YOUTH, YOUNG ADULTS AND TEENAGERS IN VIETNAM

YOUNG PEOPLE IN VIETNAM

More than half of Vietnam's population is younger than 25 and 70 percent were born after the Vietnam War ended in 1975. Today,’s younger generation has no direct memories of the war that shaped the lives of their parents and grandparents, and they are coming of age in more affluent times. In the 1990s the expression song voi ("fast living") was used to describe the new Vietnam. At night boys on motorscooters and motorcycles took to the streets to celebrate what young people call song tu do ("living freely"). They broke taboos by hug and hold hands with their girlfriends and sometimes kissing in public. Tim Larimer wrote in the New York Times that Hanoi is filled "20-something men who dash around the city racing their motorcycles, drinking whiskey, showing off to girlfriends, and acting like James Dean."

In the early 2000s, a typical young, educated, urban Vietnamese said she enjoyed listening to Mariah Carey, considered Titanic as their favorite movie, attended evening English classes, and dreamt about going to graduate school in the United States. Legions of young people across the nation spent afternoons playing computer games in dingy online gaming parlors.

In a piece on the new generation of young people in Vietnam, in Kate McGeown of the BBC, wrote in 2006: "Thirty-year-old Alan Duong owns a chain of shops in central Hanoi, selling up-market clothes and furnishings. A professional fashion designer, she speaks fluent English, travels to trade fairs around the world and is part of Vietnam's new generation of modern, successful entrepreneurs. Alan was born after the Vietnam War. And she shows little sign of being adversely affected by her nation's turbulent past. "Vietnam has a really bright future," she said. "It's a great place to do business, and it's an exciting place to live and work right now." [Source:Kate McGeown, BBC, November 27, 2006 <<<<]

Vietnam is not just changing economically, though. It is also changing socially, with traditionally conservative attitudes gradually breaking down. Alan Duong's fashion business would have been impossible 20 or 30 years ago. "Being a model used to be seen by a lot of older Vietnamese as almost as bad as selling your body," she said. Ambitions are changing too. "Until recently, parents wanted their children to work for government companies, but now young people want to work for dynamic international businesses," said Nguyen Vinh Tien. "The dream of young people in the past was to satisfy their boss, or become a member of the Community Party - it was the dream of the servant," said Nguyen Vinh Tren. "Now people want to speak English and French, earn lots of money and live an international lifestyle." <<<<

The United Nations has recommended that Vietnam raise the age of minors to 18 as defined by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) because the country's laws currently consider children only those aged under 16. The youth unemployemt rate in Vietnam is relatively low. Unemployment, youth ages 15-24: total: 4.6 percent, country comparison to the world: 135; male: 4.4 percent; female: 4.9 percent (2004)

Academic View of Vietnamese Youth

In his paper "Youth and the State in Contemporary Socialist Vietnam," Phuong An Nguyen wrote: "In Vietnam, the word ‘youth’ (thanh nien) ,borrowed from the Chinese language (qingnian), can be used to mean youth, young people and young adults interchangeably. Unlike the West where youth is often portrayed as the ‘bad’, the‘male’, and as a potential threat to the stability of society (Frith,1984), in Vietnam thanh nien (literally: young or green years ) is associated with positive values such as dynamism, courage, bravery and hope. Young people are considered to be in the vanguard of the process of nation-building, nicely expressed in Ho Chi Minh’s words: "For the home country to be strong or weak, it largely depends on young people." [Source: "Youth and the State in Contemporary Socialist Vietnam," by Phuong An Nguyen, Lund University, Media-Tryck, 2006 >><<]

