Many young Vietnamese have to deal with questions and complaints from their families on a regular basis as they reach an age traditionally considered inappropriate to remain single.
Thuan, from Hanoi, said he had grown used to his mother complaining about his celibacy. His mother cried and cried, and she even threatened to disown him.
“We argued several times,” he says. “There was one time my mom cried and said I had to be gay because I was single at that age.”
Thuan finally decided to move out to avoid pressure from his family. He rented a room and now lives alone.
But her parents did not give up. They constantly call him, and even come to his place of work, urging him to get married.
“The arguments have only decreased by, say, 80% in terms of frequency,” he says. “My parents always call me and even stop by my workplace to tell me what they want me to do.”
When asked why he resists married life, Thuan replies that he believes in the benefits of a non-marital lifestyle. According to him, he does not have to take care of his wife’s family during holidays or special family occasions.
He reserves the right to have children when he wishes and not when the social statutes dictate it to him. He is dating someone, but if the storylines go wrong, the relationship can end without messy legal procedures.
Getting married later in life is increasingly popular all over the world, including in Vietnam. Photo illustration by Freepik
Dr Tran Tuyet Anh, head of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s Family Department, says getting married later in life is increasingly popular around the world, including in Vietnam.
Data provided by the General Statistical Office of Vietnam shows that the average age of marriage in Vietnam has steadily increased over the past decades.
Marrying later in life is more observed in the Southeast region and other metropolitan areas. Recent studies have also shown that the average age of first spouses at HCMC has reached almost 30 years.
One of the most common reasons cited by single city dwellers for not settling down is the high cost of living.
Thanh Linh, 27, from Hanoi, says she is not considering getting married because she does not feel financially ready for it.
“I think both men and women should achieve financial independence before marriage,” she says, explaining that she believes most divorce cases in Vietnam are the result of disputes over financial matters.
“I told my father that I would only marry when I had 6 billion VND ($250,000) in my bank account,” she says. “This amount is for hospitalization expenses and potential school fees for my children.”
Due to her reasoning, she had many arguments with her father.
“Every time I say it, when my dad urges me to get married, and then we argue,” she says. “I’m really tired of this.”
Similarly, Ngoc Chien, 30, from Hanoi’s neighboring Vinh Phuc province, says he is not even able to date, let alone marry, as he spends the majority of his time work to improve their financial capacity.
“I want to work hard when I’m still young,” he says. “If I can’t earn as much as my friends, I want to at least get half of what they have.”
For this reason, he already foresees the future if he enters into a romantic relationship.
“Couples date on holidays or on special anniversaries,” he says. “But I will still be busy working on those days.”
However, there is evidence that getting married later in life is not necessarily a negative thing.
According to Anh, many people often manage to stabilize their mindset, career, financial capabilities and knowledge later in life. So getting married at the corresponding phase of life means they’ll be better able to think deeply about their choices and be less likely to make bad decisions.
But a late marriage also has its drawbacks.
Biologically speaking, people over the age of 35, especially women, are susceptible to physical and mental problems. The older a woman gets, the more likely she is to have a difficult birth or disabled offspring.
This explains the anxiety of many parents when their children do not consider marriage after reaching a certain age.
To resolve this conflict of perspectives, psychologist Nguyen Thi Tam suggests that the two sides sit down and exchange their views.
According to the specialist, children must clearly demonstrate to their parents their thoughts and plans for their future. During this time, parents would be better off advising or guiding their children instead of trying to force them to behave in a certain way.
“It would be better if parents could show they respect their children’s thoughts while explaining their own reasoning,” she says.
Even if the two camps manage or fail to overcome their discord, the younger generation finds it difficult to compromise.
“We only have one time to live,” says Thuan. “So I want to fulfill my desires instead of meeting the needs and benefits of others.”