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We Are Family

At the beginning of this year I was fortunate enough to travel to Vietnam for the second time – a definite favourite country of mine. During my travels through this stunning country, I saw jutting green mountains, to rice fields, to bustling cities. I have ridden a motorbike through half of the country and just tried to make it out alive riding through the insanely congested city roads. A lot was different – the traffic, the food, the smells, the scenery, the simple way of living. One thing though, that made me wonder during my travels and also through watching Le-Van Kiet’s Furie (2018) – was the housing arrangements. It seems that families live in such close proximity to others, and there are so many people living under the same roof. A few scenes in Furie showed grown men still living with their mothers (see fig. 2), and children and grandparents all living together too in small tube houses in Saigon. On my travels and while watching Furie, I found it wild how many people can fit in such a small house, and don’t they all get sick of eachother?

A still from Furie showing how some Vietnamese people live in the country

Personally, I could never quite see myself living this way. I have always lived in a house with few people, and I have always been able to avoid my neighbours if I ever needed (I just don’t feel like a chat today, Karen). Growing up I always just lived with my Mum and Dad. I moved out of my childhood home at 18 to travel and then went straight to university – where I now live in a share house with some friends. There are 4 of us living together, and sometimes even that many people gets too much. Based on my personal living experiences, it has made me wonder why extended families in Vietnam live together, and why is it the norm?

According to the website Facts and Details, Vietnamese people tend to live together in extended families rather than nuclear families, with average household members varying greatly in size. A typical ‘large’ household is made of a family of parents and three children and an extended family of four aunts, four uncles, grandparents, with various children coming and going. One extended family in Vietnam becomes one single economic unit as they share work and resources, and pool their money together to contribute to the whole income of the family. I find this way of living so precious – so many families I know only see each other once or twice a year. I see mine frequently enough, but sometimes we are all too busy, and living too far away, that sometimes it gets too difficult to organise anything. Vietnamese people cherish family and it seems to be one of the most important values inherent in Vietnamese society.

Fig. 2: In this scene, the man’s mother (who lives with him) cries as she begs Hai to stop hurting her son.

Another very interesting fact I found from Ethnomed, if elderly relatives need care they will live with the younger generation. Only in very rare situations will a senior citizen reside in a nursing home, such as when they do not have a family to support them. This is one major cultural difference – I know countless elderly people in nursing homes, and as much as it pains children to put their parents in one, sometimes it just gets too difficult to handle. This has become the norm, we are simply too busy to care for our aging parents with our busy, stressful lives.

Comparing my life to Vietnamese life, it seems there are two world outlooks here – collectivism and individualism. For me, my culture promotes emotional independence, initiative, privacy, personal freedom, egoism and the constant use of the word “I”. This is ‘individualism’ – where I have been taught to do most things for myself. For example, all the money I earn only belongs to me, and the things I buy are for myself. Again, when it comes to families, in individualist societies, family rivalries are far too common, the idea of ‘competition’ in families is also very frequent. Contrastingly, Vietnamese ‘collectivism’ is the idea of replacing your own identity with a group identity. I have seen this in Furie and in my travels – where there is emotional dependence, group solidarity and group decisions. Families pool their money together as one, live as one and identify as one. I now wonder if Western culture values family relationships enough? Perhaps Western culture promotes individuality too much? I think Western culture needs to adopt this outlook where we are all one unit – perhaps it could change us (and me) for the better.


Hays, J 2014, Men, Gender Roles, The elderly and Families in Vietnam, Facts and Details, viewed 14 August 2020, <,Extended%20Families%20in%20Vietnam,living%20with%20the%20nuclear%20family.>.

Itourvn 2020, Traditional Vietnamese Family Values, image, Itourvn, viewed 14 August 2020, <>.

LaBorde, P 2010, Vietnamese, EthnoMED, viewed 14 August 2020, <,the%20good%20of%20the%20group.>.

Nguyen, A 2019, Furie premiers in the US to wholesome praise, image, VN Express, viewed 14 August 2020, <>.


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