Editor's note: CNET editor and Crave contributor Dong Ngo is spending several weeks in his homeland of Vietnam and will file occasional dispatches chronicling his adventures. To read stories from Dong's last visit, in December, click here.
HANOI, Vietnam--I'm not a big fan of holidays. I don't mean the time off, of course, but the mass consumption that generally accompanies them.
For this reason, I've been sort of secretly happy that my parents live in Vietnam. This means that for years I haven't had to pay attention to Mother's Day or Father's Day. The Vietnamese, one would think, have no reason to even be aware of these American days. And for a long time, they weren't.
Thus, it was a revelation to me the other day, during a casual conversation at Hanoi's Noi Bai International Airport, when a trendy-looking and friendly Vietnamese girl asked me if I had done anything for Father's Day.
Learning where I stand on the issue, the girl, Lan, expressed surprise. "I bought my dad a Gillette shaving set," she shared, "and he was very happy. You should have done something! I bought my mom a nice bouquet for Mother's Day a month ago, too."
I was speechless. I live in America and my American friends have hardly ever asked me the same question. As it turned out, over the years I was away in America, American pop culture, via TV and the Internet, has sneaked into my home country in a big way.
Apparently, a month ago, for the first time, Mother's Day was a big event in Vietnam. Newspapers talked about it, TV talked about it, teenagers blogged and made YouTube videos about it, and people went out to buy flowers and presents for moms.
The day was hyped so much some people even felt guilty because they hadn't known about it in previous years. Yet at the same time, most didn't know the origin of it. "I had never heard of it and all of a sudden everywhere people started talking about it," Lan told me honestly. "But I think it's meaningful to honor your parents. Don't you think?"
Though it might have seemed "all of a sudden," the introduction of Mother's Day marked a very deliberate attempt by businesses here to sell products.… Read more