"This view is again reflected in the words of the Vietnam Communist Party: "Whether the cause of doi moi will be successful or not, whether the country...will gain a deserving position in the world community or not, whether the Vietnamese revolution will firmly follow the path of socialism or not, it depends largely on the force of youth, and on the educating and training of young generations. The matter of youth is a matter of life and death for the nation, and one of the decisive factors for the success or failure of the revolution." (VCP,1993:82). There is a tradition for communist parties in Marxist-Leninist countries to place strategic importance on youth, because young people are considered ‘a white sheet of paper’ (to giay trang) on which everything can be printed (cf. Kwong, 1994; Gold, 1996). Thus, they do not possess any political and ideological stance and therefore are able to be moulded and persuaded to work for the communist party’s objectives, as suggested by Nguyen (1997:6): Youth in general...is a section in society that does not have their own ideology. Therefore, the workers’ class and their vanguard party must seize the youth, mobilise, educate and awaken them in order to help them find the revolutionary truth and strive for this truth." >><<

Research on youth in Vietnam: David Marr's article on Vietnamese youth in the 1990s is regarded as the best introduction to the topic of youth in Vietnam. He uses surveys and brings the depth of his own historical perspective to bear on the question. In 2003, Nguyen Phuong An defended her doctoral dissertation on youth culture in Hanoi at the University of Hull. Peter Xenos at the East West Center has worked with the General Statistical Office on a survey of young people in Vietnam. Also worth a look are Christopher Roberts' Ph.D. dissertation research in Anthropology at Cornell University; "Consuming urban culture in contemporary Vietnam," edited by Lisa Drummond and Mandy Thomas (2003); and Philip Taylor's "Fragments of the Present" (2001) may prove useful in order to contextualize further the question of youth in contemporary Vietnam.

Young Generation Versus Old Generation in Vietnam

In 2000, Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times, "Clearly, it is still easier to be a parent in Vietnam than in many a country. But perhaps it takes a bit more work these days than it used to. "My friends quarrel with their parents because they're different from their parents in every way," said Miss Hong, the student. "But parents understand so much about life. Their advice is useful for me to be a good person. If I think my parents are not right, or they don't understand me, I talk out my ideas and we discuss it." Even that represents a leap forward. In the past, when it came to morals and manners, parents ruled. Now there is MTV (though a tame version, vetted by the government), the Internet (though still expensive and limited), pirated foreign movies and, for the privileged, satellite television, travel and a foreign education. [Source: Seth Mydans, New York Times, November 12, 2000 ||||]

"And yet Vietnam's history of war and the creation of an independent nation after its long colonization by the French are part of the fabric of life here. Even the bold talk of teenagers is cast in terms of the war. "In the past they thought independence was the most important thing to focus on," Miss Hong said. "Now people in my generation don't care so much about it. We focus on music, fashion, making friends and going on picnics. My parents and their friends grew up in war, so they couldn't pay more attention to music or other habits, although they liked them. Now we're at peace, and if we want to we can learn about all fields in life." ||||

"Perhaps more than their counterparts abroad given the sacrifices they are constantly being told their parents made a number of those interviewed were sensitive about accusations that they are a Vietnamese version of a Me Generation. "That's not true," said Nguyen Thanh Ha, 22, a graduate of National Economics University in Hanoi. "It's just the surface. You must look deeper inside." "We are hard-working," she continued. "We want to improve our own lives first before asking others to do that for us." And she added: "You don't need a strike or a demonstration. Why should we spend our time demonstrating for democracy when we have so much more to worry about?" ||||

Tackling the Bad Manners of Vietnamese Youth

Lan Hoang wrote in the Viet Nam News, "Vietnamese traditions teach people to be kind to others, respect their elders and be concerned for the poor. But many young people are ignoring these traditions, though they benefit all of society. Nguyen Thi Hai, 55, says that her family has to suffer loud music from her neighbours all day and night. "We’ve asked them time and again to turn down the volume, but they seem to ignore us despite the fact that my 72-year-old family-member had to go to the emergency room because of the noise," she says. Instead, the neighbour’s children yell bad words at Hai. [Source: Lan Hoang, Viet Nam News, June 28, 2009 ^^^]

