The Vietnamese has been described as energetic, sentimental, pragmatic, entrepreneurial, proud, industrious and hardworking. As is true with the Chinese, their natural tendencies often seem to fly in the face of what is expected of good Communists.

Vietnamese are very friendly, easy-going and have an easy smile. Barbara Crossete wrote the Great Hill Stations of Asia , the Vietnamese are "warm, inquisitive, generous people who want to draw an outsider into whatever activity is at hand." It is hard to believe that were such tough fighters during the Vietnam War.

Vietnamese like to joke around. They like sarcasm and puns but their jokes often defy easy translation into English. The Vietnamese arguable have a very individualistic streak. When you watch them drive or do exercises in a park they often appear to be doing their own thing. The Chinese, by contrast, with exercise anyway, like to do things together as a group.

Confucian Vietnamese have a reputation for being aggressive and businesslike like the Chinese, which contrast with the relative mellowness of Buddhist cultures in Laos, Burma, Cambodia and Thailand. There is a Lao proverb that goes "Lao and Viet, like cat and dog." The French used to say "The Vietnamese plant the rice, the Cambodians watch it grow and the Lao listen to it grow."

Many Vietnamese customs and values are rooted in both the Confucian respect for education, family, and elders, and the Taoist desire to avoid conflict. Vietnamese tend to be very polite, avoid talking about feelings, and are stoic. Thua (meaning please) is added in front of an honorific name to show respect to elders. To show respect, more traditionally minded Vietnamese bow their heads to a superior or elder.

Traditional Vietnamese culture is concerned more with status (obtained with age and education) than with wealth. If one were to rank them in their importance, education would likely come first, followed by age and then wealth. In Vietnam, professions that are high status include doctor, priest, and teacher. Educated people and others who are not in the peasant class do not work with their hands. To do so would appear to try to beat a poor peasant out of his job. In addition, it is considered beneath the dignity of refined people.

In Vietnam, cell phones have helped tightly-knit friends and families become even more connected. Andrew Lam wrote in the Huffington Post, " Vietnamese are clannish, and for many, the family and extended family are all the social network they will ever have. Connecting to one another is more than just a fad -- it's a cultural imperative. Bonds are never to be broken and relationships are to be built upon continuously. The cell phone facilitates that task quite well. And the latest model must be seen. At dining events it's a habit of Vietnamese to take out the cell phones and place it on the table so every one else can see it -- which leads to some materialistic soul to be under the pressure to buy a new one every few months or so. [Source: Andrew Lam, Huffington Post, January 6, 2013 /|\]

See Society

Vietnamese: Happiest People in Asia

In 2006, AFP reported: Vietnam is the 12th happiest country on earth, and the happiest in Asia, according to a study published that measured people’s well-being and their impact on the environment. The tiny South Pacific Ocean archipelago of Vanuatu is the happiest in the Happy Planet Index, compiled by the British think-tank New Economics Foundation. Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica and Panama complete the top five. Out of Asian nations Singapore was ranked lowest at 131. [Source: Thanh Nien, Agence France Presse, July 12, 2006]

The index combines life satisfaction, life expectancy and environmental footprint—the amount of land required to sustain the population and absorb its energy consumption. Zimbabwe finished at the bottom of the 178 countries ranked, below second-worst performer Swaziland, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ukraine. Among developed countries, Italy came out best in 66th place, ahead of Germany (81), Japan (95), Britain (108), Canada (111), France (129), the United States (150). Russia was in 172nd place.

Other surveys have show that even though they don’t have much Vietnamese are very optimistic about their futures. In 2002, Independent Online reported: "Despite decades of war and poverty, residents of this fast-growing, communist-ruled country seem to be the most upbeat in Asia, according to a survey conducted by the Washington Pew Research Center in Washington. The survey, which asked six questions relating to happiness and outlook, covered 38 000 people in 44 countries worldwide. The Vietnamese figures were the highest for any country in the global survey. In Asia respondents were from Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, China, India and Bangladesh. [Source: Independent Online, December 5, 2002]

Vietnamese gave a satisfaction rating of 69 percent to the state of their nation and 51 percent for the state of the world. In those categories, the Vietnamese figures were the highest or equal-highest for any country in the global survey. The respondents in the south-east Asian country of 80 million were more muted about the quality of their lives, rating that at 43 percent, but they were still happier in that respect than the people of any other Asian country except South Korea.

