Vietnam, "one of the world's five remaining communist-run states," truly has some quirks that BBC correspondant Bill Hayton puts into perspective:
1. It's impossible to say "I love you" in Vietnamese
It isn't because the Vietnamese are not passionate. Rather, there is no word for "I" or "you" in colloquial Vietnamese.
People address each other according to their relative ages: "anh" for older brother, "chi" for older sister, "em" for younger sibling and so on. This is why Vietnamese quickly ask strangers how old they are so that they can use the appropriate pronoun and treat them with the correct amount of respect.
So a typical declaration of love might be: "Older brother loves younger sister." If, however the woman was older, it would be: "Older sister loves younger brother." But it has to be said that women often prefer to be called "em", regardless of their age.
There are more than 40 different pronouns describing the relationships between individuals and groups of different ages and positions. Most sound a lot better in Vietnamese than in English.
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