Stereotypical portrayals of the Hmong in Vietnam emphasize their apparently exotic customs related to sexual relationships and marriage and their alleged backwardness and resistance to change. Yet their history shows their ability to respond to changing socioeconomic contexts. This study details practices and aspirations concerning love, marriage and education among different generations of White Hmong women in the northern mountains of Vietnam, with particular attention to the perspectives of young women.
We found a diversity of ideas and identified certain rapidly changing practices regarding marriage. Forced marriage through ‘wife-snatching’ was reported to have always been rare and its meaning and prevalence has seemingly been misunderstood by outsiders. Bride price payment was reported to be an important element of most Hmong marriages. Hmong girls studying at high school and secondary level were found to have particular aspirations pertaining to their marriage, education and career, but lacked confidence in their abilities to create their desired future.
Findings also reveal how patrilocal residence following marriage places young women under the strict control of their husbands and parents-in-law, which is likely to contribute to their lack of self-esteem and sense of autonomy.