And they were even more positive about their children. 'This seems evidence that the information campaign is reaching people' An overwhelming 98 percent of Vietnam respondents said they expected that children of today in their country would be better off when they grew up. Again, it was the most positive figure among any country surveyed globally. But that may be unsurprising, given the rapid progress in Vietnam since it abandoned a centrally planned blueprint.

The results did not surprise a few observers of the country. Sesto Vecchi, an American lawyer in Ho Chi Minh City who has resided for 18 years in Vietnam, said optimism is especially evident among the younger ones, who did not live through the wars. "The older people probably have a vastly different experience," said Vecchi. Like many other countries in the world, Vietnamese ranked satisfaction with family lives higher than with either their household incomes or jobs. Sixty-nine percent of Vietnam respondents expected their lives to be better five years from now, the second highest rating in Asia, behind Indonesia's 73 percent.

Asked to rate the five dangers posing the greatest threat to the world, Vietnam broke away from the pack to pick infectious diseases and Aids as the number-one threat. Other Asian countries were far more worried about nuclear weapons, religious and ethic hatred, environmental troubles or the gap between rich and poor. Vietnamese respondents were least interested in the wealth gap.The Philippines' biggest fear is nuclear weapons, while the world's most populous Muslim country, Indonesia, selected religious and ethnic hatred as the number-one threat to the world. Pollution and the environment was selected by a majority of China respondents as the biggest danger to the planet.

Work Ethic in Vietnam

On the large amount of socializing that seems to take place during work hours in Vietnam, Harry Dickson, an American living in Ho Chi Minh City told the Viet News, “ There is nothing wrong in trying to reduce work pressure and creating a friendly and relaxing office atmosphere. But I feel Vietnamese do not know where to draw the line. For example, chatting or sharing a snack with colleagues is part and parcel of office life. But playing games on the office network or slicing open a water melon at the work desk is surely going beyond office protocol! Some people might well argue that setting the limit or boundary for appropriate behaviour is a matter of cultural preferences. If employees do not behave in a manner that their employers see fit, then they cannot complain when they are not promoted or as well rewarded as someone who shows professionalism in their working attitude. On a deeper level, the casualness shown by the Vietnamese tends to spill over into their work performance. So this has a much more serious consequence than just the lack of office decorum. [Source: Viet News, August, 7 2008 /||\]

Roy Little, an American in Ho Chi Minh City, told the Viet News: “It is common practice for managers, particularly senior managers, to be out of the office enhancing their "personal" relationships and conducting "social" intercourse on a daily basis. This kind of behaviour demonstrates a disregard for personal responsibility and accountability which is the real problem. Is it any wonder that workers have little motivation or loyalty to a company when they have such role models? Recently, I had a conversation with a young man from Hanoi who had just accepted a new job in Ho Chi Minh City. I asked him if he preferred to live and work in Ho Chi Minh City. His response: "I would rather work in Hanoi. When we go to work in Hanoi (State-owned company) we show up and say "hello", and then we go out and have coffee with our friends for two hours. In the afternoon, we do the same." /||\

Richard Clive Webb, a Briton in Ho Chi Minh City, told Viet News: “How easily differences in culture can be wrongly interpreted. I have lived and worked in Viet Nam for 14 years and our company employs 25 professionally qualified Vietnamese staff. I say as follows: 1) The siesta after lunch time is a cultural norm and is accounted for in total working hours. It raises staff efficiency for them to return to work refreshed. 2) In my experience hospital visits are done outside working hours. I find it touching that Vietnamese people take the time and trouble to visit sick colleagues (usually with some small gift) and that includes me when I have been sick. 3) I find my Vietnamese staff, on the whole, to be very hard working, interested in their work and attentive to their duties. 4) My view is that bad managers create bad employees. 5) Pay people properly, treat them with respect, be firm but fair, create a harmonious and friendly working environment and they will respond accordingly. /||\

Vietnamese Values and Morals

According to the Vietnamese Cultural Profile by Diversicare: The Vietnamese value system is based on four basic tenets: 1) allegiance to the family, 2) yearning for a good name, 3) love of learning, and 4) respect for other people. These tenets are closely interrelated. Many customs and values are rooted in both Confuciansm—where respect for education, family and elders are emphasized— and Taoism—in which desire to avoid conflict is stressed. [Source: Vietnamese Cultural Profile, Diversicare, March 2009 *** ]

