This content is also available in: Vietnamese

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]o better understand the differences in culture, it is important to know that prior to modern society, the North American and Vietnamese family structure were not vastly different. The father acted as the quintessential patriarch and “bread-winner” of the family. The mother’s role was care-giver and also the primary person responsible for household duties and chores.  Obedience was imparted upon children, and as the saying goes, they were taught to be “seen and not heard.” Children questioning authority was not tolerated.

In the 1960’s-1970’s, women across America joined the workforce, contributing to almost half of the increase in labour. While this radical change was not widely accepted at the time, over the past 50 plus years, it has now become the norm. Furthermore, many women have taken over the role of “bread-winner” allowing for the men to become “stay-at-home” dads or caregivers taking over the family household duties. Children are now taught to speak their mind, ask questions and find their voice.

Here is where the difference in culture begins to take shift. A few differences resulting in complications upon family hierarchy to new immigrants in Canada include the altered views on education, the family unit and ideas on caring for the elderly.

[quote_right]Each culture has its own unique hierarchy, and understanding both cultures will help greatly in the transitional and assimilation process.[/quote_right]

Education

Strong emphasis is placed on higher education in the Asian culture. It is believed that a higher education will translate to a better career and a greater salary, thus allowing one to take care of themselves, their family and their parents. For most cases in the Asian culture, parents will fund their children’s education. The children in return, are expected to study hard in school, maintain high grades and obtain a successful career in traditional, high-paying industries such as medicine, law and technology.

In Canadian culture, children are encouraged to pursue careers in areas in which they are passionate about. The parents do not expect their children to take care of them in their older years, therefore the same emphasis on a high-paying career is not as evident in the Canadian culture. Although the parents may also fund their children’s education, the expectation is for their children to do well in a career of their choosing, so that they can fend for themselves as they get older.

Family Unit

For the Vietnamese, family is a deeply rooted culture, so much so that they do not address each other by their names, but rather by their kinship. For example, aunt, uncle, sister, brother are all titles used even amongst strangers. The society is very much a communal and family-oriented one. Therefore, it is common for an uncle or aunt of no blood relation to be included in a family household, and it is further common to have more than one generation living under the same roof.

More than one generation in a single household is rare in Canadian culture. Each family is responsible for their own direct family unit. The Canadian family culture is an adapted and independent one.

Caring For The Elderly

Since family has such a great emphasis on the Vietnamese culture, taking care of the elders is not only mandatory, it is considered by the Vietnamese an honor allowing the offspring an opportunity to repay parents for their years of caregiving. If they have a son, their son’s wife will assume the obligations to care for her in-laws as though they were her own. The daughter-in-law commonly takes on the role of caregiver to her in-laws in their elderly age. Consequently, if they have a daughter, she will leave her own parents to tend for her husband’s parents

In Canadian culture, most elderly parents enjoy their own freedom and do not live with their children. If they are in poor health, they (or their families) will arrange for them to live in a nursing home where medical professionals are available at all times to tend to the elder. Meanwhile, they are still able to maintain their own living space and freedom. It is not a sign that the family does not care, rather that the family realizes that medical attention is readily available, thus a viable option for both the elders and the family.