Vietnamese Culture

Vietnamese Culture

One of the most densely populated countries in Southeast Asia, Vietnam has seen its share of political and military difficulties in the past. The impact of these rough passages is still present in society. Yet, Vietnamese culture is by no means sad or stuck in the memory of war. The country’s challenging past is the source of a culture so multifaceted and deep-rooted that the nuances are too numerous to be counted. To summarize its core, however, is more than necessary. In the fascinating culture of Vietnam, the sea is a trove of food and opportunity, the land is a giving spirit that watches over the nation, and resilience is the essence of life.

The most important values of Vietnamese culture are diligence, realism, and a strong sense of national identity. You will see Vietnamese people working day and night and rarely complaining, which is a sign of acceptance of a predetermined destiny as per the Buddhist philosophy. People live by the code of khiêm, an accord of modesty and self-control, that helps preserve harmony in the community. Classes have never been more obscure before in any other country—Vietnamese culture doesn’t leave room for segregation, but socioeconomic classes exist nevertheless as a result of rapid globalization.

The subtle expressions in Vietnamese culture will bring a tear to your eyes at times, and make your insides fill with excitement at other times. From the threats that Vietnamese identity has faced to exemplary cultural survival, Vietnam’s experiences will knock you off your feet.

Eating & Drinking

“The secret to Vietnam’s phenomenal cuisine is ying-yang. The philosophy of balance and two elements complementing each other is the heart of Vietnamese food culture.”

As in many Asian culinary traditions, Vietnamese cuisine is based on five fundamental tastes. In almost every quintessential dish, these five tastes complement each other in terms of color, acidity, and overall flavor. Fresh ingredients have been the staple for centuries, without giving much room for oil and dairy products. Sugars and gluten are also somewhat missing from the cuisine, which makes Vietnamese food one of the most healthy diets in the world. Above that, the subtle taste and lightness of it will give your tastebuds a feast. Influences from China, Laos, and France are present, adding valuable tastes to the wonderful food scene of Vietnamese culture.

The traditional dishes to try in Vietnam are mainly broths, soups, wraps, and rolls of stir-fried veggies. Food in Vietnam has intriguing textures and a carnival of different tastes. Soup-like dishes such as Mì Quảng and Phở feature sticky rice noodles and crackers, the favorite product of the country by all means, along with local vegetables. You will find them change shape and name as you travel from the north to the south. Spring rolls are another iconic food that makes perfect street bites, whether fried or boiled. A natural outcome of the country’s close relationship to the sea, fish stews, and seafood fries are popular. Street food is essential to Vietnamese culture. Never hesitate to try some local delicacies from traveling vendors or floating markets.

When it comes to drinks, Vietnam knows how to hail its myriad exotic fruits and iconic agricultural products. The most popular drinks to try in Vietnam are cool beverages made of sugar cane, fresh coconuts, dragonfruit and jackfruit, and artichoke. Above these, Vietnam is proud of its sticky rice wine, often taken in shots and guaranteed to give you a mood lift.

Unique Crafts & Shopping

If you are wondering how many types of markets could exist in a country, Vietnam has an answer for you. From floating to weekend and night to highlands, markets in this frenetic country are cultural symbols in themselves. Add in an exhilarating crafts scene, and you have yourself the ultimate shopping experience in Vietnam. Products made of local Do paper are perfect examples of Vietnamese folk art. Other iconic items are the Vietnamese conical hats handmade from straws and pottery. You will find them ranging in popularity as you travel across the diverse landscape of Vietnam.

When in Hoi An, go for an exquisite handmade leather bag or any other high-quality leather item you will find. The old quarter is lined with quaint shops, and the intoxicating smell of leather makes them easy to find. In Ho Chi Minh City, the main markets in Saigon Square are perfect for some tailor-made ao dais the national costumes of Vietnam made of glimmering fabrics with elaborate embroidery. Hanoi is most famous for silk lanterns, aside from more affordable paper and rattan ones. In Sapa, the crafts scene is all about the giving of the earth. A variety of brocades are meticulously handmade by local women, You may choose from a plethora of goods and textile types, including hemp, cotton, linen, and precious silk.

  • Takeaway: In the markets, you will rarely see the price listed on the items. This means you have to ask, and the amount you will hear is never the final price. Bargaining is essential to the market culture of Vietnam. If the vendor is not agreeing with your amount, say thank you and walk away. If they chase after you, it means the negotiants will definitely continue in your favor.

Religion & Etiquette

Vietnam is officially an atheist state, yet almost 20% of the population is religious. Buddhism is the dominant religion among these, followed by Roman Catholic or Protestant Churches. Local religious movements also have followers, although very few. What truly constitutes the religious character of Vietnam is folk religion. This has more to do with traditional worship than religious belief, combining ideologies and teachings of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. Worship of gods, spirits, and deities is not uncommon in society, especially in rural areas, where locals maintain traditional practices such as totemism, tattooing, and animism.

War is the most delicate issue in Vietnam you should avoid joking about or criticizing, no questions asked. Almost all the people you will contact have either been in the war or have a close relative who has. It is good to practice utmost caution when addressing the turbulent past of the country and its aftermath. Apart from this taboo subject, trust that Vietnamese people have a great sense of humor that can handle the right things. Also wise to avoid commenting on the North and South of the country, or any political tension surrounding the subject. Vietnamese culture and society draw heavily from Confucian ideology, which places great importance on life experience and knowledge. As a natural result, elder people are treated with care and respect, and so are academics and scholars.

You will hear ghost stories roaming the Vietnamese land. Ancestral beliefs and a well-established folklore culture are distinct elements of Vietnam, so prepare yourself for the supernatural. Try not to make cynical comments about the afterlife or the deceased. Keep in mind that it is forbidden for women to touch a Buddhist monk.

Festivals & Events

“Vietnam’s colors are best reflected in its incredible festivals, where the splendor of Vietnamese culture finds soul through traditional rituals, costumes, music, and dance.”

There is no better time than the festival season to plan a trip to brilliant Vietnam. Come celebrate the gods and the earth, some are tributes to holy sites and temples scattered all across the country. No matter which event you come across, they offer a fascinating glimpse into the characteristics that make Vietnamese culture so stimulating. More recent innovations in the festival scene are related to unification and independence, during which a solemn and more serious atmosphere prevails.

Vietnamese Lunar New Year is perhaps the most recognized celebration in the country. Locals celebrate the coming of spring by flocking to the streets, throwing traditional parties, and magnificent firework shows. Hanoi sees its most festive time in the winter season when the iconic Perfume Pagoda festival paints the city in a million colors and lights. Locals pray in the Huong Tich Cave for children, wealth, and happiness. It is not only a religious ritual but a celebration of the wonderous landscape of Vietnam. The music festival in Hue city is where you will find contemporary and traditional in a harmonious marriage. Less modern but equally captivating, Wandering Souls Day in Hue city is proof of how wondrous Vietnamese culture is. In July, locals gather to make offerings to feed the souls of the deceased that didn’t find peace and thought to be roaming the earth in this month. It is arguably one of the most cinematic scenes you will witness in Vietnam.

Vietnamese culture

Vietnam Food Guide

Check out our Vietnam Food Guide for the tasty local dishes and drinks you must try.

Vietnamese culture

Vietnam Travel Advice

Everything you need to know about traveling to Vietnam is in our Vietnam Travel Advice guide.

Vietnamese culture

Solo Travels

Are you traveling alone? Check out our Solo Travels page for detail.

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