Vietnam's New Generation
An Interview with 24-year old photographer, Pham Ba
On the exciting changes in Vietnam today
On going out
On the Generation Gap
Ambassador Peterson on Vietnam's youth
Members of Vietnam's
"New Generation" can be described by one word: driven. They
sport the latest fashions, cruise
the streets (QuickTime 1.33Mb) on motorbikes and chat on mobile phones.
And, for better or worse, "MTV" now has faithful viewers in
Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. But this "New Generation" is faced
with many dilemmas along the way. How do its members balance family traditions
and duties with the pursuit of their own dreams and goals?
Ba Hung, a 24 year-old photographer and one of the "New Generation,"
grew up in the 1980's when scarce food supplies were rationed. Now, foreign
investment and relaxed governmental control have brought new opportunities.
Hung's views are indicative of those held by many his age.
Goods weren't the only
thing to pour into Vietnam. Modern western culture was devoured right along
with the bread, meat and milk that were suddenly so available. "Nguoi
Dep" (meaning "Beautiful Person") is one of Vietnam's many
fashion magazines that young women study like a textbook. And rock 'n roll
has staked its claim on yet another population, as young men in karaoke
bars sing along with anyone from John Lennon to Puff Daddy.
the exciting changes:
"(In the 80's) people
just talked about how to get enough food to eat and clothes to wear.
But now people are talking about how to do business, how to build a
nice house and things like that. Everything changed very fast."
"We like rock, pop, even
jazz and blues. After '86, the 'modern' western music came and everything
changed. I love the Beatles. That's the best band ever! And the music
of Vietnam has also changed. In the past few years Vietnamese singers
have become very good. Now people talk about a musical industry in Vietnam."
people also enjoy more free time than their parents did. Cafes aren't
just a hangout, they're a way of life. There are even a few discos in
Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City that attract the more daring crowd.
The Generation Gap
"Almost every night we'll call each
other on our mobile phones and arrange to meet at a cafe or karaoke
bar for a drink. I like to go to discos but not everyone feels comfortable
with them or can afford them as they're quite expensive. In the South
they already know about the nightclub culture. In Hanoi it's still fairly
new and people are just starting to go to discos."
Unlike their parents who fear change, the youth demand it. They're savvy
and aggressive, handing out business cards like flyers. It's a huge change
from the past, when being an entrepreneur was frowned upon by the
government. With 80% of the population under 40, it's clear that "change"
is not a question of if, but when.
But despite all the rapid
change, tradition is still a powerful force in every family.
the Generation Gap:
"Power is slowly changing hands because
my generation understands things that my parents' generation didn't
have the chance to. Before, there was no choice for information and
no one had a chance to be different or change. Now we have magazines,
television and the Internet and we can choose what information we want.
We're allowed to be different from each other and we're more open."
every meal, my parents set out a bowl of rice for my uncle who is an
MIA of the American war. They also make offerings to him and other deceased
relatives at our family altar. When my parents die, I'll take over and
do the same for them as well."
No wedding is planned
without a fortune teller's advice. Hung's sister and her fiancé
met with one to find out the best date and time to ensure a successful
traditions are being mixed with western practices as young people accept
Western views of beauty, fashion and what's "cool."
"'When should we get married?' they asked. The fortune teller asked
them for their birthdates including the exact day and time of birth.
Using very complicated calculations he told her the wedding cannot happen
before 3 p.m. but the parents of the groom could only stay at our house
for one hour. If they stayed past 5p.m it would bring bad fortune."
Above all, the most profound
change is the New Generation's awareness of new opportunities and its drive
to seize them. The older generations know that for better or worse, the
New Generation will be leading Vietnam in the coming years. Many, including
those in the international community, see this generation as a beacon of
hope that will lead Vietnam to more prosperous times.
bridal gowns are very expensive in Vietnam. Usually, people just rent
them. I told my sister I would buy her a beautiful traditional Vietnamese
dress (ao dai) that she could keep for all her life. But her friends
told her, 'no, you need to wear a western wedding gown. That's what
everybody does now. It's normal."
QuickTime Movie: Night
Peterson on Vietnam's youth:
"When you ride a bike around Vietnam you
can't be struck by anything more than the fact that the youth is just
so fantastic.They're hungry to learn what's going on in the world and
what their opportunities are.They want a better quality of life, they
want to have some fun, they want to make money, they want to have a
great education and they want to have kids that have a great future.
It's very inspiring."