional patriarch Vietnamese family culture still remains in the modern world, some of the restrictive social mores have relaxed. Two key aspects of the Vietnamese family culture remain, education and a respect for the aged.

Key Aspects of Vietnamese Family Culture