"Hoang Que, 75, from the central province of Nghe An, says he has been pushed out the queue at the supermarket by impatient youngsters. "When I ask them to stay in the queue, they speak many bad words to me," Que says, adding that, in the past, Vietnamese had to queue up to buy everything from rice and meat to sugar— a skill the younger generation has forgotten. Everything was always in order; people lined up and took turns buying thing without any complaints or quarrels. ^^^

"Que says it upsets him to see people speak harshly to each other while they go about their daily life, or to see young people being noisy on the roads and laughing during funeral ceremonies. It’s not strange to see young people using coarse speech and swearing on the road or in public, says Que. It’s like they think it’s ‘cool’, he adds. "Many have money, or knowledge, and are even highly-educated. But they all lack self-discipline," says a teacher at National Economics University. ^^^

"According to research on housing and urban life conducted in 1983 by our institute, a person in Hanoi would spend an average of one hour per day queuing," says Professor Mai Quynh Nam, director of the Viet Nam Academy of Social Studies. "Service was limited to state-controlled shops. Queuing, thus, became a part of the lifestyle back then."In his opinion, things changed when the market opened up and private shops began to bloom. "Life has become so much easier. People don’t have to queue up any more. Food is sold at their doors. And there went the queuing habit," he says. The disappearance of long lines in front of shops was once considered a positive development, he says. ^^^

"To deal with such behaviour, the Ministry of Education and Training has added a section on "Education of Citizens" to school text books to help inculcate good behaviour among youngsters. Ninth-grader Khanh Toan says lessons learned from the text book are very helpful. He says he was very selfish before, but now has become a kind-hearted person. He often collects books to donate to orphans, says Toan’s mother. ^^^

"Meanwhile, the Hanoi Department of Education and Training will begin adding a programme on "education of traditions and ethical behaviour" to primary and high schools to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of Thang Long-Hanoi in October of 2010. Education experts say the programme will help kids treat the people around them with respect. "It will help them learn to obey and respect their parents and elders as well as teachers at school and people in society," says one expert. Professor Le Thi, former director of the Research Center for Family and Women under the National Center for Social Science and Humanities, says parents should teach their children about traditions and social responsibility so they will become productive members of society. ^^^

Politics and Vietnam's Younger Generation

Darlene Damm, a student with an MA degree in Southeast Asia studies at Johns Hopkins, wrote: The last time I was in Hanoi, I felt that there was an increasing divide forming in the younger generation about where Vietnam should head. When I asked one friend to help me better understand Vietnam, he took me to a nightclub/disco and told me that his life-long dream is to open up his own disco. When I asked another friend the same thing, she took me to Ho Chi Minh's Masoleum, and as we waited in line to enter, she told me about Ho Chi Minh's life and began crying she was so touched by him. I also began asking the younger generation the question, "What do you think Vietnam's contribution to the world can be?" Some young people felt very strongly that Vietnam was going to be able to demonstrate to the world that socialism still works and provide a working model for the world, and others said that Vietnam was struggling so much internally that it was not in a position to contribute anything to the world. [Source: Darlene Damm July 4, 2004, MA degree in Southeast Asia studies at Johns Hopkins]

"You cannot say whatever you want to say and do whatever you want to do in Vietnam because there are laws and regulations that govern this kind of thing. But once the young generation takes power ... I think they will have a good way to govern the country," Hoai Thanh, 24, who runs an underground rock magazine in Hanoi, told Associated Press. Thanh, who wears her hair in a trendy shag, returned to Vietnam from Sweden with a master's degree in journalism and is eager to see faster change. "I'm not talking about whether Vietnam would follow the path of capitalism or communism ... but I think in the next 20 years, Vietnam will be an open and modern country," she said. [Source: Margie Mason, Associated Press, April 25, 2005]

