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Love in Vietnam – Valentine’s Day 2020

Thursday, February 13, 2020, 09:47 GMT+7
Love in Vietnam – Valentine’s Day 2020
Two boys pose for a funny photo outside the Ha Pagoda in Hanoi, Vietnam on Valentine's Day, February 14, 2019. The pagoda is known for granting people’s romance-related wishes. Photo: Ha Thanh / Tuoi Tre

This Valentine’s Day will surely be glitzier, more colorful and silly than ever before. And there’s nothing wrong with that!

Receiving flowers in the morning will be proof that your husband or boyfriend is actually awake. A last minute, late night gift of goodies could be suspicious and forgetting to acknowledge the partner in your life may become a six-month sentence of acrimony.  

Considering just miserable the world seems to be, if you go by the news, days where we express our love and admiration for others are sorely needed and should be more frequent. Fortunately, Vietnamese have at least two opportunities during the year, Valentine’s Day and Vietnamese Women’s Day (October 20th), to show their love.

I think it’s nice that Valentine’s Day is often showing feelings toward parents and significant people in your life.

Oddly enough, it’s not quite that simple to say 'I love you' in Vietnamese. The problem lies with the pronouns for ‘I’ and ‘you’. Depending on whom you are saying this to, there’s something like fifteen or more ways to address someone based on age and gender; so telling your younger brother, if you are the sister, would be different to expressing yourself to your parents or romantic partner. Thank goodness I only know English!

In the past and nowadays; love was not always so openly expressed in Vietnam and the expression 'I love you' was more modestly said as ‘I like you’, the same as in a lot of Asian cultures. Even these days, it’s not uncommon in rural areas for 'go-betweens' to assist young lovers in meet-ups and negotiating issues with their families' traditional viewpoints; usually, the risk of falling for someone less preferable to family choices such as having a good job or good social status (in the government, for example) can still upset parental ambitions.

Traditional practices of chaperones and arranged marriages still exist; making the Western idea of independent love choices an odd thing to older Vietnamese who accepted these arrangements as normalcy.

Encouragingly, gay and lesbian relationships are becoming more openly pursued although probably rarely displayed at a traditional family-popular BBQ restaurant. 

Things to do include all the usual customs such as romantic dinners, gifts and parties; however, I often remain at young men who lavish huge money on public (and sometimes embarrassing) declarations of their adoration. I’m not sure if this is more a desperate tactic to win a girl's affection or a 'look at me' moment. Either way; the selfies would tell the story!

As most people already know, Da Lat is the honeymoon capital of Vietnam. Placed in the cool mountains with picturesque forests and flower gardens, it’s irresistible to love-struck couples. Tourism-wise, Vietnam becomes more attractive for beach weddings around this time of year along with destinations such as Ha Long Bay and Vietnam’s sunny southern islands.

One place I would like to recommend is Phong Nha Park for couples. Branded mostly as an adventure destination, the surrounding mountain forests, gentle slopes and slow pace of life definitely encourage togetherness!

Around my neck of the woods, Hoi An is a good spot of a romantic river-side dinner (and the same for Da Nang!) and night-time stroll around the Old Town. 

Ba Na Hills, a tourist attraction on a mountain top overlooking Da Nang, will host the tulip flower festival again – another selfie celebration!

Predicting love is as big a thing here as finding out in advance if you’ll get good grades at school. Fortune-telling is popular here although not taken as seriously as in the past. As you would expect, there are a lot of scams yet curiously it can be used as an excuse for a loveless life. 

More than a few Vietnamese believe in a past life so their love interest wasn’t successful in this life or someone was jilted or rejected, that can come back as 'a haunting' – a ghost that follows you interfering in your love life until the love promise from the past is resolved. As recommended (for a price) by fortune tellers, this can involve a rite or 'spirit divorce' to fix the situation. At now I’ll have something to blame my singleness on!

Yet the oddest thing to me is the sight of young university ladies selling flowers on the day to raise some money and then receiving flowers from their boyfriends at night! Just as odd to my Western customs is the common practice of also giving gifts to the opposite partner – it’s not just a 'boy to girl' thing. As I always say on the day, 'Gimme chocolate!' 

Whichever way Valentine’s Day turns out for you, it’s still a happy time for the majority of locals, expats and visitors and a gentle, open reminder that people do still care for one another in a thousand ways. 

May Valentine’s Day show that you are loved for who you are!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Stivi Cooke / Tuoi Tre News Contributor

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