It’s 7.30pm on Saturday. Like any other Saturday, all family members of retiree Le Thi Duc gather around a large table in the living room in downtown Ha Noi. They have come to enjoy dinner together, a weekly ritual the entire family attends.
“Saturday dinner is our only meeting gathering all the family,” says Duc.
“Even though we live in the same house, we rarely eat together because during the week, my son and his wife are busy at work till late. Their children are absent from dinner several nights for their extra classes.”
The Saturday meal often consists of the family’s favourite foods. The two children provide entertainment, telling stories about their teachers and friends or funny situations at the office where Duc’s son and daughter-in-law work.
Occasionally, Duc and her husband laugh at the funny anecdotes, while they serve more food to the children and their parents.
Successful business man Nguyen Duc Kien has a different approach to bringing his family together on the weekend. Each Sunday, his family tries a different restaurant downtown.
“We have been busy throughout the week,” he said. “My two sons often eat fast-food.
“I take all my family to a restaurant to enjoy good food while my wife is also free from cooking.”
Kien’s novel approach is part of a growing trend in big cities around the country. With the pace of city life and work commitments dragging down the number of family meals taking place at home, more families are opting to meet at restaurants.
A survey by the Ha Noi-based Institute for Gender and Development conducted in Ha Noi, HCM City, Da Nang, Nam Dinh and Dong Nai last year focused on charting the number of families having meals at home together.
Out of the 1,500 participants sampled across a wide range of ages and backgrounds, 21.3 per cent said they only had meals with their families on the weekend or on national holidays. Around 9.8 per cent said they regularly had meals together while 13.5 per cent said they never had dinners with the entire family present.
Researcher Le Thi Quy, director of the institute, told Viet Nam News that family meals were important to family life and allowed family members to discuss their feelings, keep their families informed and seek advice.
“The trend that people in urban area eat less and less with their family members due to different work schedules is inevitable in this period of development,” she said.
“Each family should find out the best way to stay in touch, express their love and care.”
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has chosen “A Warm Love Family Meal” as the theme for this year’s Family Day, to be celebrated this Saturday (June 28). As part of the theme, all 30 million households throughout the country are being encouraged to host a family dinner on the day.
“We hope to set up a movement of family members having meal together more often so that all family members share their feelings and care for one another,” said Tran Tuyet Anh, head of the ministry’s Family Department that has organised a range of activities for the day.
“Family meals are an important time to nurture and educate children, take care of elders and strengthen bonds.”