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Things to Learn about Vietnamese Culture

vietnamese culture

When you are planning a visit to any new country, it’s always interesting to learn more about the culture of the place you are traveling to. I recently spent some time in Vietnam and was fascinated to learn more about Vietnamese culture.

Today I’m going to share with you what to know about Vietnamese culture before your next trip. I hope this is a helpful guide for your next visit or interaction with people of Vietnamese heritage.

Vietnamese Traditions

vietnamese country girl
Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay

Like many countries in Asia, Vietnam has strong cultural values and traditions. Here are some of the most prominent Vietnamese customs and traditions I witnessed on my last trip:

  • Worship of ancestors – The Vietnamese family culture is very noticeable to anyone who spends time with local families during your visit. They believe that their ancestors continue to live after they pass into another realm. By continuing to meet their needs, they believe they will receive advice and fortune in return. Most houses in Vietnam will have an altar to make offerings and pray in front of.
  • Martial Arts – you may notice that martial arts are extremely popular in the cities you visit. Originally, martial arts were a means of defense against invaders from foreign territories. Vovinam and Vo Binh Dinh are two types of Vietnamese martial arts that are taught and practiced throughout the country.
  • Clothing – The national dress for women is called Ao Dai, and is a silk tunic. It is tightly-fitting and covers the length of the body. For men, they have a similar traditional dress, however, it is looser and shorter.
  • Superstition – You may be surprised to hear the Vietnamese talk in a superstitious manner, but it’s not unusual. They take this very seriously, to the extent that some citizens won’t marry other people who were born in the ‘wrong’ lunar calendar year.

See also: Best Time to Visit Vietnam

Religion in Vietnam

Image by Olga Ozik from Pixabay

Vietnamese beliefs center around three systems: Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. However, in some ways, you will find the country not to be particularly religious.

Many citizens believe in folk tales and primarily worship for guidance. Spirits are also of great importance to the Vietnamese people.

There’s a widely held belief that failing to conduct a proper ritual after a death in the family will create hungry ghosts.

The Most Important Festivals in Vietnam

Hue Festival Vietnam
Hue Festival. Source:

Vietnamese culture and traditions are most prominently seen on the most important dates in their calendar.

Tet is the Lunar New Year and is the most celebrated day in the country. Most of the country will close up for a whole week to celebrate it.

In Hoi An, you will find a monthly Full Moon Festival where lanterns light up the city sky. It’s a spectacular sight to see if you time your visit right!

Another important date in the calendar is the Hue Festival, which takes place in Hue City in April, May or June each year. Hue Festival is my favorite cultural festival around Southeast Asia.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, which takes place in mid-September, is best celebrated in Hoi An and is a harvest festival in honor of the full moon.

See also: Best Places to Visit in Vietnam

Food in Vietnam

Vietnam food
Image by Thu Truong from Pixabay

Like many countries throughout the world, Vietnamese customs revolve around food. The most common food in the diet is rice, which is consumed in up to three meals a day.

It’s normal for families to sit around a tray or table and share larger bowls of food. A salty fish sauce called nuoc nam regularly accompanies meals.

The diet varies a lot based on wealth, with many people rarely getting the chance to eat leafy vegetables.

The most popular item that you must try in Vietnam is pho. It’s a clear broth-based soup, and it’s delicious!

Other items I tried and loved on my last trip were summer rolls (Goi Cuon) and their baguettes (Banh Mi).

If you are a meat lover, don’t miss the grilled pork (Thit Nuong) and chicken on sticky rice.

See also: Where is the Best Vietnam Massage

Vietnamese Cultural Norms for Each Gender

Vietnamese wedding young couple
Thanks to Tu Hoang for sharing their work on Unsplash.

As with many countries, the expected roles of men and women are still quite behind in Vietnam. While women’s status in society has improved since the 1950s, it still has a long way to go.

Women generally receive less education and therefore are unlikely to enter into certain industries of work.

It’s very much expected in Vietnamese values for people to be married in their late teenage years or early twenties.

However, arranged marriage is now illegal in Vietnam. Nowadays, divorce is becoming more common in Vietnam, and both men and women can instigate the separation.

Etiquette in Vietnam

vietnamese family
Photo by Zeyn Afuang on Unsplash

Vietnamese culture values politeness and good manners. Showing respect to your elderly family members is instilled from a young age.

Parents and senior family members must be shown respect and greeted in the correct manner. Although the tradition is starting to fade, it’s not uncommon for junior family members to bow to their seniors.

Vietnamese Business Culture

business agreement
Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay

Business in Vietnam is similar to many other Asian countries, and here you will find that relationships form a large part of the business world.

People prefer to work with individuals and companies that they know well and can trust. They are quick to believe anything, so it’s important to remember that any spoken word is often taken to be factually correct.

Vietnamese Culture in America

vietnamese in america
Photo by callme_gohann on Unsplash

With Vietnamese people spreading out across the world, America in particular now sees a large community of Vietnamese Americans.

While they have adapted well to the culture in the US, they still try to instill in their children the traditions that they grew up with.

Parents try to teach their language to children and encourage traditional dress on special occasions.

I’m sure you’ve experienced outstanding Vietnamese cuisine in many places in the world, and this is important for immigrants to keep their culture going.

In Vietnam, the family structure also includes aunts and cousins. However, when moving to the USA, people have had to adapt to the more nuclear pattern in families.

Parents are the biggest influence in any Vietnamese child’s life, and they try to continue this in their new country.

While Vietnamese culture may have been very different from ours hundreds of years ago, like many countries in the world, it is becoming more open.

The Vietnamese people and their culture are fascinating to learn about. You will receive a warm welcome during your first visit to their country.

If you get the chance, a homestay is a fantastic way to learn about how other people live during your travels. I hope these Vietnamese cultural facts will help you understand the country a little more in preparation for your next visit!