Vietnamese millennials weary of tying knot into noose

By Long Nguyen   May 8, 2020 | 05:45 pm PT
Despite government urging under 30s to marry and have kids, young forward thinking Vietnamese say getting hitched can wait.

At 31, accountant Nguyen Thu Huong enjoys a decent income and lives with her cat in a shared rental apartment in Hanoi’s Hoang Mai District. 

Since breaking up with her boyfriend seven months ago, she is in no rush to hunt down Mr. Right, to the despair of her parents and relatives.

"Whenever I return home, the first question they ask is whether I will get married this year. My family views a husband and children as the keys to life," Huong said, stressing marriage cannot be forced nor rushed.

Huong is among a myriad Vietnamese millennials in little rush to find life-long partners or tie the knot, despite a government push.

On April 28, Vietnam urged citizens to marry before 30 and bear a second child before 35, aiming to maintain a replacement total fertility rate (TFR) between 2 and 2.2 children per mother during the reproductive cycle, increasing it in areas currently falling short and vice versa.

100 couples organized a wedding in Ho Chi Minh City in 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.

One hundred couples organized a mass wedding in Ho Chi Minh City during 2018. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran.

According to many sociologists, the social and economic changes inherent to rapid industrialization, modernization and international integration have, however, changed the perception of marriage among Vietnamese millennials.

"I have to make sure whoever I marry is the right person to ensure we are both happy. Getting married before or after 30 is no big deal," said Hoang The Vinh, 28, a white-collar worker in HCMC.

Vinh, facing pressure from his family in the southern province of Tien Giang, has never considered tying the knot, his girlfriend Nguyen Thanh Tuyen, 25, sharing his views on life ever after.

Concurring social adaptation is reflected in the 2019 Population and Housing Census, showing an increase in the age among those getting married.

The SMAM (Singulate Mean Age at Marriage) in 2019 was 25.2 years old, an increase of 0.7 years compared to a decade prior. Notably, the SMAM in urban areas is higher than in rural equivalents, according to the Central Steering Committee for the Population and Housing Census.

While older generations preferred marrying and having children young to ensure they would be cared for and to continue family lines, millennials are different.

Today, social safety nets have reduced the demand to get married and bear children, making marriage less of a necessity.

"Marriage is about enjoying life with my husband, not about having kids, we still have a long to-do list, a child is not included yet," said Tran Thanh Quynh An, 34, a bank clerk in HCMC. She added marriage would make no difference since she has been cohabiting with her boyfriend for two years already.

"Many of my friends do not plan to have children, so what is the point of tying the knot before 30 or 40?"

According to the World Population Review last year, Vietnam ranks quite low in terms of the TFR, 122nd out of 190 countries.

An is in no rush to marry her boyfriend despite family pressure.

"We want to travel to several countries this year, imagine if we got married and had a kid, we would have to abandon our hobbies and plans for some years."

Not in the mood for love

The 2019 Population and Housing Census showed single household (one-person household) rates increased to 10.9 percent from 7.2 percent in 2009.

With social development and integration, the increasing number of "single-positive" youngsters tend to enjoy life instead of getting caught up in relationships or marrying.

According to psychology expert Dang Hoang An, young people appreciating freedom want to invest in their future plans and experience more things instead of getting bogged down.

"As various life values get imported to Vietnam, many have grown accustomed to living alone," An told local media this week.

Marketer Nguyen Hai Anh, 32, from Hanoi, relishes single life.

"I stay at home and watch Netflix or hang out with my friends or go to the gym after work," she said, adding she prefers this to, "finding a man and getting to know him."

Nguyen Manh Tung, 29, also enjoys being on his own and uses dating apps like Tinder to access non-marital sex in HCMC.

"Being in a relationship is complicated and can pose a burden, I like to be alone. Sometimes if I feel lonely, Tinder can help me find a friend with benefits," he stated.

Psychology expert Che Da Thao supports this fact, saying younger generations are more financially and emotionally independent with more choices providing them happiness, with many preferring a single life.

A group of young Vietnamese hang out. Photo by Shuttlestock/Wacchiwit.

A group of young Vietnamese hang out. Photo by Shutterstock/Wachiwit.

When the government called on citizens to marry before 30 and bear children early, many responded saying it is better and safer for women to have children before 35.

Dang Quynh Thu, head of the General Office for Population and Family Planning under the Health Ministry, said marrying before 30 ensures better health and improving TFR, especially since Vietnam became one of the countries with the fastest aging population in 2015.

"Biologically, giving birth before 30 is good for both the mother and child," Thu said.

Trinh Dang Quyen, 34, an English teacher in Saigon’s District 3, concurs. 

"If people are in love and want to tie the knot, supporting them financially is a good move, especially when they have children, since raising a child is pricey," he said. Having broken up with his girlfriend after a 17-month relationship, Quyen has no plans to "return to the love race."

Many millennials, regardless of their desire to marry, simply have to no idea how to find Mr or Ms. Right.

"My mother said marriage was one of the first steps to adulthood. To me, it should be the last, I do not want to step into anything when I am not ready," Quyen maintained.

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