My Journey to America – Vietnamese Culture and Traditions

This chapter introduces Vietnamese culture and traditions to readers who are foreign to the Vietnamese customs. My hope is that young Vietnamese who were born outside of Vietnam will also find it interesting and educational as well.

Vietnamese culture is rich and vibrant. There are so many topics that we could easily write a book. However, I will keep it simple. We will discuss the traditions such as family values, foods, economics, religions, and fashions that I am familiar with. My perspective may be biased. Through this chapter you will learn my point of view and believes. I hope you will enjoy reading this chapter.

Family Values

There is a long list of family values that is unique to Vietnamese as well as similar to other cultures. Here are a few: First born tradition, wedding tradition, holidays, and hierarchical and respects.

First Born Tradition

In a Vietnamese family, the first born child is very important. A family is blessed if the first born is a boy. Many Vietnamese families prefer having boys rather than girls. Boys bear the family traditions. Boys also keep the family name alive.

The oldest son cares for the retired parents. The first born grandson is called đίch tôn. When the grandparents pass on, the grandson accepts and carries out the family’s traditions. He is responsible for gathering the family for festivities such as Vietnamese New Year called tết, anniversary of the dead called giỗ, and other religious ceremonies. These traditions have been passed from generation to generation. Women were not allowed to initiate the ceremonies. Therefore, it is important to have a boy so the traditions will live on forever.

The first born son was important during my parents’ generation. My parents’ first child was a girl. Four girls later, they were blessed with a boy. I was the third girl. Of course, another boy was needed to play with the first boy. Two more children were born. The last child was a boy. My parents’ wish was fulfilled.  It was a perfect set of the lucky number seven. They love all their children dearly regardless of our gender. Finally, one day before my father passed away, he was happy to admit that having girls were not so bad after all.

Perhaps, the first born tradition is still lingering in the Vietnamese culture deep down in every house hold. Nonetheless, we are no longer being pressured to have the first born son.


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