Last Updated: January 23,2020

Vietnamese Culture

Vietnamese culture is mysterious to most of Westerners. Today, more and more people are going to Vietnam for travelling and doing business, so it is necessary to learn about Vietnamese culture. Vietnamese culture is fascinating and interesting and we hope you can get some useful information about culture, custom and traditions of Vietnam through our introduction. 

The Vietnamese culture is heavily influenced by the Chinese culture in ancient time and values like Confucianism teachings. After the 10th century, Vietnam expanded southwards which brought the elements of Khmer and Champa cultures into the Vietnamese culture. Later, Vietnam was ruled by French colonial, Western culture was introduced to the country and Latin alphabet was adopted, Catholicism was spread in the country. Once the communist party came to power, the culture exchanges with Western civilization was restricted, instead, the cultural exchanges with other communist nations like Soviet Union, Cuba and other was encouraged. Despite the changes and developments over the years, some permanent elements of Vietnamese culture like family values respects, veneration of the ancestors and devotion of study remained the same. 

Vietnamese religions 

Vietnam has 11 recognized religions, in which Buddhism is the dominating religion with over half of the population are Buddhists. Because of the affection of Chinese, Confucianism is very popular in Vietnam, however it is not considered as a religion but a way of life. The teachings have encouraged the fond of learning, love for the family and society. Besides, ancestor worship is one of important tradition of Vietnamese. Shrine and altar can be found in every house, even for people with Catholics beliefs as long as there are no superstitious practices. Memorial ceremony for death held in every family every year with appropriate offerings. Some wedding ceremonies also take place of the altar to receive blessing and approval. 

Vietnamese Buddhism

Superstition

In many parts of Vietnam, people there believe superstition rather than science and their philosophies for life generally rely on the words or emotions of their forefathers. For example, duck eggs indicate good luck, however if you eat the duck eggs in odd numbers then the back luck will come to you. There are many years in their twelve – year lunar calendar considered incompatible and if a Vietnamese man married a woman born in an incompatible year with him it would break the family ties with his parents and relatives. 

Vietnamese traditional clothing

The traditional clothing of the Vietnamese people changed significantly from time to time and the nowadays 'Ao Dai' is the featured Vietnamese dress for women which is a tight-fitting silk tunic commonly made of silk or cotton. It was briefly banned following the fall of Saigon, but nowadays most of them are made in white for schoolgirls and is designed to accentuate womanly curves whilst covering the whole body. The national dress for men is similar, but not tight-fitting and it is shorter in length.   

Vietnamese Ao Dai

Vietnamese festivals

Vietnamese celebrate both traditional festivals and those adopted from other cultures with great glory and pomp. The most important Vietnamese festivals are Vietnamese New Year, Mid-autumn lantern festival and Buddha's Birthday. Vietnamese New Year, called 'Tet' meaning 'festival of first day', is the lunar New Year and the biggest festival in Vietnam. Vietnamese people celebrate it for a week to honour it. During the annual Mid-autumn festival, lanterns are lit all over the city of Hoi An. Most of Vietnamese festivals involve offerings to the spirit world. They celebrate life and commemorate the dead, so weddings and funerals in Vietnam are both joyous occasions, sometimes, you might not very clear which one you are watching. 

Vietnamese of cuisine 

Vietnamese cuisine is very popular around the world. There are lots of types of noodles and noodle soup and pho is the most popular one among them. Vietnamese cuisine is great diversity from north to south which can be classified into three primary categories: the north, south and central regions. Less use of oil and greater use of vegetable are the features of Vietnamese cuisine. The flavors of Vietnamese food range from spicy, sour to sweet. 

Vietnamese Pho

Vietnamese art and literature 

Vietnamese art is obviously influenced by Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. French influence has also been reflected in art presentations in recent history. Silk painting is quite famous in Vietnam and involves the liberal use of colors. Calligraphy is also a very popular art in Vietnam. During the period of Vietnamese New Year, people like to visit the erudite scholar or the teachers in the village to obtain calligraphy hangings for their houses. Wood-block print is another feature of Vietnamese art. Water puppetry is an old performing inherited for over a thousand years.

Literature in Vietnam is divided into folk literature and written literature and both play the very important roles. Folk literature features folk legends, fairytales, humorous stories and epic poems. Written literature was written in the Cham and Nom characters in the old days and focused on prose and poetry. Nowadays, it is mostly written in Vietnamese language including dramas, short stories and novels, etc. 

