“Anh yêu em!”
“Em yêu anh!”
Both mean “I love you!”
Ah… it’s that special time of the year, isn’t it?
Spring’s not far away and young women across Việt Nam are busy chatting online about Ngày Valentine or Valentine’s Day (February 14).
It’s also known as the feast of love (Lễ Tình Nhân).
Older men usually give their wives flowers or something romantic on March 8th(International Women’s Day) or the 20th of October (Vietnamese Women’s Day) but it’s not such a big thing for older couples.
You can imagine the comments…
“Ooo, I wonder where he’s taking me?”
“I bet he’s going to buy roses!”
and of course,
“I dropped a dozen hints and he STILL has no idea! Humph!”
It’s the most dangerous test of love of the year.
Forget this one and you can bet your girlfriend will get her revenge later on!
Still, it’s impossible to ignore in the Vietnamese online forums and media, so a smart guy should be safe!
I’ve got to admit, Vietnamese girls have an imaginative way of reminding men.
A few years ago, I taught at a local university in central Việt Nam’s Hội An Ancient Town, where I currently live.
My all too cute students would take to drawing manga-style love cartoons on my whiteboard before classes and dropping ‘hint bombs’ into our English lessons with a giggle while trying to keep a straight face.
“Mr Stivi, where are you taking your girlfriend on Valentine’s Day?” (Present continuous tense followed by howls of laughter)
“Teacher! Have you ever been in love?” (Present perfect and much sniggering)
“Teacher, will you buy me chocolates and flowers?” (Simple future tense and lots of finger pointing at the now very embarrassed teacher)
My revenge is setting the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet as homework…
The Vietnamese language of love is interesting too.
Gấu can mean ‘bear’ – sometimes cute and cuddly or a big fat grumpy thing and mostly for girls nowadays.
However gấu chó (literally translated as ‘bear dog’ but referring to ‘sun bear’) can mean an unfaithful partner.
Chăn 37 độ (37 Celsius-degree blanket) can mean a warm boyfriend!
Ghẹ or ghệ, depending on the region and probably the accent, can mean a girlfriend.
As any foreigner who has lived here for a while can testify, Vietnamese is full of slang.
Cưng can mean ‘honey’; ông xã or its short form ox for ‘hubby’ and bà xã for ‘wifey’!
Ngày Valentine is a recent and mostly young Vietnamese trend but it has unusual effects such as students missing from classes because it’s lucrative to go and sell flowers outside the school!
The price of love is expensive too, up to VND150,000 for a bunch of flowers.
I pity that boyfriend!
All the quintessential gifts are still there – teddy bears (gấu bông), chocolates, love messages and of course ‘couple’s bracelets’…
Guess who loves you?
I’m lucky that my girlfriend hasn’t given me a toy frog and asked me to kiss it yet!
No, honey, it’s not a good idea…
Yet unlike affluent western romantics, a quiet romantic dinner is still an unusual thing here with most lovers settling for something simpler.
Mind you, I have no idea how a date at the cinema can be considered romantic if everyone’s texting and chatting all the way through the movie!
Or for that matter, parking the bike at one of Hà Nội’s or Hồ Chí Minh’s small parks as the traffic swirls around.
Somehow honking horns are not a great soundtrack to love.
Hot dates here are more the KFC/pizza/ice-cream deal, a walk around the park, riding bikes together, hugging the boyfriend as the motorbike meanders around the rice fields in the cool night air (country love is more romantic, ha-ha…) or just chilling out at the coffee shop.
However, it can be very weird to see a couple sitting next to each other, not talking, just staring at their mobile phones!
If the couple is particularly daring, they may opt for a street-side stall with low lighting and trees to hide their kissing and cuddling!
It’s one thing that’s very constant here and one of the things that I love about Việt Nam.
I feel we are losing this sense of ‘active romance’ in the West – the endless parade of young couples riding to somewhere, chatting their way through the traffic, rushing in groups of couples to the coffee shops, the late night chats in front of the parent’s house and the flirting on school bikes as they ride home.
You see life being lived to the full all around.
So remember guys, keep your girlfriends happy this Ngày Valentine and you’ll have a year’s peace!
It’s a great reminder that love in Việt Nam is vibrant, frequent, energetic, and busy!
It’s also the one thing that makes us all the same, no matter wherever you are in the world.
STIVI COOKE (*)
(*) Stivi Cooke is an Australian expat based in Hoi An Ancient Town in central Vietnam and is working as an English language and hospitality teacher in the town
Source: Tuổi Trẻ News