In the Vietnamese community the benefit of the family and community comes before the individual. Vietnamese people tend to be polite, guarded and non-confrontational. Disagreement may be expressed in the form of non-compliance, or not answering a question. Modesty and privacy are important cultural values. ***

To the Vietnamese, a good name is better than any material possession in this world. To acquire a good name, a man must avoid all words and actions that could damage his dignity and honour. There are three ways by which a man can acquire a good name: either by heroic deeds’, by intellectual achievements, or by moral virtue. ***

Whilst identifying as Vietnamese, each person has a strong sense of regional cultural identity. The region in which the person lived will impact on the person’s preferences relating to such things as festivals, food, drink, clothing, cultural personality, music and language dialect. The Vietnamese traditionally believe that human nature is basically good but corruptible; that man should strive for harmony with nature. Some have said they live oriented to the past—based perhaps on the reverence showed towards ancestors—not the future; and they are traditionally attached to one place, their ancestors’ land (they value the process of being or becoming, mutual dependence and linearity). Some of the above customs are from a time in which the older generation lived and were raised. They may not be evident in the younger generation, nor do they necessarily apply to every Vietnamese aged person. ***

Moral Education in Vietnam

In his paper “Moral education or political education in the Vietnamese educational system,” Dung Hue Doan of Nong Lam University wrote: “Vietnam has experienced the influences of different social standards and values of Confucianism, Communism and several major religions, such as Buddhism and Catholicism, and has also undergone tremendous social change in recent decades. Consequently, moral education in present-day Vietnam takes various forms and definitions. Nowadays, moral education is incorporated in the formal curriculum and taught as a single subject of study at all levels of the Vietnamese education system. The focus of moral education in primary schools is character and personality building. In secondary schools, the syllabuses focus on citizenship education, emphasising the notion of developing a socialist citizen. In higher education, the ideas of inculcating socialist thoughts and socialist principles are as important as building intellectual ability, thus, Marxist sciences and Ho Chi Minh thoughts are compulsory taught courses and make up 12 percent of total study hours in the undergraduate and postgraduate curriculum. [Source: “Moral education or political education in the Vietnamese educational system” by Dung Hue Doan, Nong Lam University, Linh Trung, Thu Duc, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Email:, Journal of Moral Education |^|]

Therefore, there are two different systems of morality existing in Vietnamese society – traditional morality and socialist morality. Traditional morality is transmitted through informal channels of education, such as family education and religious institutions, while socialist morality is enforced through formal channels of the national curriculum and in various social activities and movements. However, it is still a real challenge for the Vietnamese educational system to redefine the objectives and content of moral education in order to cope with the complexity of a fast-changing society. Introduction In almost all primary schools in Vietnam, the important role of moral teaching and learning in school life is constantly emphasised by the motto ‘ Tien hoc le, hau hoc van ’. The wording normally appears in a large red banner posted right at the main entrance. This Chinese-Vietnamese saying implicitly means that proper manners in human relations are the very first thing to be learnt at school, while knowledge and language are only secondary. Another common phrase that emphasises the role of morality is ‘ Hong – Chuyen ’. It literally means ‘red mind and expertise’. These are considered a pair of key qualities of social human beings that the socialist educational system aims to produce. ‘Red mind’ symbolises socialist ideology and values. Similarly, ‘talent and virtue’, ‘intellect and morality’ are other common combinations at all times associated with qualities of scholars, intellectuals and public administrators. |^|

‘Moral’ in the Vietnamese context is a broad term, relating to the practice, manners or conduct of human beings in relation to each other. Moral education is also associated with standards of behaviour justified by people as right and proper, and is to be conducted willingly without the interference of law. Moral education is also understood as perspectives, viewpoints and behaviour of people in such social relations as self in relation to other persons, groups and organizations (SRV MOET, 2004a, p. 69). Organization refers to the State, social-political organizations, religious bodies and so on. Moral education, therefore, takes various forms and has its definitions shaped by socio-political standards and values prevailing at the time. This article aims to explore the role and characteristics of moral education in contemporary Vietnam in the contexts of social changes and under the long-lasting impacts of different social values of Confucianism, Communism and several religions. |^|

Vietnamese Family Allegiance and a "Good Name"

According to "The most important factor in the value system of the Vietnamese is, no doubt, the family. The family is the center of the Vietnamese common man's preoccupation and the backbone of Vietnamese society. By virtue of the principle of collective and mutual responsibility, each individual strives to be the pride of his family. [ =*=]

