One of the original cultures in Southeast Asia is that of Vietnam. This country is full of historical aspects and traditions, which date back many millennia and the people hold in high value their nation and their families. Below are some tips for better understanding culture nuances of this beautiful civilization.
During the early Bronze Age, the Đông Sơn culture was broadly thought to be one of its most important influences. Despite being located in Southeast Asia, the Vietnamese customs were greatly affected by the influences of Chinese culture regarding art, politics, government, and social/moral ethics. Vietnam is deemed as being included in the East Asian cultural sphere, as is China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan because of one-thousand years of Chinese reign. After breaking free of Chinese rule in the tenth century, Vietnam started its Southern expansion and witnessed the takeover of regions which previously belonged to the Champa Civilization (Central Vietnam of today) and portions of the Khmer Empire (Southern Vietnam of today,) which caused slight provincial variations in this country’s culture because of the influence of such diverse federations. Throughout the French colonialist era, Vietnamese customs exhibited much European influence, such as the usage of the Latin/Roman alphabet as well as the rise of Catholicism. Prior, the Vietnamese had been using Chinese characters and a written text known as Chữ Nôm. It was founded on Chinese writing but was comprised of new letterings to symbolize old Vietnamese wording. This written language is full of intonation symbols and accent marks.
Respect for Ancestors
A few things that are usually thought to be typical of Vietnamese culture are the respect for one’s ancestors, the value of community and family traditions, manual labor and handiwork, and the dedication to studying. Valuable symbols that exist in Vietnamese society involve the depiction of dragons, bamboo, lotuses, and turtles. Ever since old-fashioned Vietnamese culture, relationships of all kinds have always played a crucial role in the country. The Western culture tends to emphasize individualism and independence, whereas the Eastern culture tends to value the functions of family and clanship. Dissimilar to the other Eastern societies, Chinese culture still appreciates their families over the ‘clan’ while Vietnamese culture tends to appreciate the clan over the family. Every clan is comprised of a patriarch, a clan altar, and death ceremonies which are respected by the rest of the clan members.
The majority of the people are blood-related. This statistic continues to be shown in the common names, such as Đặng Xá (place of the Đặng clan,) Châu Xá (place of the Châu clan,) Lê Xá (place of the Lê clan,) and so forth. Inside the Western highlands, the traditions of numerous families within a clan who reside in a longhouse still thrives in popularity. One is still able to find three or four age groups of family members living in a single household amongst the majority of rural Vietnam today.
The people of Vietnam greatly value both their personal and collective reputation and the ways in which they are seen by their colleagues, family, friends. One is strongly urged not to do things that will publicly shame or belittle someone. This includes confronting, ridiculing, arguing, or even negotiating too strongly. For this reason, you will hardly ever witness a vicious outburst in Vietnam. These people tend to be non-confrontational because hostility is the cause of both parties losing face. As a general rule for minor transgressions, a harsh look will be sufficient.
Buying and trading in Vietnam is usually a struggle between conversing and strategizing. A foreigner will likely be charged an additional fee because storekeepers will not see that person as a knowledgeable shopper. These storekeepers believe they hold every advantage. Your best bet will be to negotiate down the price of an item as much as possible and then threaten to leave. In most stores, a small profit is still better than nothing.
The Hungry Ghost Festival
Numerous Vietnamese practices and conventions were influenced by their ancestral belief systems. A deep fear that’s been instilled in the people of Vietnam is that the dead will not be able to find tranquility in the afterlife or that they will be forced to meander as a tormented spirit. Nearly everyone in Vietnam has established their own ghost tale, from being landed on by a dragonfly at a funeral to hearing odd whispers at night. Regardless of your personal beliefs about the supernatural, never dismiss the stories of phantoms or the dead.
Land of Opportunities
Vietnam is full of opportunity nowadays. Each person is attempting to enhance both themselves and/or the life of their family as a whole. The people of Vietnam discuss the complications of society constantly, such as polluting, crowded roads, immorality, cheating in schools, etc. but they are not as tolerant if a foreigner is doing the critiquing. To Vietnamese people, this might seem as though the foreigner is being egotistical, saying ‘My country is superior to Vietnam in many ways.” Our words of wisdom – be humble.
Your age is likely one of the first things you will be asked by one of the residents, after your nationality and name. This civilization was erected on Confucian teachings in which knowledge and depth tend to be very respected. In other words, the older you are the more respect you will receive. You are discouraged from cursing or persevering on unsuitable discourse when with an older person – such as sex or death. During dinner banquets, those who are eldest are served first and, in their places of employment or in their home, their opinions hold more importance. It is often aggravating when an older person speaks to you in a condescending way at work or at home, but this is how the culture operates.