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Vietnamese Dating Etiquette and
Vietnamese dating customs have
historically been centered around class and tradition. In
Vietnam, dating is considered an adolescent issue. Traditionally,
Vietnamese males and females are not allowed to date. Women of Vietnam are
ordinarily non-assertive and are raised to be quiet and dainty. They simply grew up in
their family until age 18 to 20. Youths who have affections for one another may
carry their relationship in secrecy, but eventually, and dutifully, yield to
their parents' wills. Dating is believed to undermine traditions, encouraging
sons and daughters to defy their parents' wishes and thus bringing shame to
their family. Public displays of affection by couples, including holding
hands, touching, kissing, are still considered impolite and must be done
privately. 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. Females in Vietnam are more withdrawn and shy and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. As of 2009,
many of these traditions of dating etiquette are still practiced but
expectations vary from family to family due to changes in the country.
Expressing proper etiquette when trying to date in Vietnam is necessary to
avoid offending the family of the person you are courting.
- Making a positive first impression on a Vietnamese
woman is important, and expressing a lasting interest in her is necessary
because Vietnamese women do not ordinarily date
without the goal of marriage. Let your intentions be known by asking her
for the chance to meet her parents. Gaining their permission to date their
daughter is a traditional and respectful way of getting a Vietnamese girl
to date you. Take your time, and bring gifts of wine or flowers to the
girl's family to further gain their acceptance, as it is customary for a
man to participate in activities with the parents multiple times before
asking the woman out on an official date. Dating a Vietnamese man requires
patience, virtue and class. Initiating a date as a woman is often frowned
upon in Vietnamese culture, and therefore the proper etiquette would be to
wait for the man to approach you. Coming on to a man is a sign of an
"easy" woman in this Asian tradition and speaking loudly is also
looked down upon.
- Making the first date is an important step in
Vietnamese courting tradition, and proper etiquette denotes that the man
is supposed to initiate and plan the date. Taking a Vietnamese woman to a
movie on a first date is traditionally unacceptable and is a cultural sign
of an immoral woman. A traditional first date of a walk in a park or cup
of coffee is a low-key and respectful way of initiating a relationship in
Vietnam. Keep the first date at a platonic level, because the first date
in Vietnamese culture is often a date accompanied by mutual friends. Avoid
initiating physical contact whether you are a man or a woman, because
Vietnamese culture looks down on premarital affection and public displays
of affection. Playing hard-to-get is a tradition of Vietnamese women, and
it is expected they do not show immediate interest in the man they are
dating, to assure that his feelings are moral.
Making It Official
- Courting a Vietnamese girl is much like courting her
entire family, according to an ages-old tacit rule, and it is important to
date discreetly for several weeks or even months before coming public with
your intentions to marry. Asking permission in addition to presenting a
gift to her parents is necessary to continue the relationship in Asian
culture. Avoiding the girl's parents is considered a great act of
disrespect and can result in losing a relationship. Arranged marriage is
rarely practiced in modern Vietnam as of 2009, but it is still a tradition
in some families. Waiting too long to express your intentions, as a man,
can result in missing out in this type of situation. Vietnamese women are
expected to remain silent when it comes to arranging a marriage between
her suitor and herself, whether it is a prearranged marriage or a result
of a mutual courtship.
Vietnamese Courtship Customs - Courting an Asian
Courting is far more indirect in Vietnamese culture than in most Western
societies. Vietnamese relationships pass in several stages, usually lasting for
a long period of time. An engagement, for example, often lasts for several years
and as far as marriage is concerned, it is viewed as a lifetime commitment.
The Friendly Beginning
Often the starting point of a relationship is a friendly date. The couple
will go out together in public places as friends only and will be accompanied by
other friends. During this stage of courting there will be no public displays of
affection, the man has to be discreet and friendly or he will be accused of
being too arrogant. It is too early for kissing or holding hands at this point.
Discreet Vietnamese Dating
That is the second stage of Vietnamese courtship and now couples may go out
together without the company of their friends. Again, the keyword here is
Vietnamese women cannot afford to be fast, they are expected to be pakipot
(hard to get) because it is seen as an appropriate behavior when they are
courted. A Vietnamese girl never shows her admirer that she is also in love with
Playing hard to get is one way by which the Asian can measure the sincerity
of the man interested in her. It also lets her show the man that he has to work
hard to win her love. Some courtships may last for years before the woman
accepts her admirer’s love and they become magkasintahan, a term
Taking the Relationship Public
After some time the couple may decide to come out in the open about their
romance. At this time they will inform their family and friends about their
relationship. Every man who wants to be taken seriously by a Asian is obliged to
visit her family and introduce himself formally to her parents. It is rather
inappropriate to court a Vietnamese girl and formalize the relationship without
informing the girl’s parents.