"Misconduct of an individual is blamed not only on himself, but also on his parents, siblings, relatives, and ancestors. Likewise, any success or fame achieved by an individual brings honor and pride to all members of his family. The Vietnamese child is taught from early childhood to readily forget himself for the sake of his family's welfare and harmony. Central to the concept of family is the obligation of filial piety which is considered the most essential of all virtues in Vietnamese society. The child is expected to be grateful to his parents for the debt of birth, rearing and education. He is taught to to think of his parents and ancestors first, even at his own expense, to make sacrifices for his parents' sake, to love and care for them in their old age. The Vietnamese man who lacks filial piety is looked down upon and ostracized not only by his own family but also by the community. =*=

"The profound love for and attachment to the family is extended to the physical setting in which the family is located: the native village. The dearest wish of the Vietnamese common man is, as a proverb puts it, to die in his own native village and amidst his own folk "as a leaf which leaves the branch to fall down on the ground at the foot of the tree" (lá røng vŠ ci). The native village is not only the place where he was born and brought up and where his parents and family live but also a place where his ancestors are buried. Many Vietnamese, especially people in the rural areas, never move out of their native villages or provinces. This deep attachment to the native village explains the lack of horizontal mobility in Vietnamese society. =*=

"The value that the Vietnamese placed on the concept of "good name," or more precisely "fragrant name" (danh thÖm), cannot be underestimated. To the Vietnamese, a good name is better than any material possession in this world. By securing a good name for himself, a man can command respect and admiration from his fellow countrymen. A rich and powerful person with a bad reputation is looked down upon, while a poor man with a good name is respected. It is believed that the best thing that a man can leave behind once he has departed from this world and by which he will be remembered is a good reputation. "After death, a tiger leaves behind his skin, a man his reputation," says a proverb. The desire to have a good name, not only in his life time but also after death, betrays the deep aspiration of the Vietnamese to survive the disintegration of his corporeal frame after death in the memory of his progeny and community. =*=

"A man with a bad name will be disclaimed by his fellow countrymen and become a disgrace to his family. He will lose face, which is a terrible thing in an immobile society where almost everybody knows everybody else in the community. To acquire a good name, a man must avoid all words and actions which damage his dignity and honor. There are three ways by which he can acquire a good name: either by heroic deeds; by intellectual achievements; or by moral virtues. Leading a virtuous life is the easiest and surest path to a good name for there are few opportunities in our everyday life to be heroic and few people are endowed with exceptional intellectual qualities. The virtues most cultivated are the sense of honor, honesty, righteousness, modesty, generosity, and disdain for material gains, virtues most extolled by the Confucian doctrine. In view of the strong solidarity of the Vietnamese family, it is not surprising to know that the Vietnamese strives for a good name not only for himself but also for his parents and children." =*=

Vietnamese Love of Learning and Concept of Respect

According to "The Vietnamese common man seems to have a great love for knowledge and learning. He seems to have particular respect and admiration for learned people. Like the virtuous man, the learned man enjoys great prestige in Vietnamese society. Often, they are the one and same man. The Vietnamese conceives that knowledge and virtues are but the two complementary aspects of the ideal man. People associated with knowledge and learning (scholars, writers and teachers) have always been highly respected, not only by the students but also by parents and people from all walks of life. [ =*=]

"Learning is considered more valuable than wealth and material success. Rich people who are not educated are often looked down upon by other people and they themselves feel inferior to learned people who are poor. In the traditional social system the scholar ranked first, before the farmer, artisan, and tradesman. Even nowadays, the learned man is held in high esteem and respect. The love of learning does not spring from purely disinterested motives. The lure of prestige and the prospect of improved social status are among the strongest incentives to the pursuit of knowledge. Education represents the essential stepping stones to the social ladder and to good job opportunities . It is the prime force of vertical mobility in Vietnamese society. =*=

"The Vietnamese common man is expected to show respect to people who are senior to him in age, status, or position. At home, he should show respect to his parents, older siblings, and older relatives. This is expressed by obedience in words and action. Respect is part of the concept of filial piety. Outside the family, respect should be paid to elderly people, teachers, clergymen, supervisors and employers, and people in high positions. Learned and virtuous people enjoy special respect and admiration. But respect is not a one-way behavior. The Vietnamese common man also expects other people to show respect to him, by virtue of his age, status, or position. Special respect is gained by leading a virtuous life, by accomplishing certain heroic deeds or by achieving a high degree of intellectuality. Respect is expressed by specific behaviors and linguistic devices inherent in the Vietnamese language. It is one of the essential factors in the value system of the Vietnamese people." =*=

