Do you prefer rice or noodles? Sometimes the question is legitimate, like when you are sitting in a restaurant ready to order. But most of the time, it’s just another Vietnamese running gag. “Com”, is ‘rice’, as you will no doubt learn very quickly. But it is also used to refer to your wife (or regular partner in Western cultures). Married men always compare their wives’ legs as short as a rice seed. Pho is famous Vietnam ‘noodle soup’, but in this context, when opposed to rice, it usually refers to a lover (or mistress) because Pho has very long noodles like the long legs of beautiful models or chicks. Moreover, rice is the common food in everyday meals like married men have to meet their wives every day while they sometimes eat Pho mostly for breakfasts like the few times these men meet the beautiful girls. Of course, any stated preference will be interpreted as ‘wife’ or ‘lover’ and will get your Vietnamese friends laughing. After they recover from their hysteria, they will usually try and explain the inside Joke and will conclude with the common Vietnamese answer for married men. Literally translated, it goes something like: “In the morning I take my wife (rice) to eat noodles. At noon, I take my lover (noodles) to eat rice. At night, rice and noodles go back to their respective houses.”
However, this joke has a deep meaning. Although they have to eat rice day by day, men can live without rice. Although Pho is delicious, there are other breakfasts for them to choose. Even they have breakfasts made by their wives. This implies the importance of the wife in the family.