Vietnamese Identity: Vietnamese traditional family values

By: Hoang Nguyen

By been born in Vietnam, luckily that I had a chance to experience some of the rich traditions of Vietnam. Every family has its own cultures, tradition and beliefs. The Vietnamese traditional is somehow based on the value of relationships among family members. Relationships in Vietnamese family are more complicated than those of Western countries. The majority of families in Vietnam are extended families as many generations co-live to take care of each other. Family in Vietnam looks similar to a system of mini society with the most elderly having the strongest voice and taking charge of most activities in house.

What is success? “Success is simple, more simple than you often think, success comes when dad and son try to cook a favorite dish for mother on Mother’s day or International women’s day even if it is not as delicious as others do” Those are the sentences a young Vietnamese pupil usually writes to answer to the topic at a test . How significant a dinner is when members of family have not met each other for a long time! When some foreigners want to explore Vietnamese culture, they often come to families, go to local markets and buy things for a meal. Is this the way to learn how to cook? The answer is “Yes” but the result is more than that.

Traditional values of Vietnamese lifestyle were deeply affected by Confucian ethics. During thousand years under the invasion and domination by Chinese, Vietnamese culture was also permeated by their Confucian philosophical beliefs. It was believed that “in order to achieve human perfection, one must follow the established codes of behavior which include reverence for ancestors and respect for elders…The importance is not upon the individual’s accomplishments but upon his duty to family and society”


For centuries in Vietnam, traditional family values were accomplished by the fulfillment of traditional roles – the role of man and woman as parents. Since the highest status in Vietnamese families is given to the man or the father, he had absolute authority in the household. As he provided the main source of income, he was never expected to work in the kitchen or to cook. After work, he returned home and relaxed. As a head of household, he had the final decision in all matters. The father, however, had the duty to exercise restraint and wisdom in running his family in order to deserve his respected position.

Having a boy in family was a “must” because the eldest son would assume the duties of his father when he died. A family which had no son to continue the process was superstitiously thought to have disappeared forever.


These days, the value of family’s meals has been still highly appreciated as dinner is an opportunity for them to share a meal and talk together after a hard day. That the reason why restaurants have still been strange to many people and families in Vietnam. For many people, family meal is one way to keep their family happy. The meal is not simply understood as lunch or dinner; it can be understood as feeling and sympathy, sharing and care. In many Vietnam families, the wives know which are their husbands’ or children’ favorite dishes. Then, they try to make those dishes as frequently they can or at least on special occasions.
Come back to the parental role in Vietnamese family. Obedience and respect were the traditional virtues which Vietnamese children were taught to exhibit in their family. Discipline and physical punishment were acceptable remedies for disobedience. When parents grew old, children were expected to take care of them to compensate for the gift of birth and upbringing.

Boys and girls are not free to do what they want. Yet, girls are under strict supervision. Western style courtship and romance were seen as inappropriate things for unmarried children. As virginity is cherished, pregnancy out of wedlock is a grave disgrace to the family. For their children’s marriage, parents generally made decision because they could judge better.

Vietnamese placed a higher value on education rather than on material success. That the reason why parents encouraged their children to study and excel in their education. Vietnamese parents had a high regard for it which was considered as a way for family advancement.

Keep in mind that we are purposefully generalizing about cultural values here, and that individuals may deviate from these cultural norms for many reasons. The degree to which US cultural values have been adopted has a dramatic impact on whether these values and any associated behaviors apply to a given individual.Anh-bia-Facebook-Gia-dinh-va-Tuoi-tho-Infographic-BLOG-42family1

Asians tend to be highly group-oriented people who place a strong emphasis on family connection as the major source of identity and protection against the hardships of life. The family model is an extended one including immediate family and relatives, and loyalty to the family is expected. Thus, independent behavior that may disrupt the harmony of the family is highly discouraged. One must never bring dishonor or disgrace to one’s self or the family. In the traditional Asian family, parents define the law and the children are expected to abide by their requests and demands; filial piety or respect for one’s parents and elders is critically important. In the most traditional of families this manifests in rules of conduct such as: only speak when spoken to, speak only if one has something important to say. Self-control is expected and individuals should demonstrate inner stamina and strength to tolerate crisis. In healthcare settings, Asians may be unwilling to acknowledge strong emotion, grief, or pain due to their family and cultural values. Western medical professionals often find the stoic demeanors of Asian people difficult to interpret.

