Vietnamese Traditions

Family structure

The family in Vietnam is an extended o­ne, unlike the typical family in the United States, which normally consists of the father, mother, and unmarried children. The Vietnamese family is composed of the parents, all children, and their in-laws, the grandparents, the great-grandparents, and also in some circumstances, uncles and aunts and their spouses, cousins, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and all in-laws. In other words, it might embrace up to six generations, with everybody who is related either by blood or marriage. There is always a strong feeling of attachment between the members of the same family in spite of the generation gap, which can be large or small.


The center for the family is a house which does not necessarily accommodate everybody. The availability of living space determines the size of the family living together. But typically, o­ne finds grandparents, father, mother, children, and grandchildren living under the same roof. Although not all members of the extended family are housed together, they tend to cluster around a certain area such as a village, small town, or places of easy access in large cities.




Influenced by Buddhist theology and Confucian philosophy, Vietnamese believed that fate in marriage, as well as wealth and position, were preordained, though choice could play some role in activating a positive or negative fate. Traditionally, children lived with their parents until marriage, then the couple moved to the husband's father's household. The extended family arranged marriage, but individuals were usually consulted o­n the choice of their mate. The typical engagement lasted six months, with little contact between the bride and groom prior to the marriage. Traditionally the marriage was at o­ne of the couples' homes. Men usually married between 20 and 30 years, and women at 18 to 25 years. Women kept their maiden names legally but used their husband's name formally.


As western influence increased in Vietnam during this century, parents began to take more of an advisory role in the choice of their child's mate, and arranged marriages are starting to decline. In the US, most young Vietnamese date in the same way as American youth. Though rarely given absolute choice, family still bears heavy influence over the decision to marry. There are a variety of different wedding practices, most common in Seattle are Buddhist and Christian ceremonies. Divorce is uncommon, even in the US, and is considered shameful. In Vietnam, a man is responsible for his spouse until death.