Kate McGeown of the BBC wrote: "Talk of political change, though, does not seem to be on most young people's agendas. While a few brave dissidents do protest about human rights and political freedoms, their actions are clamped down on by the authorities and the majority of Vietnamese appear unmoved by their concerns. "Nobody really cares much about politics," said Alan. "Of course we hope the government will support us in what we do, but day-to-day politics is not something we think about really." [Source: Kate McGeown, BBC, November 27, 2006]

Christophe Robert of Cornell University, author a paper on generational differences and similarities in attitudes in Vietnam toward democracy and market economy, wrote: "I'm not opposed to asking questions about "Vietnam" but I'd keep in mind that this frame of reference is also one under which a lot of (young) Vietnamese are chafing. Their daily concerns may not be about the national question per se, or only occasionally so, and often as a result of the demands of the educational curriculum. What's interesting is the ways in which the issue of the nation pops up in unlikely moments in quite unrelated conversations. From my experience in Saigon, in discussions in which my interlocutors rejected Hanoi's (or "northern") notions of ... pretty much everything they still asserted their "love of country" (yeu nuoc). [Source: Christophe J.p. Robert ~~]

"This merits attention: What does "love of country" mean here, and which country is in play then? Very schematically, it seemed often that what they were doing was asserting "Vietnam" (and/or a southern or Saigonese regional identity--by which they meant a cosmopolitan one as opposed to a "nha que" Hanoi) as a way to undermine or critique politics in, or coming from, Hanoi. These ideological constructs - often disguised as stereotypes - are flowing freely in both North-South directions. To me they themselves are important objects of study, for the sociological and historical realities they both obscure and reveal. ~~

"I think Darlene's two examples are striking, but one would have probably gotten very different answers in Saigon. I think the belief that socialism could still provide a model needs to be taken with a grain of salt when it pops up in conversation with us foreigners, especially in Hanoi. I also assume that "younger generation" means post-war generations. But even within that time period one would encounter quite different "thanh nien," some born in the late 70s and some born in 1985, for instance. Sociologically, those ten short years would create a huge difference in life experiences and horizons of expectation, not to mention ideas of what "Vietnam" is about. ~~

"Again, this may be especially true in the South as a result of direct experiences (or not) within a youth's family of "cai tao" (reeducation), "vuot bien" (fleeing by sea), deprivation, and subsequent "mo cua" (open door period). A youth born in, say, 1986 would have very different experiences of these difficult years (namely, through family memories that may or may not be repressed) than someone born in 75-77 who would have experienced them directly as a child. ~~

Young People in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi in 2000

In 2000, Seth Mydans wrote in the New York Times, "Carefree, war-free, with multicolored sparkles in their hair, Vietnam's young people are leading a revolution in Vietnam today, and it's not a Communist one. It is a revolution of creeping globalization, and as in Communist lore, there is a small but very influential group of the young in the vanguard." This "new postwar generation...is open, curious, acquisitive and hungry to join the outside world, if the youth one meets in the cities and at the universities are any indication. "We like freedom," said Ta Thi Minh Hong, 19, a first-year student at the Institute of International Relations, expressing what seems to be a newly discovered idea. "We want to do everything we like." [Source: Seth Mydans, New York Times, November 12, 2000 ||||]

"At least, it's fun to talk like that. The idea of freedom is itself an experiment and it is still being defined here, by people of all ages. In a dozen interviews here and in the capital, Hanoi, young people made it clear that they agree with their elders that traditional Vietnamese values are paramount, that willy-nilly change is dangerous. The freedom that attracts them seems a purely personal one, focusing on behavior and consumer goods. Like youth culture in other countries, it seems notably apolitical. And indeed, the cautious youth revolution of Vietnam may fit very well into the new, open marketplace that is being permitted, step by step, by the Communist government. "I'm really impressed by the way young people live in America," said Nguyen Cong Huy, 19, a high school student who dreams of studying engineering in America. "For example I don't want to talk politics but the way young people live, they're free to live on their own, to have the relationships that they choose, sexual freedom. But actually, there should be limits. When you have too much freedom it can lead to problems." ||||

