Expats eager to enjoy Tet in Vietnam

Wednesday, 2021-02-17 11:22:44
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Ms. Nadine (centre, in red ao dai) with her two children and friends participating in cultural activities in Hoi An. (Photo: NDO/Thanh Tam)
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NDO – Many foreigners have chosen to live and work in Vietnam because of their love for this country. They have been spending the Vietnamese traditional Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday in their second homeland with great emotion and hopes for a peaceful new year.

Eager to welcome a meaningful Tet

Ms. Nadine Ziegeldorf, 48, is from Australia and has lived with her two daughters in Hoi An since 2009. Like every year, she and her children participate in Tet activities in Vietnam, as they go to local Tet markets together to buy flowers, confectionery, jam and some home decorations. This year, other than that, her family met with a number of foreign friends and locals in Hoi An to make banh chung (square sticky rice cake) – a traditional cake during Tet, in addition to preparing Tat Nien (year-end) worshiping trays to enjoy the last meal of the year with family members and friends. The Tet markets also make her equally excited because many Vietnamese customs here amuse her.

“On the last day of the year in my country, we celebrate the new year with a celebration and a party. Tet in Vietnam for families is very special, as it is an opportunity to gather family members, especially children who have lived and worked in different regions across the country, happily reuniting with their parents. In addition, I also like the culture of lucky money here. That is the respect children hold for their seniors and represents the good fortune of the new year," said Nadine.

Nadine, who works in the tourism industry, quickly fell in love with Vietnam and decided it would become her second home. She has spent many Tet holidays in Vietnam, about 15. She has also celebrated Tet in many different cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Hoi An.

Nadine and her friend experience Vietnamese calligraphy culture. (Photo: NDO/Thanh Tam)

This year, due to the COVID-19 epidemic, she and her daughters have not been able to visit their family in Australia. However, Nadine feels fortunate that in Vietnam the epidemic has been well controlled. Talking about her wish for a new year, she smiled: “For 2021, we look forward to continuing to maintain the health and safety of the community in Vietnam and beyond. We are very fortunate to have been here during COVID-19 and hope that the rest of the world can enjoy the freedom, security and happiness we have. Hopefully the epidemic will be controlled worldwide so that we can also reunite with our family.”

Like Nadine, Mr. Stacky Stacpoole, 60, temporarily residing in Da Nang, from Victoria (Australia) also celebrated Tet this year in Vietnam as he could not return to his homeland. After retiring, he came to Vietnam via an invitation from friends in Australia five years ago. Following initial concerns about a foreign and unfamiliar country, the Vietnamese have broken all of these negative thoughts. The beautiful country, the fresh air, the growing economy and the friendly Vietnamese people made him decide to choose this place to enjoy his old age. He has volunteered for English-speaking clubs and learning centres across Da Nang.

Having spent four Tet holidays in Vietnam, Mr. Stacpoole is very interested in many meaningful cultures and customs. One example is the custom of inviting guests to enjoy Tet meals with family members when they come to celebrate Tet. It’s informal but also very solemn. He also likes the Vietnamese custom of giving lucky money to wish for good fortune in the upcoming new year. He has also joined his friends in Hoi An to release flower lanterns at the beginning of the year. People say it is to drop their wishes into a new year.

“Before Tet or during Tet days, Vietnamese people visit their ancestors’ tombs and clean the gravesites as an act of remembrance for the deceased and as a recognition of their roots. It is a very meaningful custom and one that has left a deep impression on me," Stacpoole said.

Stacpoole (second from left) with his students in an English class. (Photo: NDO/Thanh Tam)

This year, he was invited by the family of a Vietnamese friend to celebrate Tet at their home, an invitation he was very eager to accept. This was an opportunity for him to welcome a full Tet like a true Vietnamese person. “My wish to everyone in the new year is good health and happiness. Fortunately, when I am in Vietnam, I always have both of those things,” he said.