Face, Anger and Not Saying No Among the Vietnamese

According to "As with many other Asian nations, the concept of face is extremely important to the Vietnamese. Face is a tricky concept to explain but can be roughly described a quality that reflects a person's reputation, dignity, and prestige. It is possible to lose face, save face or give face to another person. Companies as well as individuals can have face or lose face. Understanding how face is lost, saved or given is critical. Someone can be given face by complimenting them for their hospitality or business acumen. Accusing someone of poor performance or reprimanding them publicly will lead to a loss of face. [Source: ]

Never, ever, show your anger. This causes embarrassment to yourself and to Vietnamese people around you. One of the quickest ways to lose face is to show anger. If you are not happy with something discuss the issue in a calm and respectful manner. Showing anger or shouting will have the opposite effect to what you wish to achieve and will only reflect poorly upon you.

According to "The Vietnamese value modesty and humility about one's accomplishments, and harmonious relations with others. Seeking to avoid conflict in relationships, they often prefer to speak about sensitive subjects indirectly. Outside of large cities, making direct eye contact when talking to someone is considered impolite; similarly, Vietnamese usually speak in a low tone. [ =*=]

"The Vietnamese sometimes appear to answer "yes" (da.) to all questions. However, this yes may be a polite way of saying "Yes, I am listening," or "Yes, I am confused," or "Yes, I do not want to offend." Similarly, the Vietnamese smile can be used to show all sorts of emotions, from happiness to anger or even grief. Strong emotions are shared only with family or close friends. Humour, however, is freely expressed. =*=

"American people use only word, the word yes, to express agreement and this word is neutral as to respect or disrespect. Of course, an answer with the mere word yes lacks the courtesy conveyed by a longer answer such as "Yes, I am"; "Yes, he did"; or "Yes, Mr. Brown". On the contrary, the Vietnamese speaker must choose between Da., Vang, Phai to express agreement. No well-bred Vietnamese would use "Da" as an answer in talking to his parents, older people, his teacher, his superior, or monks and priests. In Vietnamese, other people invite us to xoi ("eat rice" or "take a meal"), but in replying, we must say that we have already or not yet eaten. =*=

See Asia and Southeast Asia

Confucianism and Communism in Vietnam

It can be argued that Vietnamese society is currently trying to sort out and resolve the inherent conflicts between the Communist notions of equality, Confucian beliefs in the harmonious subordination and free-market ideas about getting ahead, making money and achieving success.

The teachings of Confucius have a strong influence on ideas about the position of the individual in Vietnamese society. Confucianism is a system of behaviours and ethics that stress the obligations of people towards one another based upon their relationship. The basic tenets are based upon five different relationships: 1) Ruler and subject, 2) Husband and wife, 3) Parents and children, 4) Brothers and sisters, and 5) Friend and friend. Confucianism stresses duty, loyalty, honour, filial piety, respect for age and seniority, and sincerity.

See Society, See China

Vietnamese Fighting Spirit

The Vietnamese are a fierce and independent people. They have a long history of warfare. According to Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist Stanley Karnow, the "Vietnamese stubbornly clung to their ethnic identity" and were able to overcome attempts by foreigners to conquer or subjugate them.

The Vietnam War (the American War to the Vietnamese) was just a blip in a history marked by hundreds of years of warfare. Explaining why he harbored relatively little will against the American after the Vietnam War, a Vietnamese man told an American journalist, "You’re Americans and we fought you for 10 years, and before you there were the French and we fought them for 100 years and before them, the Chinese, and we fought them for 1,000 years. We’re a very proud people, and you’re just a small part of our past."

The Vietnamese have traditionally been forgiving and generous to their enemies. This one reason why there seems to be no hard feeling towards American now. In 1426, the Vietnamese provided a defeated Chinese army with boats and soldiers to help them return home. The great North Vietnamese general Vi Nguyen Giap told the Los Angeles Times, the Vietnamese are "The most peace-loving people in the world...The paradox is that we had to fight for our freedom, our independence."

