Vietnamese Culture - A 1970's Perspective
                      Copyright 1996 Vn-families

Issue #16. The husband's most difficult task: teaching his wife,            
Van Ngan, Vietnam Bulletin, December 16, 1969

We will run this column weekly until we run out of interesting cultural 
Please direct all questions to [email protected]
Here is the proposed schedule of this column.

Issue #1:  Tet 1971 in Vietnam! by Phu Si, VB710118 - Jan 17, 1996
Issue #2:  The Unicorn dance at Tet, by Minh Tam, VB710118.
Issue #3:  The origin of Tao Quan, the three kitchen gods, by
           George F. Schultz, VB710118.
Issue #4:  1971 - The year of the Pig, by Van Ngan, VB710118.
Issue #5   The Joy of "first writing of the new year", by Thuy Ngoc,
Issue #6:  Traditional Vietnamese male attire, by Van Ngan, VB710208
Issue #7:  The legend of Princess Lieu Hanh, George F. Schultz, VB710215 
Issue #8:  The dialogue on Mount Na-Son, George F. Schultz, VB710222
Issue #9:  The secret housewife, George F. Schultz, VB710301
Issue #10: The golden axe, George F. Schultz, VB710308
Issue #11: Golden age of Viet Nam under the Hung Kings, Pham Tung, 
Issue #12: The legend of Chu Van Dich, George F Schutlz, VB701221
Issue #13: The sandalwood maiden, George F. Schultz, VB7010??
Issue #14: Legend about Emperor Ly Thai-To, George F Schultz, VB7010?? -
           April 17, 1996.
Issue #15. Chu Dong-Tu and Princess Tien Dung, George F. Schultz,
           VB701005 - April 24, 1996.
Issue #16. The husband's most difficult task: teaching his wife, 
           Van Ngan, VB 691216 - May 1, 1996.
Issue #17: Superstition in Viet Nam, Van Ngan, VB6911?? - May 8, 1996.
Note: Something to enliven this column while I am away. This is actually 
not as controversial as the title may lead you to think. Remember this 
is a 1969 article. So. please, no flame!-))))

                               By Van Ngan

Saigon,--To a Western husband, the thought of teaching his wife brings 
forth visions of terror, for to him "teaching" means enabling his wife 
to drive the family car, or possibly improving her tennis or golf game.  
In most cases he probably hires a professional instructor to do the job 
for him.  In Viet-Nam, the concept of "teaching your wife" means 
something entirely different, for here the bridegroom has the task of 
leading his bride from the ways of her parents' home -- the way of life 
she grew up with -- to that of his own home. Her successful transition 
is the husband's traditional responsibility. In Asian society this is 
one of the most fundamental duties of every husband. He who helps his 
bride to successfully adept herself to the ways of his family can count 
on a long and happy marriage. He must help her to abandon her former 
habits and adopt the practices of her new home. He must show her his 
family customs and traditions so that she may gain the acceptance of his 
family and her responsibilities are now to his home and his ancestral 

While she may have enjoyed the traditional afternoon siesta in her own 
home, she may be required to stay up and work about the house all day if 
her new mother-in-law does not partake of the siesta habit. The husband 
must teach his bride to share in the family housework. She must take 
care of the children, help prepare the meals and perform
the myriad other daily household tasks of a new wife, while her husband 
goes to work to earn a living. If the husband has his own business, she 
must be familiar with his work and she is expected to help him if 

But, the most delicate task of the husband is to guide his bride in 
dealing with members of his own family. He must be aware of the 
possibilities of conflict between his wife and his mother and try to 
prevent any problems. For, if such a conflict should occur, he is faced 
with the possible choice of siding with his new and sensitive bride or 
with his mother -- a fearsome choice for any man to make. It is partly 
due to these problems that conservative parents carefully choose future 
wives for their sons.  A girl's behavior and skills are more important 
to her prospective mother-in-law than her physical beauty, even though 
the son may think otherwise.

Just as other aspects of society have changed with the times, the 
philosophy of teaching wives has modified in concept and value.  Until 
the end of the last century, the Vietnamese women were allowed to play 
only a minor part in family life and were instructed to obey their 
husbands completely.  Young girls were rarely admitted to public schools 
and, when they got married, they had to depend entirely on their 
husband's guidance.  A man's duty of teaching his wife was regarded as 
sacred.  With the influence of Western culture introduced by the French, 
many women gained an education and then rebelled against their inferior 
status. Vietnamese wives began a quiet struggle to gain equality with 
men and some measure of independence for a smaller family, their own 
family, within the framework of the husband's ancestral household. 
During this transition period many conflicts arose between tradition-
bound mothers-in-law and the modernized brides and often the poor 
husbands were caught in-between. Since 1945, women have gained most of 
the rights and privileges of men.  But, in practice, wives still prefer 
to follow the guidance of their husbands and let them make the 
decisions. Women are still content with their traditional duties as 
mothers and wives and do not attempt to compete with their men, as so 
often happens in the West. However, with changing trends and increased 
westernization of Viet-Nam, this relationship, too, is slowly changing. 
Public education is now mandatory by law for all Vietnamese, including 
girls. And, with this increased education is the new "mod" society 
introduced by Western cinema, magazines and thousands of Westerners 
flooding the country in recent years. If these trends continue, the 
Vietnamese husband may some day find himself faced with the terrifying 
prospect of teaching his own wife to drive the family car, just as 
Western husbands do -- most reluctantly.