"With that kind of worldview emerging, where better to seek cultural wisdom than at a market research company? And indeed, the Vietnam office of the ACNielsen company has an insight to offer. "This is the first generation in Vietnam to experience a true youth culture, with shared values, identity, symbols and language," said Gordon Milne, an ACNielsen executive who has collated interviews with hundreds of young people. "In the past," he said, "you as a teenager were basically a young old person. Same beliefs. Same values. Now we are seeing a set of young people whose expectations, lifestyle and behavior are more and more different from their parents." ||||

"But they are still learning. Compared with other Asian nations, Mr. Milne said, "we are talking about 20 to 25 years difference in terms of youth culture." And they are still hesitant. The youth revolution in Vietnam remains a modest and polite one. One young rebel is notable in his crowd for wearing a nose ring. But it's a clip-on ring and he takes it off when he goes home. After all, he wouldn't want to offend his parents. ||||

"Not long ago, everything Korean was cool fashion, makeup, music. But this is a youth culture; nothing lasts long. "It doesn't matter, we can change quickly," said Nguyen My Nhung, 22, an auditor for a foreign company, raising her voice over the music at Hanoi's loudest discotheque, the New Century. "We have Internet access, satellite TV, fashion shows. We can try anything." Like others with the money to go to a disco (many of them the children of the Communist elite) she was defensive about her privilege, asserting her solidarity with the great majority of Vietnamese who are poor. ||||

"Mr. Milne at ACNielsen acknowledged that his analyses are based on a tiny slice of society. "None of this extends to the guys working in the fields," he said. "Their lives have not changed significantly, unfortunately." But that does not mean that the ideas now percolating in the cities won't spread to the countryside. Indeed, a basic fact of life today is that most Vietnamese, whether rural or urban, were born after the war, and are the first for many generations to be raised in a time of peace (although it is also a time of poverty). ||||

Rock 'N' Roll, Cell Phones, Foreign Universities and Vietnamese Youth

Reporting from Ho Chi Minh City, Margie Mason of Associated Press wrote: ""She Loves You ...," the Beatles imitators sing. "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" the swaying, gyrating crowd roars back. The concert by "The Beatels," a band of Fab Four lookalikes from Australia, is reminiscent of Shea Stadium circa 1965, but the year is 2005 and the venue is the former Saigon, wartime capital of U.S.-backed South Vietnam." In a country where much of the populace was born after the Vietnam War ended in 1975 "this is the face of the future: dancing teenagers singing rock 'n' roll in English instead of the revolutionary music that fueled their parents' fight for independence. [Source: Margie Mason, Associated Press, April 25, 2005 /*\]

"Today's generation chats on cell phones, wears designer jeans, surfs the Web, rides the hottest new motorcycles, and firmly believes that with hard work and education - preferably at an American college - young Vietnamese can make their nation great. Vu Hai Minh's grandfathers fought on separate sides of the war. Now the 17-year-old plans to study economics in Singapore. "Vietnamese young people are very talented. They want to show they can rebuild the country," he says. "If Vietnam can defeat the biggest power in the world, it shows that it has huge potential." /*\

"Now it has a peacetime generation that has gone from rice fields to universities, determined to push Vietnam onto the international stage. "Everyone wants to contribute to the country and to see the country change, be prosperous and healthy and have more freedoms," says Bao Chau, 16. The 10th grader, who speaks perfect English and likes Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears, plans to follow her older sister to college in California to become a doctor. Chau's dreams are typical of many young Vietnamese who yearn to be educated in the United States or Europe. But few are that lucky: The annual national income averages only about $550 a year, and only 3,000 new Vietnamese students enrolled in American colleges last year. Others study closer to home in Singapore or Australia, and more and more are enrolling at colleges within Vietnam - a privilege once reserved for the rich and well-connected. /*\

