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Dating in Vietnam

In Vietnam, dating is considered an adolescent issue, and one so sensitive that people rarely mention it in conversations, at school, or even in books

Traditionally, Vietnamese males and females are not allowed to date. They simply grew up in their family until age 18 to 20 (or sometimes earlier), marry according to their parents' arrangements, and establish their families from there. Dating is believed to undermine traditions, encouraging sons and daughters to defy their parents' wishes and thus bringing shame to their family.  Youths who have affections for one another may carry their relationship in secrecy, but eventually, and dutifully, yield to their parents' wills.  This may mean marrying a complete stranger or someone they do not like.  But pleasing their parents is a social priority and doing otherwise would be a major dishonor.

Today, parents in Vietnam are more opened-minded, and allow their sons and daughters to date and get to know each other before getting married. However, traditions still have a strong clasp. Public displays of affection by couples, including holding hands, touching, kissing, are still considered impolite and must be done privately.

Females in Vietnam are more withdrawn and shy and usually do not make the first move in starting a relationship. If a young man finds someone he likes, he must formally introduce himself to her family and seek their approval before he can date her.  This usually requires him to meet with her parents and family members in their house several times. After several regular visits, when he has gotten to know her family, he may finally ask her parents for permission to date her.

When going out to dinner, movies, and other social events, the man usually pays all the expenses, in addition to buying gifts and flowers.  His date does not. By accepting his gifts and flowers, she is officially accepting his love. But however deep her love, she is expected to remain a virgin until they are married.

The decision to engage and marry is still a family event in Vietnam. When couples decide to marry, they  first ask for their parents' permission. By custom, the young man's parents would visit the woman's parents with gifts (usually fruits or wine), and together discuss the date, time, and all other necessary arrangements.

- (17/10/2003)

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