Xin Chao Television!

Street dining culture in Vietnam

Interviewing both my parents, who were originally from Vietnam; they hadn’t had much TV available as children due to the poor living conditions and were forced to work labour instead. TV wasn’t available for Dad until he was much older, in his early 30’s in which he spent wondering around the streets of Saigon. That’s where he witnessed most media, compared to watching TV at home. TV and radio were played at local restaurants on the side streets of Ho Chi Minh City where people passing by could glance at or watch if they dined in. It would play in the background while they ate or drank coffee and that’s where Dad experienced most TV viewership. In Vietnam there weren’t lots of TV channels. It wasn’t introduced till late 1960’s and from then only two TV channels were available. Vietnam and the United States had set the channels up during the Vietnam War with one in Vietnamese and the other in English. ‘VTV’ was the main broadcasting station and from what Dad watched, it was mostly Vietnamese soap operas, dramas and stand- up comedy plays. Television Dramas would later include music, dancing and musicals. It was all black and white and all very low quality. TVs were big as microwave ovens, like cubed boxes.

Television in Vietnam now, has also grown to have several channels including international channels and television shows in both English as well as Vietnamese dubbed.

I like to come home from work and sit down, watch TV while eating a hearty bowl of Pho to end my day.

Viewership was very limited for both my parents and TV and the use of media was specialised and seen as a very big privilege, even if they just came across it on the street. Later on, TV channels started to bring in international TV shows and incorporated it into Vietnamese versions. News coverage was available on TV, however most people preferred Newspaper for easy access and due to it being heavily relied on as print media to keep public informed rather than TV.

Moving to Australia, there was a bigger opportunity to watch television but the language barrier largely impacted. However, it was used mainly to waste time after work and help pick up and get used to English. He watched Australian reality television and soap operas but mainly kept the TV on for news updates in the background during family dinner. Even now, TV for mum and dad is kept on in the background whilst cooking and eating dinner in the dining room.

I can see a link between how they were used to watching TV in Vietnam while eating and having it in the background and how they’ve set up the TV in the dining room now. Even now, they don’t watch TV in the living room; but it is set up for ‘the kids’ but even so, we tend to watch television while dining compared to the living room; so you can say that their TV habits and practices have definitely rubbed on us.


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