Harmony is an important part of Vietnam life. Whether it involves the family or relationships with others, achieving harmony is seen as an objective that should result in a happy life. Much has changed in Vietnam; in recent decades, more people have left villages to live in cities. That has not broken ties with the family because there are occasions when everyone will return home to celebrate with the family. However, it is a factor that has led to people needing to develop relationships with complete strangers. The fact that tourists on Vietnam tour packages inevitably have such a good time suggests that many people are succeeding.
Society is after all an extension of the family in many ways. In the Vietnamese language, the pronouns are used in such a way that they identify age, status, familiarity, affection and gender when talking to non-family members. Respect is so important in Vietnamese society, especially relating to age. It is an extension of the family in that way where it is essential that young people respect their parents and grandparents. A long life is a sign of virtue and the elderly will be addressed in a specific way to formalise that respect. If you are travelling in Vietnam, you are likely to see signs of that both in cities and villages every day.
Respect is not limited to the elderly. The teaching profession is one that every Vietnam person will respect and teachers of whatever age will be addressed by students in a similar way as those students would address their parents and grandparents.
No Vietnamese person wants to lose face and a family will feel the same form of ‘’social disgrace’’ that an individual feels. This is why the expression of respect must not be at the expense of others.
You and I
Tourists on Vietnam travel packages may not recognise things through language but locals will expect others to use appropriate words that they read as respect. ‘’Yes’’ and ‘’no’’ are usually insufficient as a response of a Vietnamese person to a question from another. An extra ‘’qualification’’ is needed. Words such as ’’Dear’’ is not used to address anyone like they would be used in the West; it is regarded as disrespectful. Likewise, someone addressing particular an elder will not use a name during that address. Close friends or speaking to someone younger are the exceptions. It may be difficult during a holiday in Vietnam to grasp some of the use of words; suffice to say that in English pronouns are fairly straightforward. In Vietnamese, there are several forms of ‘’I’’ and ‘’you’’ depending on who is in the conversation, the most important variables being age, gender and status.
Perhaps a good example of this is actually similar to the use of ‘’tu’’ and ‘’vous’’ in French? The latter is the respectful way to say ‘’you’’, the former more likely for close friends. Using the Vietnamese equivalents incorrectly is a sign of disdain or contempt.It is unlikely that your holiday will be spoilt by any misuse of language but it is good to know its importance.
Read more: Vietnam lifestyle