by Bach Lien
A few weeks ago, I received a call from Hoa, a good friend, who invited me to a party to celebrate her new life in her new apartment.
She could not conceal her joy and excitement at having left her parents' home and renting out her own apartment in Ha Noi, for the past three months.
Previously, like many other unmarried youngsters in Viet Nam, she lived with her parents.
The traditional culture of Vietnamese society wants a woman to only leave her parents' home when she gets married and then come to live with her husband and in-laws.
At the age of 29, Hoa was bored of living with them under the same roof as they had a big difference in age and had a totally different lifestyle.
As the only child of the family, Hoa was very close to her family. However, life between them had become difficult because they neither had the same vision of life, nor the same habits. Her parents often wanted to impose their points of view, which she did not agree with. Although she had on numerous occasions asked her parents to let her rent her own place and pay for her expenses, they would not agree. Finally, after many years she finally got her parents' approval.
Hoa was not the only person who complained about living her life under the same roof with her parents.
Trung, 27, a neighbour, said that he often argued with his parents about the smallest things as they did not share the same lifestyle.
"I want to tidy up the house a little by throwing out some old objects that my parents have stored for 20 years. But they refuse to agree. They lived a difficult life during wartime when even a piece of paper or a bowl was rare and precious, so they want to retain everything," he said.
"The little house has become more than little. As my parents refuse to renovate it, the house has become very ugly, and I do not want to invite my friends here," he said.
In this day and age, more and more young people want to leave their parents to live their own life. Many of them want to learn how to be more independent and thereby become more mature.
After several months of living in her own apartment, Hoa was enjoying her new lifestyle. Being able to live independently was for her very important.
"I can cook better, and more importantly, I have learnt how to live independently, without the help of my parents," she said.
"I now feel that I have grown up, and I am not a baby anymore. I can organise my timetable better."
Without her mother beside her, she visited the market, cooked, washed clothes, and tidied her room, apart from managing the expenses, all by herself. In the beginning, her life was disorderly due to the unbalanced rhythm of her life. She would work late into the night and eat irregularly.
Now she knows how to save money and look after the things she has bought.
The desire of an increasing number of young people in Viet Nam to break the tradition of leaving their parents' home before marriage is not always welcomed by all parents for a host of reasons.
I met some protective parents who did not want their children to live separately because they believed they were not mature enough to live on their own and ready to face the hardships of life. Their children, who were already over the age of 20, were still considered the babies of the family. They were also afraid that their children, once free, would adopt bad habits and unhealthy lifestyles.
I also know some parents, who had already reached old age (around 60s, 70s, or more) and did not want to live without their children, because they were sentimentally dependent, and they wanted their children to fulfil their tasks of being good children.
"I sacrificed my life for my children, and now my children have grown up. I want them to think of their responsibilities of looking after me when I am old and weak. I imagine one night, if I suddenly fall very sick and cannot call them on their phones, how would they take me to the hospital on time," Nguyen Xuan Thanh, a 70-year-old, retired bank employee said.
According to traditional Vietnamese culture, children had to take care of their aged parents. That is why many parents believed that the decision of their children to live separately showed their lack of responsibility towards parents and family.
They refused to accept the idea of living in old age homes as they were afraid of being lonely, or being laughed at by their neighbours, who may think that they had been abandoned by their children.
As I could observe, even in this modern day, many parents in Viet Nam are still influenced by the community. They are still concerned about what the neighbours would say about them.
The familiar phrase they often tell their children is Please do not do [this or that] because the neighbours may laugh at us."
Personally, I believe that in this modern age, it is very easy to understand why many young people want to leave their parents houses to have more personal space, more freedom, and more independence in their lives.
Once they are mature enough and know how to live with responsibilities, and when they have a job and can live on their own, the parents should respect their choices, and their lives.
It is important to make a separate home, to learn to live more independently, and to "grow up" quicker.
A child who is well educated always knows how to show his or her love to parents. Even when they do not live in the same house with their parents, children can always come to visit and take care of them when they are sick.
While this may be a new concept in Viet Nam, in European countries or in some developed Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea, many young people above 18 years of age live independently, and it is a very popular trend.
Some of my friends in Europe said that they had been living separately from a young age because they wanted to and because their parents wanted them to. When I got to know them better, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they knew a lot more than many Vietnamese people their age about how to manage their lives, with all the responsibilities, far away from their family.
I think that if Vietnamese parents offered more freedom and more confidence to their children, the children would become more confident about themselves and develop better personalities. — VNS