"Many youngsters see English as the key to a brighter future, and language schools are so crowded that there aren't enough teachers.While the government tightly controls all forms of media, and blocks access to anti-communist Web sites, it has allowed the Internet to reach even remote towns, opening a window to worlds many Vietnamese didn't know existed. "Today is the world of information," said Nguyen Mai Lien, 28, an editor at VnExpress, Vietnam's first Web-based newspaper, started four years ago in Hanoi. "The online newspaper is the quickest way of transmitting the news from Vietnam to the outside world and the news from the world into Vietnam." /*\

Fashion Among Vietnamese Youth

Ben Stocking of Knight Ridder Newspapers wrote: "In a nation where per capita income is still around $420, most people cannot afford to indulge in the latest fashions. And, while fashion consciousness is growing among the wealthier set, it is still not unusual to see people wearing patterns that clash so badly they can unleash a bad case of vertigo. [Source: Ben Stocking, Knight Ridder Newspapers, September 4, 2003 \^/]

"In Vietnam as in the rest of the world, men are generally less fashion-focused than women. But even some young men are beginning to pay more attention to what they wear. Some are adopting a sort of American skateboarder look. And some, like their female counterparts, are dyeing their hair red. One young man who lives across the street from Thanh wears jeans that he has intentionally torn and frayed. "It looks ugly - terrible,'' Thanh said. \^/

"Thanh's outfit - a stained undershirt and a pair of skimpy pajama bottoms - isn't likely to win him any fashion awards, either. In fact, if he's not careful, he could get fined by Hanoi's fashion police. The bureaucrats at the city's Civilized Living Department have recently begun a campaign to clean up Hanoi's streets. Among other things, they are talking about enforcing a rarely invoked law that prohibits men from wearing pajamas outdoors - a practice enjoyed by many elderly Hanoians, who see the skimpy outfits as a way to beat the tropical heat. \^/

"There are no laws on the books regulating what young women can wear. But Nguyen Hai, the 50-year-old head of Civilized Living, isn't pleased by what he sees these days. "Traditional Vietnamese clothes are not revealing,'' he said. Such somber pronouncements are unlikely to deter Nguyen Thu Huyen, a 22-year-old university student whose more conservative outfits would probably make Hai gasp. \^/

"On a recent Saturday night - the time when young women like Huyen fully indulge their more daring fashion predilections - Huyen wore an unimaginably tight pair of jeans and a skimpy top that fully revealed her cleavage, her bellybutton and a delicate rose tattoo on her shoulder. When she and three of her similarly outfitted friends walked into a bar, a table full of men rotated their heads like owls. \^/

"My favorite thing to wear is a low-cut shirt, sometimes with no bra,'' Huyen said. "Sometimes I even dare to wear very, very short shorts.'' With more and more women like Huyen on the streets these days, life is growing increasingly dangerous for young men like Dang Viet Hai An, a 21-year-old Hanoian who, with red streaks in his hair and loose-fitting American-style jeans, travels among the fashionable set. He recently was driving his Honda through the sea of motorbikes that clog the Hanoi streets, which are difficult to negotiate even when one is fully focused on the task. A young woman cruised by in pants so low-slung that An couldn't take his eyes off her. Riveted by the floral pattern on her underwear, he crashed his motorbike. "I stared at her too long,'' he said. \^/

Fashion and Vietnam’s Generation Gap

Ben Stocking of Knight Ridder Newspapers wrote: "Pham Thi Vinh, a traditional Vietnamese matron, didn't mince words when she saw the young woman in a black halter top that exposed more of her back than it covered. "Look at her!'' the 84-year-old Vinh said, her voice thick with disgust. "People my age really hate clothes like that!'' Told of Vinh's tirade, the object of her wrath was unfazed. "I'm an aggressive girl,'' declared Truong Bich Huong, 27. "I don't care what people say. I wear what I want to wear. I do what I want to do.'' As they absorb the fast-changing Vietnamese fashion scene, members of Vinh's generation have more and more to shake their heads about: For a growing number of young, urban Vietnamese women like Huong, skin is in.[Source: Ben Stocking, Knight Ridder Newspapers, September 4, 2003 \^/]

