Mutual-aid and friendly societies (MAFS) have provided people in many societies with ways to deal with the vagaries of life. Formed on a voluntary basis, MAFS offer social support, forge group connections, and in some cases even provide financial assistance on a structured reciprocal basis. MAFS have deep roots in Vietnam and have existed in a variety of arrangements, such as those based on shared native places, surnames, professions, schools, and recreational interests. This form of associational life continued to flourish in the mid-twentieth century. Relying on Vietnamese archival material, this paper will examine MAFS in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN). It will explore the meanings and impacts of these organizations for participants and for their society. What prompted ordinary people to organize and participate in voluntary groups? What does people’s associational life tell us about the RVN? Taking a cue from K. W. Taylor, I will pay close attention to the circumstances and time in which these associations operated in order to avoid imposing assumptions when delineating their meanings. My analysis will show that the MAFS of the RVN often embodied contradictions. They resisted binary labels, such as nationalist-communist, reactionary-revolutionary, traditional-modern—major categories associated with the scholarship on twentieth-century Vietnam. In short, the MAFS examined in this paper exhibit both defensive and progressive potentials, local and foreign influences, and conservative and radical tendencies.