In Vietnam, it’s common to be asked your age. Though Westerners may be shocked by this at first, it is an important question to choose the correct way to address someone for example – chị for a woman a little older than you or em for a woman a bit younger.
But before you go about answering that question, there are two important differences to counting age in Vietnam.
1. Your age is based on the year you were born, and changes at new year.
So say you’re 31 and living in Vietnam over new year. From the first day of Tết, you now give your age as 32. However…
2. At birth you start counting from 1.
So let’s say you were born in September 1990, you’d be 22 right now and you’d turn 23 next month. But in Vietnamese years, you’d have been 24 years old since Tết 2013.
So in the first example, you’d actually be 32 going on 33 in Vietnamese years. Sorry about that!
Birthdays are not usually celebrated in Vietnam. While children do receive lì xì (lucky money) at Tết, my students were quick to tell me this isn’t in celebration of their increase in age per se.
As Vietnam is modernising some people in the cities are adapting the Western concept of age, or least birthday celebrations, but whenever I’m asked “bao nhiều tuổi?”, I always give my Vietnamese age.
Over to you: Bạn bao nhiều tuổi? 😉
Photo credit: ngould