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The Vietnamese family in America

Over the last two centuries, over a million Vietnamese have settled in the United States. Culture shock provides a significant barrier to adapting to a new country. One form of cultural difference within the United States which has alarmed many overseas Vietnamese, is the issue of the family. Many feel that western culture directly threatens their identity and the traditional family structure. 

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Articles such as The great Vietnamese family on the American soil - Whither the aged generation? have been devoted to this subject. The author, Bui Huu Thu, published this in the Annual Bulletin of former students of Viet Nam: Nam Dinh - Nguyen Khuyen - Tra Bac - Yen Mo - in Spring 2001.
In his article, he highlights the characteristics of the traditional Vietnamese family by quoting popular saying, such as “He who venerates the old, will enjoy a long life,” and “in youth, one relies on one’s father, when old, one relies on one’s children.”
Elderly people enjoy great prestige in the family and in Vietnamese society. Grandparents often have more authority than parents. The worship of ancestors, up to the fifth generation, is observed by all members of the greater family and it is assumed that they have a duty to help one another. The heads of nuclear families live near to their parents so that they can provide them with constant care. Parents always live with one of then children, usually the eldest. They look after then adult, married children, and stay with them until they die.
Thư then bemoans the fact that the American family is much less stable than the Vietnamese unit, “The country is immense, the Americans have no national ethnic roots. Immigrants had to wage an arduous right to settle in their new land. When they grew Up, children often made then lives elsewhere,” he said.
“The stringent separation between the school and the church leads to undesnable results. Schools cannot teach either morality or religion. The teacher is not allowed to instill his or her own values. Parents encourage then children to express then own opinions and make decisions from a young age. Success is measured by how much money one has,” he added.
“Children do not show respect for adults, and behave badly towards their grandparents, parents and teachers. Adults escape the control of then parents.” Influenced by the television and their friends, children hanker after pleasures like drugs and sex. Parents encourage theừ children to gain employment early, so they can learn the value of money and to be able to buy things.”
“At 13, they can work as baby-sitters, deliver newspapers, and at 16 they can work in shops. When one earns money too young, one no longer feels attached to one’s parents. At 17, they can fend for themselves. Children are introduced to sex at a young age and risk pregnancy.”
Vietnamese nuclear families live scattered throughout the United States. Should theứ family ties be as lax as those of the Americans, the generation of old immigrants would certainly end up as lonely persons in an asylum,” Thu said.
How can the Vietnamese family spirit be saved?
Rrst, Thư believes people must work to preserve the nuclear family. In a united family children and parents will both recognize theừ responsibility to each other. Parents, however busy, must make time to talk to theừ children and consider theừ needs.
He also believes that visiting Vietnamese compatriots in the neighborhood, and helping them with small jobs, merely providing company cements the traditional way of life.
He also says one must consider the Vietnamese community as an enlarged family, and work together to preserve the cultural and moral values of Viet Nam.
And, he adds that the Vietnamese community must rally together to help the elderly, preserve the national culture by the teaching of the language and arts. The community must establish clubs, villages, homes and even Vietnamese-style cemeteries.
Overseas Vietnamese, like Asians in general, find it difficult to adopt the individualism of westerners, who feel close bonds only within small family groups.
That is the opinion of a Vietnamese citizen in America. However, he may not be aware that, even in Viet Nam, the traditional family is confronted with the same crises, although to a lesser extent and in a different context.
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Update : 30-03-2018

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