Some bite bullet spending $1,600 to return home for Tet

By Tran Ban Mai   January 30, 2024 | 05:40 pm PT
For some, Lunar New Year’s joy is overshadowed by the financial burden of spending several months’ salary on hometown trips after a year of hard work.

On a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to the north in early January, I sat next to a man in his thirties, traveling to his hometown. A conversation revealed that he worked as a ride-hailing driver and while working that morning, he had received news of his grandmother’s death. Being the eldest grandchild, he felt obliged to attend the funeral and thus booked a flight immediately after completing a ride.

"I get paid tens of thousands of dong (VND1,000 equals 41 cents) for each ride I complete," he told me. "But then I have to spend millions [of dong] on plane tickets."

He further added that he was traveling without his wife to save expenses, and planned to return to Ho Chi Minh City after the funeral.

When asked about the reason why he would not stay in his hometown until Tet, which will start in early February, the man explained that his wife was still working in the city and he also wanted to return after the funeral to earn more for Tet. He confirmed he would be visiting his hometown again for Tet.

"It costs me an estimated VND40 million ($1,630) to travel to my hometown each Tet," he said, noting that over half is spent on round-trip airfare, with the rest on lucky money and gifts for relatives.

The actual cost can sometimes be even higher, he said. But as the eldest son in his family, he felt obligated to return, fearing criticism from neighbors and relatives otherwise.

According to the man, he and his wife earn around VND13-14 million per month in total, making the cost of going home for Tet almost three to four months of their accumulated income.

I am sharing this story not to debate the necessity of returning home for Tet, but to express my viewpoint: people should not let monetary matters symbolize their pride, as it leads to unnecessary burden, especially with the significant price hikes during Tet, which eat into many people’s savings after working hard for the whole year.

We must recognize that the decision to work far away and return home for Tet is based more on emotional desires than financial practicality. Therefore I think money should not overshadow emotions during Tet. People in the countryside should also avoid exerting undue pressure on family members living afar. The essence of going home for Tet is the reunion itself, not the amount of money one brings.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

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