Hands down, Vietnam is the country that went through ups and downs during the recent history, went through wars, being a French colony, but still, the culture is so strong there! It is awe-inspiring just to experience their culture.
Of course, they’ve been going through westernization for quite a time now, but nevertheless, people, in general, seem very ignorant to that process. Vietnamese culture has many influences from Chinese culture and, in many ways and traditions, it’s very similar to Chinese culture.
The northern part of the country differs a bit compared to Southern pars, mainly because the south is going through aggressive westernization.
Anyway, just a simple walk around the place will give you the idea of Vietnamese culture. You will see tiny chairs on the sidewalks, people drinking beer or their favorite rice wine, eating sunflower seeds and having a great time with family and friends.
It’s effortless to get distracted by delicious aromas and secret ingredients of the street food. Sometimes, it can be tough to communicate outside, as the main thing you will hear is horning of the motorbikes and buses.
By now, you should have a picture in your head of Vietnamese culture. Let’s read further as I’m going to provide you with the cultural things you can only see and experience in Vietnam.
#1 Huge Respect for the Time
Vietnamese people love to wake up early and going to bed early. Their day is usually filled with many obligations related to supporting their family, so they are taking every free second very seriously. For instance, don’t be offended if you enter a restaurant or any service shop and you’ve got greeted by a big NO.
That’s regular in Vietnam and the majority of people don’t look at Westerner’s as walking wallets, which means they won’t think a second about saying no to you, especially if you arrived in their Siesta time!
What is Siesta time you may ask? Well, it’s popular in Vietnam to take a nap or enjoy your coffee after the lunchtime. Everything closes down around 12 pm and the streets may look like scenes from some post-apocalyptic movie – no people around!
#2 Crazy and Unexplainable Things Going on in Traffic
The first thing you’ll notice the moment you set your foot outside the airport is their traffic. It is just overwhelming and with so many motorbikes around. The reason I’ve said it’s overwhelming is that everyone is using horns like there is no tomorrow.
Let’s get it straight; it’s a good thing as the person behind you indicates about his or her location, so you can be more aware. The other side of the coin is that you won’t hear anything around yourself, even your thoughts might be dulled.
Also, as Vietnamese are very keen on motorbikes, it’s not a strange thing to see strange or even crazy things being transported on motorbikes. It’s such a fantastic thing when you see people driving pigs or furniture or even another motorbike on the motorbike like nothing is happening. Their facial expressions are worth millions of dollars!
#3 Land of Smiles and Hospitality
Thailand is usually called “The Land of Smiles”, but Vietnam should be called “The Land of More Smiles You Can Imagine!”. I am not exaggerating things but sharing with you the reality of life here.
It’s so amazing to just walk around any street or place and you will be greeted by the broadest smiles combined with just amazing glow in people’s eyes. Even if you have a bad day, a smile will cheer you up as it’s literally impossible to not give back a smile to these awesome people.
Another stunning thing about their culture is the level of their hospitality. People here, in general, don’t look through a materialistic perspective, so when they’re hospitable, it usually means they want you to have an amazing experience and they are genuinely curious about your story. It’s not a strange thing to get invited into people’s homes out of nowhere for a cup of tea and bong filled with tobacco.
#4 Strong and Vibrant Coffee Culture
Ah, sweet and delicious Vietnamese coffee! Vietnamese people are indeed artists when it comes to coffee. I believe it will be a hard quest to find a bad coffee in Vietnam!
As I already mentioned, they are very keen on coffee drinking, so it’s not the surprise why they have so many different beans and roasts of coffee. Also, there are so many different types and ways of preparing the coffee around there. While in bigger cities, I recommend you try their specialty called an Egg Coffee.
For a daily caffeine fix, their black drip coffee combined with a touch of sweet condensed milk will do the work.
If you love coffee you will love our post on Coffee Around The World.
#5 Artists When It Comes to Food
The second thing you’ll probably notice in Vietnam is their street food culture. I must be honest, even in most significant traffic hours, it’s easy to smell or see delicious street food!
Vietnamese people are true artists when it comes to food. There is so many food options, and I recommend you eating outside as people in street food shops make food for a living and they know their job. Vietnamese cuisine is known for many ingredients that are incredibly fresh and their staple food is of course rice.
I can’t recommend you more to try their Pho and Banh Mi. You can find this food on each step for a very low price (talking about a $1 price) and it won’t only make you full, but also, you will experience the passion for preparing the food. If you enjoy food, our post on 8 Southeast Asia Food Cities.
#6 They Are Passionate Drinkers and Karaoke Singers
Not only Vietnamese people love their coffee and tea, but also, they love their beer and rice wine. Wherever you go to eat, you will see many people on the table toasting with rice wine. It’s hilarious to experience toasting and drinking with them as that’s their expression of freedom. Although, they usually drink during the lunchtime as they know they have few hours to sleep or doing nothing.
Insider tip: Don’t drink rice wine before the lunch!
They are most probably the worst karaoke singers ever, but the culture behind it is very evident! The huge houses are built and furnished only for karaoke nights. During the summer you will stumble upon many karaoke parties that goes so well with drinking beer or toasting rice wine.
#7 Obsession with Skin Color
I’m pretty sure that’s in the whole of Asia, but in Vietnam, it’s so evident and sometimes amusing for the outsider to observe. During the day, people are usually totally covered with the clothes making sure not a single sunray touch their skin.
Also, finding a regular beauty product without a whitening effect will be a real struggle in Vietnam. Their insecurity about the skin colour is very real as dark skin is perceived as lower status or people who’re doing hard labor in the fields.
Have you ever been to Vietnam? What was the most beautiful or evident culture difference you’ve experienced? Share your thoughts in the comments below.