Lao and Cambodian students welcome Vietnamese Tet

As with every year, this is also a time when many Lao and Cambodian students from the University of Da Nang’s Campus in Kon Tum Province have a break from school and return to their home countries. This year, the complicated developments of COVID-19 prevented them from doing so. The international students saw it as an opportunity to experience the atmosphere of Tet in Vietnam.

Present at the university when the school was giving Tet gifts and organising Tet activities for international students from Laos and Cambodia, they could feel the jubilant Tet atmosphere, as well as the sense of expectation and eagerness for the coming new year.

Thai Kevmonirath, 24, a fourth year student, said that after hearing the news he could not return to his home country due to COVID-19, he feel a little sad and homesick. However, the Cambodian national said this was also an opportunity for him to experience and learn about the Vietnamese Tet.

“At first when I heard the news, I was a bit sad because I haven't been home for nearly a year. I miss my family and relatives. However, I have heard from Vietnamese friends that Tet here is great fun, so I am excited to join the Vietnamese Tet celebrations. I also called to inform my family and my parents encouraged me to stay healthy, study well and not forget my mission of preventing and controlling the epidemic”, shared Kevmonirath.

Like Kevmonirath, many other international students are also experiencing the Vietnamese Tet atmosphere for the first time. Lao national Phoutpasert, 20, a second year student, said that, during the Tet holiday this year, to ensure the prevention and control of COVD-19, the university did not allow students to go outside the boundaries of Kon Tum City. Therefore, Kevmonirath decided to visit the homes of some Vietnamese friends in Kon Tum to enjoy a complete Vietnamese Tet atmosphere.

International students eager to enjoy Vietnamese traditional Tet together. (Photo: NDO/Hoang Loc)

First year student Sam Rothkumthea, 19, a Lao national, has never celebrated Vietnamese Tet, but through Vietnamese friends, Rothkumthea feels very excited. “Tet in Vietnam, as far as I know, is an opportunity for families to reunite. Everyone gets together to clean and decorate their houses beautifully and welcome the good things in the new year. This is very similar to the traditional New Year of Laos”, said Rothkumthea.

Panit Thammavongsa, 22, a Lao national and third year student, was also impressed by Vietnamese Tet: “Going out during Tet in Vietnam, I see all the streets in the city become very exciting and bustling. I was led by my friends to see the spring flower markets sparkling with various colours. Through this introduction, I look forward to the New Year's Eve atmosphere most. At that time, everyone will focus on welcoming the transition between the old and the new year, while watching fireworks in the sky. In particular, I like the custom of li xi (giving lucky money) of the Vietnamese people and the wishes and nice words they use to welcome a new year full of good health, peace, favourable work and good study. Hopefully this year we will receive a lot of lucky money.”

Ms. Nguyen To Nhu, Deputy Director of the University of Da Nang’s Campus in Kon Tum, said that the whole school has a total of 236 Lao and Cambodian international students, including 17 Cambodian and 219 Lao.

In order to encourage and support international students in Vietnam during this Tet holiday, the school has also presented many Tet gifts, along with necessities for them to celebrate the spring festival. In addition, during the holiday period, the university’s canteen is closed, shops and cafes outside are also often closed, so the school opened the canteen to let foreign students to cook during the Tet break.

“We also encourage foreign students during the Vietnamese Tet holiday to visit relics, landscapes, events and festivals to learn about Vietnamese customs and culture, or visit the houses of their Vietnamese friends to celebrate Tet. However, the school also fully understands that our students, while joining Tet activities, must strictly obey the regulations of the Ministry of Health of Vietnam on COVID-19 prevention under the 5K Message (in Vietnamese) Khau trang (facemask) - Khu khuan (disinfection) - Khoang cach (distance) - Khong tu tap (no gathering) - Khai bao y te (health declaration),” Ms. Nhu added.

Nadine, Stacpoole and many other foreigners have chosen Vietnam as their workplace or second home because the country and its people have brought them friendliness, hospitality and a safe environment. In union with the Vietnamese people participating in Tet activities, everyone wishes for a more peaceful, more stable year, spreading the nation’s tradition of solidarity to all international friends.