"The new fashions aren't just helping young Vietnamese, who follow the latest trends online, keep pace with their counterparts elsewhere in the world. They also highlight the nation's pronounced generation gap. When Vinh was a young woman, she and her friends knew how to dress: conservatively, with every inch of their flesh covered. No exposed legs. No exposed arms. And, needless to say, no exposed bellybuttons. \^/

"Like Vinh, older Vietnamese women generally wear loose-fitting pants and blouses made of silk, cotton or linen. Many wear the conical straw hats that, over the generations, have become a national symbol of Vietnam. Men and women going to the office tend to wear conservative Western-style dresses and suits, usually in dark colors or earth tones. Much of what the younger generation wears these days would be no big deal in the United States or Europe - hip-hugger jeans, halter tops, short pants, short skirts, see-through blouses, even the occasional tattoo or bellybutton ring. But here in Vietnam, where many people still consider a bare shoulder to be risque, the new look is downright radical. And parents who see their children decked out in such attire - especially the first time - are often horrified. \^/

"For teenagers and twentysomethings in the United States and other Western countries, defying one's elders is something of a national sport. But here in Vietnam, there is no greater duty for the young than to show respect for their elders. So when it comes to matters of fashion, some young Vietnamese lead a double life: a Martha Stewart look at home, a Britney Spears look on the street. To please Mom and Dad, for instance, a young woman might layer a conservative blouse over a skimpy top with a plunging neckline. But as soon as she's out of the neighborhood - and out of her parents' sight - off comes the frumpy top. \^/

"Girls in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City want to wear very revealing clothes, but they are afraid of their parents,'' said Do Thi Hoa, 26, editor of a Hanoi-based youth Web site. "They put their long-sleeve shirt back on when they return home.'' The first time Hoa's father saw her in a pair of tight, low-cut jeans, he had a fit. "He yelled at me all day long. He blamed it on my mother,'' she said. "He said she didn't teach me to be a good girl.'' Hoa's former boss started to sputter and fume just because she showed up at work in a skirt cut an inch or two above her knees. He blew up at another young woman because she wore a short-sleeved shirt. Older men like Hong Phu Thanh, 72, are baffled by young people and their strange new tastes. He thinks women look best in a conservatively cut ao dai, the flowing silk pantsuit, usually brightly colored, that Vietnamese women generally wear on formal occasions. "The young girls are showing too much skin,'' Thanh said. "They're not traditional like they used to be.'' \^/

See Western Culture in Vietnam.

Five Schoolgirls in Vietnam Jump to Their Deaths

In 2006, Deutsche Presse Agentur reported: “Five Vietnamese schoolgirls, in an apparent group suicide, drowned themselves by leaping into a river with their hands tied, police said on Saturday. The bodies of the girls, who all attended seventh grade together, were discovered in the Thai Binh River about 150 kilometers northeast of Hanoi. Their hands had been bound together with red ribbons from school. [Source: Deutsche Presse Agentur, May 27, 2006 \:\]

“Police believe the girls, two of whom were twin sisters, leapt to their deaths Wednesday evening, but their bodies were not discovered until Friday. "The families found suicide notes," said Le Xuan Ba, chief investigator with the Thanh Ha police department in Hai Duong province. "In the notes they said they were sorry to their parents and friends." Some of the girls wrote that they were unhappy because their parents scolded them too often. They also mentioned that boys at school were picking on them. "Their classmates said they were acting strangely on Wednesday," said Ba. "They were heard saying ’This is my last day in school.’" Police said that this was the first time such an incident had ever taken place in the district.” \:\

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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