The Art of Love in Vietnam

As in all cultures, Vietnam has its own set of customs and traditions around marriage and love. Perhaps one of the most interesting facts about love in Vietnam, is that you cannot actually say “I love you” to someone.  That is because there are no exact words for “I” and “you” in colloquial Vietnamese.  Instead, people address each other according to their relative ages…for example,  “chi” is for older sister; “anh” for older brother,  “em” for a younger sibling. It is for this reason that Vietnamese quickly ask strangers how old they are so that they can use the appropriate pronoun and show the proper respect.  If someone wants to declare their love for someone, they might say something like “mother loves son,” or “aunt loves niece” or “younger sister loves older brother.”

Below is how a man expresses “I love you” to a woman in Vietnam:

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The Vietnamese language has more than 40 different pronouns to describe relationships between people and groups of different ages and positions. It puts a whole new twist on the pressure of declaring your love for someone!

Other interesting customs around love include those concerning marriage and wedding traditions. The wedding ritual consists of several different ceremonies including:

  • asking permission to receive the bride
  • the procession to receive the bride
  • the procession to the groom’s home
  • a ceremony for the bride’s ancestor in the bride house and another for the groom’s ancestor when the groom bring the bride back to his house
  • the banquet party.

It is customary that in the morning of the wedding, the groom’s mother and close relatives walk to the bride’s house and bestow upon her a gift of betel nut and request permission to meet the bride at her house. This tradition harkens back to the time when marriages were often arranged, and the groom’s family wanted to be sure the bride has not changed her mind or run off. They will also bring decorated lacquer boxes as gifts for the family but never 7 boxes as 7 is considered an unlucky number!

 

In addition to paying respects to their ancestors, the bride and groom also serve tea to their parents in order to give them a chance to give them advice on marriage and raising a family. Tea is followed by a candle ceremony, at which the bride and groom’s families union is celebrated and the mother of the groom helps to dress the bride and opens boxes of jewelry for the bride to wear.

At last, the groom gets to officially asks for permission to take his new bride home and they can head back to his house. The wedding banquet usually consists of  7-10 courses meal during which the bride and groom make their rounds to welcome everyone.

In addition to wearing a modern western wedding gown, the bride will change at least once twice, and sometimes twice-once into another western dress, and sometimes into an ao dai, the traditional Vietnamese costume during the bride’s receiving ceremonies and bride and groom’s ancestor ceremonies in the morning.

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