Whether it’s a 9-year-old girl giving a grown woman performance, or an amazing dance routine, talent shows are a mainstay of family-friendly entertainment in Vietnam. The kids here know all the winners of shows like The Voice, Asia’s Got Talent and Vietnam Idol. While a ticket to a big name concert is unrealistic for a lot of families, the living room theater is much more accommodating — with tasty snacks as well.
This Japanese comic, centered around a robotic cat from the future helping a bullied preteen boy, has shown some impressive longevity in Vietnam. It was first published in 1992. Today, Doraemon brings up nostalgia for many Vietnamese parents, which is why they’ll gladly buy their kids anything Doraemon related.
While League of Legends, FIFA and Battlefield dominate among older kids, younger kids love to play games on their tablets and mobiles. Kids in Vietnam love RPGs and strategy games, especially those where they build little villages and defend their castle walls from pixelated knights — Clash of Clans on mobile, and Minecraft on PC.
Because his humor doesn’t need to be translated, Mr. Bean is popular around the world. For Vietnamese parents, his innocent gags and ridiculous situations are about as harmless as TV can get. He even has a cartoon series in Vietnam, which kids here love.
You often see families out playing badminton in the alley in Vietnam. It’s the kind of sport that takes seconds of prep. It’s also inclusive, since the point for most families is to rally, not to embarrass your kid with a massive overhead spike. Anytime you ask kids what their favorite hobbies are in Vietnam, badminton is near the top.
Big surprise, right? Kids around the world love Harry Potter, so of course Vietnamese kids do as well. Yet, somehow, it almost seems like it’s on a different scale here. You see kids reading their huge Harry Potter books on motorbikes, pushing through rush hour traffic. At school, during breaks, the play area is littered with kids reading their books. Since most schools have banned cell phones, Harry Potter is an approved way for kids to zone out and enjoy themselves.
Let’s not kid ourselves; Vietnam is hot. While pools are a luxury, nothing beats the humid daytime heat like a dip into any kind of water — whether it’s a pool with marked lanes, or a bend in a mountain river. Vietnam is also a wet country, so swimming is an important skill to have. It’s a win-win: The parent worries less about their child drowning, and the kid gets to spend time in a pool.
When the national team does well, the country goes into mass hysteria, with massive parties and exuberant displays of patriotism — though most Vietnamese just laugh and shrug when you ask about the national team. But the real enthusiasm is for European football clubs: Barcelona FC, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Arsenal, Bayern Munich and so on. In any group of boys, you’ll see at least a few jerseys. The games are big events here, and the whole family watches.
In just about every school in the country, you’ll see kids racing the clock — or each other — to finish these puzzles. By the time they’re teenagers, they graduate to more advanced puzzles, like spheres and other odd shapes.
In any school yard, you’ll see a circle of kids trying to keep something up in the air — a shuttlecock made with a weighted disc with feathers. The point is to keep it in the air with as much style as possible. You often see adults playing this game in parks. When you do see it, you should stop and watch them. They’re crazy good.
Horror movies are such a polarizing thing in Vietnam. So many kids here love to challenge their friends and classmates to try and watch the scariest movies on YouTube. Every time, it’s just shrieking and covered eyes — but they can’t stop watching. Because of ancestral beliefs in Vietnam, ghosts and spirits are not fiction. To kids, characters such as Slender Man are horrifying because they might be real.