In celebration of Christmas in Vietnam: When two cultures come together  

This article was inspired by the photo of Declan Donnellan and Hồ Nhật Minh checking each other out

Declan Donnellan (R) and Hồ Nhật Minh checking each other out

Our greatest gift at Christmas is peace and this comes through our children; their joy, their laughter, their ability to live in the present and above all, their unlimited love. 

This article was inspired by the photo of Declan Donnellan and Hồ Nhật Minh checking each other out, that accompanies this story. I commented on it on Facebook and the father, Matty Donnellan, an expat living in Da Nang suggested I write about how kids get along, the differences and similarities and so on.

Young children don’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter what color you are, how you speak or how much money you have. Play is play, no hidden agendas, no social status scale, just totally open minds. So I’ve often thought that the best way we make peace is when we start young with our children mixing with kids from other cultures and ways of life.

Kids live in their own world and literally create their world views from the ground up. Trouble is, with parents who only have a narrow view of the world, kids easily grow up with some pretty ideas that aren’t necessarily their own! And parents do some weird things. 

Noticed around Vietnam how parents love to ‘dress up’ their kids like super fashion models? It’s mildly funny to see so many youngsters wearing snazzy sunglasses on motorbikes, dressed up even if they are only going to the markets. There’s certain ‘showing off’ your kid aspect to this that I’m not sure is so healthy for the kids. Another difference? Walking around the street feeding your kid whereas Westerners teach their kids to stay put really quick!

Did you know babies can recognize the 800 (roughly) different sounds that make most of Earth’s languages? That’s why they can learn anything. Baby mumbles are their way of practicing how to move the face to make sounds, it’s experimenting. That’s why a lot of babies also like to hear other babies talk (well, mumble…) because they think that’s something they can try to do! The kind of language, by the way, doesn’t become a feature until they are 15 months old.

Food is fascinating too. I know many Vietnamese who grow up in a home eating fish all time only to totally loathe fish as adults! Some of my other local friends can’t stand noodles! Can you remember the foods that you threw at your parents? I think for me, it was anything green. Strangely, spoon feeding the kids denies them the pleasure of working stuff for themselves, so that’s a Vietnamese disadvantage in my opinion.

One of the nicest times is when I go to the beach and the Vietnamese mums married to expats bring down their kids to play with the foreign children. No matter the background, kids love to show off, run around and get wrapped in what they are doing. Perhaps in this situation, foreigners are a little bit more reasonable, allowing the kids to do their own thing, while I’ve observed the locals restrict their young rather more tightly. 

Interestingly too, foreigners don’t worry about their kids so much being in the sun and getting a nice brown tan. It’s kinda surreal to see locals wrapped up for the North Pole at the beach in the summer, although these habits are dying as more locals flock to the beaches to escape the urban stress and heat.

Yet what is true of both cultures is the universal wish of parents for their kids to grow up strong, healthy and happy. The common effort of both cultures to make the best for their offspring and ensure they will survive and prosper long after their parents are dead is deeply embedded in all our cultures that we rarely have to explain this to others. So what we feel towards our kids at Christmas and Tet (or Lunar New Year) are much the same in our hopes and dreams for them.

As we gaze in wonder at our children and fantasize about the future they will have, we also have to be thankful that for all the awful things in the world, there is still the marvel of new life finding its own way and becoming more amazing with each day. And each day, some parts of the Western and Eastern cultures mix together among our young. 

Perhaps that is the best Christmas present.

Merry Christmas everyone!


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