A report by the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee reveals that over 16,000 Vietnamese people marry foreigners every year, according to Vietnam Times. As much as it’s complicated, Vietnamese mothers are slowly overcoming cultural and language barriers to embrace foreign in-laws.
Nguyen Thi Hoa says she couldn’t hide her surprise when her son, Hoang, announced he would be marrying Jenny, an American woman. The 60-year-old mother recalls asking her son, “Vietnam has more than 90 million people. Why marry a foreigner instead of choosing someone local?”
Although Hoa welcomed the reality that she will have a foreign daughter-in-law, the language barrier and cultural differences proved to be an initial problem. Since Jenny couldn’t speak Vietnamese effectively as a foreigner, ” the silence in the house was driving me insane,” Hoa says. The Vietnamese mother adds she panicked when she saw Jenny taking out her newborn baby. She later realized that it’s normal for Americans to take newborns out in the sun. Hoa also learned postpartum mothers in America don’t follow strict childbirth and postnatal customs and rites like in Vietnam.
Superstitions During Pregnancy
Given that expectant mothers receive over 26 weeks of paid maternity leave, families follow strict Vietnamese childbirth customs and rites to ensure they give birth to a healthy baby. In addition to eating nutritious meals, a pregnant mother should avoid engaging in heavy tasks or get involved in situations that may threaten their health.
Some say that mothers-to-be should not walk too long or go for uncomfortable rides. While attending funerals and weddings are also discouraged as superstitions claim that their presence might bring bad luck to those involved.
Celebrations, Both New & Old
Traditionally, Vietnamese parents-to-be don’t host any dedications until they celebrate the newborn baby’s one-month birthday. During the event, people present offerings to the “Holy Godmother” who is believed to protect and teach the newborn baby to smile. After prayers and celebrations, parents dress the baby in new clothes, but they cannot mention the child is healthy. That way, they can prevent evil spirits from feeling jealousy and making the newborn sick.
In the modern world, expectant Vietnamese mothers tend to host baby showers, but not without caution. To prevent bad luck, close relatives and friends of the mother-to-be give monetary gifts in a red envelope. They can also offer useful items and eco-friendly baby shower gifts like bamboo wipes, cloth diapers, or glass bottles.
Beliefs After Birth
According to Vietnamese traditions, a midwife should deliver the newborn baby and cut its umbilical cord with a bamboo knife or earthenware. Instead of dressing the baby in new clothes, handed-down clothes are considered ideal. In doing so, parents prevent demons and ghosts from being jealous and casting an illness spell on the child.
In Vietnam, pregnancy and childbirth customs and rites are crucial for the mother and child’s well-being. That is why employers provide extended maternity leaves and flexible work options. By creating family-friendly work policies, employers enjoy increased employee retention and high productivity.