Martial arts in Vietnam 

Vietnamese martial arts is heavily influenced by Chinese martial arts and well-developed. The Vietnamese martial arts philosophy guides the martial arts practice in the country. It is associated with intense spirituality because of its close association with Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. A motion called scissor kick is the most famous movement Vietnamese martial arts. In the recent years, Vietnamese martial arts develop very quickly and many schools of this martial art were established in many parts of the world, although it is less popular than Chinese Kong Ku or Japanese counterparts. 

Vietnamese family values

It is very common that Vietnamese people live in a big family of three or even four generations so Vietnamese children are taught to pay respect to older generations by greeting and use of language. When the children in the family grow up, they have the responsibility to taking care of their parents and grandparents even though they have their own families. Sending old parents to nursing house is not common in Vietnamese culture. Besides, parents always prioritize their kids' study and expect them to have good results in school. When children have children, parents are supposed to take care of their grandchildren when their children go to work. 

Vietnamese communication culture

The ways of communication in Vietnam are quite different from those in Western countries. When you are talking with Vietnamese people, many things are not said verbally but rather implied between the lines or through non-verbal gestures. When a Vietnamese receive an invitation but he does not want to attend, he usually not refuses face to face, instead, he will find an excuse not to attend later. A smile of Vietnamese could have lots of meanings like happiness, greetings, apology, acceptance and approval. 

In the Vietnamese body language, a nod means 'yes', shaking head means 'no'. A 'V' sign with two fingers means 'hello' not 'Victory'; 'thumbs up' means well down or good. 

Vietnamese culture dos

  • Dress appropriately. For example, when going to religious places like temples or pagodas, pants are required at least at knee length. 

  • When you are invited to houses and parties, remember to bring gifts. Wine, beers or fruits, flowers (except Marigold) are the common gifts. The colors of the presents also important. White and black only can be used on funeral occasions, while bright colors are used to wish someone good luck. 

  • Greet the elders first when you are invited to visit a Vietnamese family and say goodbye to notice upon leaving. 

  • Before enter a house, ask whether you need to take off your shoes or not as there are houses where people will walk with their home slippers or walk bare feet. 

  • Use both hands to receive from the elder, which shows gratitude and respect to them. 

  • Sit after the elder sit at the place you are shown to. 

  • Hold your bowl with your hands while eating. 

  • Try your best to finish your food. It is not polite to leave food behind and it is considered a waste. 

  • Cover your mouth when using a toothpick. 

Vietnamese culture don'ts 

  • Don't point your finger at someone. It is regarded rude and disrespectful. If you need address someone, use your hand. 

  • Don't talk with others with food in your mouth. 

  • Don't stick your chopsticks straightly in the bowl because it looks like burning incense a censer for dead. Put them on the table or horizontally on the bowl if you want to put them down.

  • Don't lose your temper in public. Vietnamese people have a high face value, so arguing in the public is regarding losing faces. 

  • Don't wear too much jewelry. You would be seen as a showoff, and in the meanwhile, you expose yourself to more danger such as being robbed. 

  • Don't show affection in public. Kissing and cuddling are restricted and the acceptable physical contacts in public areas are nodding, hand shaking, and hugs (very close relationship). Make sure before you want to give a hug to other people, especially to the opposite sex.

Vietnamese cultural symbols 

  • Important symbols representing Vietnamese culture include:

  • Dragon: symbolized prosperity, strength and royalty. 

  • Lotus: symbolized simple and pure beauty.

  • Turtle: symbolized a mysterious power. 

Besides, Buffalo had seen chosen to be the mascot of the 2003 SEA games because it represents Vietnamese agriculture and strength.  

Visit Vietnam with UME Travel 

Millions of visitors come to Vietnam every year. They are attracted by its exotic culture, French-colonial building, mouthwatering cuisine, boutique café, and lively local markets. 

Most of the them spend 9 days in exploring the country. Usually they start in Hanoi, and end in Ho Chi Minh City. During their stay, they also visit Halong Bay, Hoi An, and Mekong Delta. 

UME Travel would cherish the opportunity to help you design your unique trip to Vietnam. Our professional trip advisors know Vietnam very well and they will assist you in selecting assist you in selecting destinations, activities and accommodations that suit you best. 

Essence of Vietnam: 9 days Hanoi - Halong Bay - Da Nang - Hoi An - Ho Chi Minh

Angkor Wat & Thailand: 12 days Siem Reap - Bangkok - Chiang Mai – Phuket

Classic Vietnam & Thailand: 16 days Hanoi - Halong Bay - Hue - Hoi An - Ho Chi Minh - Mekong Delta - Bangkok - Phuket


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