“Cạo gió”, a kind of old folk remedy by Vietnamese

I remember well the story that my grandmother told me on the occasion of her return to Vietnam. This story is an example of culture norms and culture cognition.

“Cạo gió”, a kind of old folk remedy, is extremely common in Vietnam and for overseas Vietnamese. Vietnamese believe that “cạo gió” really works for those who have a cold. Whenever Vietnamese people have common signs and symptoms of the cold, they ask other people (friends or relatives) to place a spoon edge or coin against the pre-oiled skin surface, to press down firmly, and then to move down the muscles. That causes extravasation of blood from the peripheral and may result in subcutaneous blemishing, which usually takes 2-4 days to fade. Patients typically feel immediate sense of relief and change.
The true story below happened in a family in the USA in 1975 when the US stopped Vietnam War. The family immigrated to the US for political reasons. One day the five year old son in the family was sick, his father used the remedy mentioned above instead of taking the son to a doctor. As soon as the son’s health was not better, the son was taken to the hospital. Unluckily the son died a few days later. Police found out the marks on the skin looking painful. As a result, the father was put in prison because he was accused of killing his son. The father was so sad and he gallowed himself and died in prison.
Culture norms and Cognition
“Cạo gió” is an acceptable standard of behavior that is shared in Vietnamese community. It is noted that mass Vietnamese immigrant to the US started after 1975 after the end of Vietnam War. Early immigrants were refugee boat people. The number of Vietnamese in early days was insignificant. “Cao gió” was strange to Western culture.
It is clear that Vietnamese and Americans gave different explanations due to their culture in those days. The father wanted to help the son in the practice of “cạo gió”. However, the evidence of red marks on the son’ skin proved the father’s painful sexual satisfaction in Western culture.

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