Robert D. Kaplan wrote in The Atlantic, ““Vietnam’s victories over China and over the Chams and Khmers in the south helped to forge a distinct national identity—a process spurred by China’s inability, up through modern times, to let Vietnam alone. In 1946, China colluded with France to have the Chinese occupation forces in northern Vietnam succeeded by French forces. The Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping “never lost his visceral hatred of the Vietnamese,” Templer writes. In addition to deciding in 1979 to send 100,000 Chinese into Vietnam, Deng devised a policy of “bleeding Hanoi white,” by entangling Vietnam in a guerrilla war in Cambodia. [Source: Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic, May 21 2012 ]

Vietnamese Social Relationships and Ideas of Harmony

According to "The desire to achieve harmony between the self and the non-self remains an essential preoccupation of the Vietnamese in interpersonal relations outside the family group. The basic principles underlying family relationships is extended to the relationships between members of wider social groups. The concept of society as an extension of the family is evident in the transposition into social usage of a language originally intended for domestic life. Vietnamese uses more than a score of kinship terms as personal pronouns. The choice of the appropriate word depends on the relative age, social status, gender, degree of acquaintance, respect, and affection between speakers and hearers who are not related to each other by blood or marriage. [ =*=]

In Vietnamese society, the predominant sentiment in the relation between members of a social group is respect. This is particularly evident in the attitude towards older people. Respect and consideration for old age no doubt derive from the obligation of filial piety that requires young people to respect and love their parents and parent-like members of the family. Vietnamese also recognize that a long life is a sign of kindness and regard on the part of the deity for virtuous people, and that the elders are the carriers of tradition and the embodiment of knowledge and wisdom. Old people enjoy high respect in Vietnamese society, irrespective of wealth, education, or social position. This respecl is expressed in both attitude and hehavior, particularly in the use of special terms of address and stylistic devices. Unlike Western societies that put a premium on youth, Vietnamese society is proud of its old members. Age is an asset, not a liability. =*=

Teachers, even though they are young, enjoy great respect and prestige in Vietnamese society. In Vietnam the student-teacher relationship retains much of the quality of a son's respect for his father's wisdom and of father's concern for his son's welfare. The respect that students show to the teachers is also evident in linguistic behavior. The terms of address that students use in speaking to their teachers are the same as those they use in speaking to their parents. =*=

"Respect is expressed in the form of courtesy and in the effort to spare others from the humiliation of losing face. Face is extremely important for the Vietnamese. The individual who loses face will have to endure public ridicule and derision in the midst of his community. Furthermore, the family shares any social disgrace incurred by the individual. Linguistic devices are one of the many ways that allow the Vietnamese speaker to save face and at the same time allow others to save face. Depreciatory terms are applied to oneself and complimentary terms are used for others. Ihe practice of "beating about the bush" to avoid answering a request in the negative, and the tendency of the Vietnamese student to say yes to questions asked by his teacher stem from this preoccupation with saving face. =*=

Respect and Language in Vietnamese

According to "In America, people put emphasis on friendliness in interpersonal relationships while in Vietnamese society the emphasis is more on respect. We may say without fear of error that respect is the cornerstone of interpersonal relationship in Vietnamese society, whether in the family or in social circles, whether on the employment scene or between friends and lovers. This is reflected in the language used by Vietnamese in their daily life. [ =*=]

"In making an utterance, Vietnamese simultaneously expresses ideas and concepts and an attitude of respect (or disrespect) towards the hearer. This expression is natural because it is inherent in the nature of the words used, and generally neither the speaker nor the hearer are conscious of it. But, if the speaker unintentionally (or purposedly) uses a word reflecting an attitude of disrespect, the hearer will instantly realize it and react to it accordingly. The difference between the linguistic behavior of American and Vietnamese people can be seen in the use of personal names. In writing a letter to a person who is not known, to ask for information or to apply for a job, example, Arnericans will usually use the term Dear followed by the person name (the last name, it should be noted); this shows courtesy and friendliness. Vietnamese people, by contrast, use only terms expressing respect such as kính, kínb tbÜa . . and never address the person by name, for this would convey an impolite, disrespectful attitude. Conseguently, "Dear Mr. Brown" is not "Ong Brown than men" but simply "Thua ong" or "Kinh ong" ("respected gentleman"). =*=