There is a tacit rule here that says: “When courting the Asian you are not
courting just her, you are courting the entire family”. Following this rule
will help you earn her respect by entrusting her family with high regard.
There are certain traditions that have to be observed when visiting the
asian’s family. For example, if the man wants to be acceptable to the girl’s
family, he has to give small gifts (pasalubong) every time he
drops by her family's house. If you have any questions regarding which
traditions you should observe, you may discuss them with the older siblings.
Engagement and Marriage
After being a couple with your Asian for quite a time and decide to get
married, the first thing you should do is pamanhikan (ask the girl’s parents
for her hand). More about this tradition and those following it you can find in
our article “Vietnamese Wedding Customs”.
When courting a Vietnamese woman you will find that she is shy and reserved even
when holding great feelings for you. This is a part of her culture and even for
a Western man there is no way around that. You should treat your Asian with
respect, lead the courtship with your heart and you may find a lifetime partner
that will enrich your life as you have never imagined.
Understanding the "True asian" Culture
A romantic relationship with a Asian has a better chance of success if you
understand her culture. Asian women live in a culture focused on the community,
with the family as the core social unit. Here faithfulness to the family is a
In the Vietnams, it is important to meet a woman’s family because the
family is so important to her. If a man wants to be taken seriously by a woman,
he has to visit the latter's family and introduce himself formally to the
parents of the girl. It is rather inappropriate to court a woman and formalize
the relationship without informing the parents of the girl.
Vietnamese children are committed to their parents who usually went through a
lot to raise them. Their desire is to make their parents' life easier. If you
are capable and refuse to help support her family who may need help, she may not
say anything, but she will neither respect you nor understand. Sometimes the
family is more important than you. There is an Asia saying, that is accepted in
the Vietnams, "You can get another wife or husband but not another mother
or father" . This family loyalty is also apparent in the fact that
Vietnamese families keep elderly (such as grandparents) instead of sending them
to any institution.
Vietnamese and asians are communal, interdependent people, not dependent,
like in western cultures. They are so by choice and because of their cultural
needs. When you marry one you marry the family at least the mother and the
father, the siblings too usually. That is trite, indeed, but true. If you can't
deal with that let it be known from the start of your relationship with your
Asian. If she is a "true asian", the relationship may not develop. If
it does she may not be happy in it, but you will never know.
Sexuality in the Vietnams is distinguished by a double standard that expects
women to remain virgins until marriage while men are allowed to enjoy sexual
freedom. Young women who lose their virginity before marriage, whether through
rape or in a relationship, diminish their chances for a "good"
marriage, while young men can "sow wild oats" with abandon and be even
admired for being so "manly".
In the Vietnams Virginity is sacred. The culture and the family lets the girl
know it is her responsibility to keep her virginity as soon as they are old
enough to understand what virginity is. Vietnamese men are reluctant to marry a
non-virgin even if they are the one who took the virginity! Vietnamese woman may
not even be forgiven if she is raped. Yes, this is extremely unfair but that is
the way it is and the Asian girls know it.
Love, Romance and Marriage
As far as courting is concerned, Asians are expected to be pakipot (playing
hard to get) because it is seen as an appropriate behavior in a courtship dance.
It is also one way by which the Asian will be able to measure the sincerity of
In order to legalize sexual relations or to avoid the stigma of becoming
"old maids" young Vietnamese women feel pressured into early
marriages. Unlike women, young men, on the other hand, are allowed to express
their sexuality freely, and are sometimes initiated by fathers who take their
sons to brothels for sexual intercourse with women.
Traditionally, in Asian families the husband is expected to be the main
breadwinner, chiefly responsible for the financial sustenance of the family, and
the wife is "queen of the home". Vietnamese ladies equate domestic
responsibility with being a good wife. They put their family first and they are
more willing to sacrifice their career than their family.
There is no divorce in the Vietnams. Vietnamese couples have only three ways
to change the status of their marriage: legal separation, declaration of
nullity, and annulment. Legal separation allows spouses to live separately but
they may not remarry. Declaration of nullity presupposes that the marriage is
void from the beginning and the court declares its non-existence. Annulment
legally cancels the marriage and both spouses are restored to their single