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Tet meaning: Expats share thoughts on Vietnam's biggest holiday

Tet meaning: Expats share thoughts on Vietnam's biggest holiday

Friday, February 09, 2024, 15:49 GMT+7
Tet meaning: Expats share thoughts on Vietnam's biggest holiday
An illustration by Daniel Ansel Tingcungco featuring the Tet flower market at Binh Dong Wharf in District 8, Ho Chi Minh City.

Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year festival) is a special occasion for not only Vietnamese people but also for foreigners, with some being unfamiliar with it while others, who have been living in Vietnam for years, feel accustomed to the holiday.

A number of expats living across Vietnam have shared their Tet plan this year under a request from Tuoi Tre News.

The comments were edited by Tuoi Tre News for clarity, consistency, and coherence.

“I love the Tet displays”

Jade Tornquist and her granddaughter are seen in this provided photo.
Jade Tornquist and her granddaughter are seen in this provided photo.

I will visit the flower and dragon Tet displays in Vung Tau and then I will do the same in Saigon. After that, I will leave the country for a week. I enjoy the flowers and fruit trees lined up on the streets. I love the Tet displays, they’re so eye-catching and interesting. 

For me, foreigners opting to leave the country is not really due to boredom, it's because the apartment blocks can become very loudly and busy. I also like to enjoy my free time and visit new places. 

I spent my first Tet in Vung Tau at a local orphanage. We took the children to the front beach and showed them the displays and had ice-cream. It was the year of the Dog. 

This year has been exciting as my granddaughter (her mother is Vietnamese) is nearly four and loves wearing her ao dai (Vietnamese traditional long dress) and enjoying Tet photos and festivities.

Thanks to my daughter-in-law, I learnt about the way you worship and pay respect to ancestors during Tet. I learnt about the origin of bánh chưng and that apricot blossoms are meant to welcome guests to your home.

I went to my daughter-in law a few years ago for Tet and saw they had watermelon, bánh chưng, fish, pork dishes, sunflower and pumpkins seeds, and cakes. People were playing games together.

Jade Tornquist, Australian, living in Vung Tau

“I love Tet for the excitement and the family bonding”

Jake Noris is seen in this provided photo.
Jake Noris is seen in this provided photo.

We are walking to raise funds for the Thanh Loc Project and Blue Dragon Children's Foundation to help underprivileged children in Vietnam. By the time of writing, we had walked 1,600 kilometers and had been in Da Lat. 

We will be stopping in Di Linh District in the Central Highlands Province of Lam Dong for Tet holiday and hoping to celebrate with the friendly local population.

I've spent four or five Tet holidays in Vietnam. I love it, the celebrations and the focus on family gathering.

My first experience of Tet in Vietnam was actually in Hanoi, which was quite confronting. Stores were closed. However, it meant we had the whole city for ourselves, peaceful and quiet.

Now I either travel during Tet with my friends to celebrate as family and bring in the new year or ride my motorbike to the rural areas of Vietnam, as I love being invited into Vietnamese strangers’ homes to share stories and drink rice wine.

I love Tet for the excitement it brings to the Vietnamese people and the family bonding.

Jake Norris, Australian, living in Hanoi

“Everyone is having fun”

Jim Reischl is seen in this provided photo with his wife.
Jim Reischl is seen in this provided photo with his wife.

I have experienced Tet almost every year since 2014. When I came to Vietnam, I got away from the bitter cold at the place I lived at the time.

In the first few years, I did notice the quietness in Ho Chi Minh City and the lack of people around Tet.

Now I live with my Vietnamese wife, and her family often gather for Tet. She and her two brothers and an older sister all live next to each other, so anything about Tet is done with them, eating, playing music, and stuff like that. It seems everyone is having fun.

Jim Reischl, American, living in Da Lat

Tet is time to slow down and recharge

Daniel Ansel Tingcungco from the Philippines. Photo: Son Trang / Tuoi Tre
Daniel Ansel Tingcungco from the Philippines. Photo: Son Trang / Tuoi Tre

It was during the Tet of 2019 that I first arrived in Vietnam and was greeted with a warm welcome of the festive season, yet I also didn’t expect Ho Chi Minh City to be so quiet back then. By then I learned that most people had already gone back to their hometown to celebrate this occasion with their families, hence many businesses and establishments were closed. 

As a first time visitor then, it might sound boring at first since I only had limited places to go to, but then I realized, it gave me a quiet space to really enjoy the peaceful vibe of the city. 

Tet is always a symbol of new life for me. While many people would opt to travel overseas during this time because it’s “boring” to stay home, it has become a special time for me to just stay in Ho Chi Minh City and take it as a chance to slow down and recharge - something that doesn’t come so often during the rest of the year if you live here. So every Tet, I decide to stay, although this year I will visit my family back home in the Philippines. 

For the most part of the days during Tet, doing almost nothing can be a reward. But then, I get restless so I would go for long walks around the neighborhood and if there’s an open cafe, I would sit there, draw or read a book or just watch the day go by. 

I would also visit and hang out with Saigonese friends and celebrate with them with some Tet food. Thịt kho trứng is my favorite and also bánh tét/bánh chưng

It’s always a matter of perspective whenever you want to spend your time, I hope many will have a good time even for just being here during this holiday.

Daniel Ansel Tingcungco, Filipino, living in Ho Chi Minh City

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Dong Nguyen / Tuoi Tre News


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