Moving onto the conclusion, a cross-cultural mindset requires understanding one’s own health beliefs and behaviors first and then applying that baseline of understanding as a means of making effective comparisons across cultures. Clinicians can learn more about specific cultures by using published references, consulting colleagues from other ethnic groups, and speaking to interpreters and community members. Learning to ask patients questions in a culturally sensitive way is also a crucial tool for gaining knowledge. Finally, individuals subscribe to group norms to varying degrees. Factors such as socio-economics, education, degree of acculturation and English proficiency have an enormous impact on an individual’s health beliefs and behaviors. So does religion. All these factors challenge one’s ability to understand and treat patients in cross-cultural settings, but meeting those challenges can be vital in reducing health disparities for Asian people in the U.S.

Learning moments

Overall of this assignment, it reflects a lot on my good memory because I have to go back to the past so that I can be able to pick is tradition out of all others. My understanding of the family meals tradition changed a lot over time. At first, I just think it’s a waste and lack out of freedom because people have to spend some amount of time for it and cannot eat whenever they want. Growing up more, I think that eating family meals together typically results in positive benefits for family members. Benefits can include increases in educational, health, social, and behavioral skills. In addition, participating in family meals can increase positive family interactions and overall family well-being. I think that in the future, no matter what will happen, I will keep this tradition on going because it helps building the relationship in family. No matter how being busy people are around their life, when it comes to the family time, it becomes a time to relax, share, and discuss the problems that might have. Family meal with traditional Vietnamese food is significant to Vietnamese people, which do appreciate the period of family union. To conclude, with family ties getting closer and closer, values of family relationships in Vietnam would certainly survive through time and change.

Moving to the end of this term, I think the course really got me thinking about how my life and views are affected by popular culture. And now, I don’t just look at the advertisements like a scam through but deeply looking at it on several angles. It’s really a great experience and my pleasure of having the course this term.

Thank you all,


Heffner, C.L. (2015). Freud’s stages of psychosexual development. In Psychology 101 (Chapter 3). Retrieved from:

Heffner, C.L. (2015). Freud’s structural and topographical model. In Psychology 101 (Chapter 3). Retrieved from: Freud’s Structural and Topographical Model (Chapter 3).Retrieved from:, C.L. (2015). Freud’s ego defense mechanisms. In Psychology 101 (Chapter 3). Retrieved from:, D., & Ryan, J. (2001). Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory.

Retrieved from:

Angela, O. (2008). Urie Bronfenbrenner And Child Development.


2 thoughts on “Vietnamese Identity: Vietnamese traditional family values

  1. Hi Hoang,
    I really like your blog post topic! I think it’s really unique how you decided to include your experiences and your culture in this assignment. I love learning about the different culture which is why I am involved with four different cultural student groups. While reading your post I find a lot of similarities between my culture and yours. Family dinner is one of the most important aspects of our culture as well. It’s has been a part of the tradition that still happen till today. To us this tradition symbolizes unity in the family. Another similarity I found while reading this is how conservative and uptight our culture are. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and insight about your culture! I really enjoyed reading this!


  2. Hoang,

    Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your culture with the class! It was very interesting to read about. Your post presented the information in a understandable and organized way. It seems that the Vietnamese culture is centered on family, which is fantastic. It caught my eye that there is a lot of emphasis on have meals together as a family. I agree that it is critical for a family to have meals together, when possible, to maintain a close bond. My family tries to do it, too. I also found it intriguing that your culture stresses respect to such a high degree. The stoic nature of your culture was another part of your post I noticed. It’s always nice to read about other people’s culture and experiences. Overall, I enjoyed reading your post and leaning a bit about the Vietnamese vulture.

    I had a similar feelings about this class. It’s amazing how much we are influenced by pop culture without even noticing it.


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