"In American society where almost nobody knows anybody else, even people living in the same apartment complex, mentioning the name of the interlocutor shows that one is interested in and friendly toward him/her, the evidence of which is to be found in the remembering of his/her name. Consequentiy to show that they are courteous and friendly, American people usually mention the name of the interlocutor in their greetings. (i.e. "good morning, Mr. Brown" or "good-bye, Miss Green" when speaking to people who are not close friends, and "good morning, Bill" or "goodbbye, Susie" when speaking to friends. In Vietnamese society, almost everybody knows the name of everybody else living in the same community. The neighbors (called "la'ng gieng") are often considered as friends or relatives. In greeting, speakers avoid mentioning the name of the interlocutors, especially those who are senior in age or status. They are called by name only when they are close friends or junior in age or status. It is easy to imagine the cultural misunderstandings that might arise from first encounters between Vietnamese and Americans. =*=

In Vietnamese, special respect is conveyed by using function-words for respect when addressing persons such as parents, old people, teachers. monks and priests, and superiors. The verbal response begins with a function-word such as "da.", "thua", "da. tbua", "ki'nh tbua". Therefore the word "da.", often translated as yes, is actually a function-word showing respect and does not necessarily indicate agreement. Personal pronouns are a word class in Vietnamese which best reflects this preoccupation with expressing respect or disrespect for other people in language. American people have one word for you to address parents, brothers and sisters, wife and children, friends and foes, and even animals. Likewise, they have only the word I (or its inflected form me) to refer to themselves when speaking. How converlient it is! But at the same time those words lack the ability to express feelings of respect or disrespect of tee Vietnames personal pronouns. People who are senior in age or status are usually referred towith such term of respect as cu., ong, ba'c, chu', anh, tha`y, cha, ba`, co People younger than the speaker, or who have a lower status, are usually addressed or referred to with the terms anh, chi., chu', em, cha'u, con. To show anger and disdain, the terms ma`y, mi... might be used, and fawning is shown by the use of nga`i or cu. Io'n. =*=

"By observing the use of the terms of respect in Vietnamese, people can guess, to a certain extent, the personality and good manners of the speaker as well as the relationship between speaker and hearer. The use of these words which function as personal pronouns is a very delicate matter that depends on the speaker correctly assessing the relative age, status, and degree of intimacy between speaker and hearer. A man and a woman, at their first acquaintance, will call each other ong and toi (or co and toi). But as the degree of intimacy reaches the level of love, the term ong is replaced by anh and the term tp^i will become em. When love is lost, they will revert to the initial ông and tôi. In some cases where anger, hatred, and lack of self-control prevail, ong may become ma`y and toi may become tao. The terms anh/em and ma`y/tao are separated by a Great Wall of feelings and emotions. =*=

"Terms of address such as bác, cbú, and anh are perhaps the most difficult to use in Vietnamese because they can express opposing feelings and sentiments. According to the context, they may express respect or disdain, familiarity or contempt. Perhaps they are much more difficult to use than the French words tu/toi which also can express either intimacy or contempt. When we address a stranger tu/toi, the only feeling conveyed is obviously contempt. But a Vietnamese addressing a stranger as bác may mean respect (considering him on the same footing as our father's elder brother), familiarity and affection (regarding him as his uncle), or outright contempt (looking down on him as having a low social status). =*=

Time Concepts to Vietnamese

To Americans, time has a beginning, a span with fixed events, and an end. This time is divided into B.C. and A.D. measurement. This is linear time measurement, The linear concept of time motivates change, improvement, progress. Americans look for ways in which they can explore, dominate, and utilize the universe. Because of a sense of personal, individual dignity and value, they don't hesitate to tamper with the world; to grasp and exploit its elusive secrets and make them man's servants. [Source: The Religions of South Vietnam in Faith and Fact, US Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel, Chaplains Division ,1967 ++]

The Vietnamese understanding of time and history is different. To them-except when influenced by Western thought-time is circular. As the twelve-year repeating calendar repeats itself, so historical events repeat themselves. There is little sense of progress. History possesses little value and few goals. Hence, the Vietnamese is not impressed by a need to "rush". He has lots of time, but little money. His life span is already too short; so why rush it away? There is usually an abundance of labor and many mouths to feed; make do with what you have. Develop sufficient patience, and perhaps in the next existence your Karma will permit improvement. After all, the only way to make any real progress is by improving one's merits and the practice of the Eight-Fold Path to Nirvana with the removal of the 108 desires. ++

This concept of time combined with poor diet and disease often results in less than the fullest possible effort. When climatic conditions are added to these three elements, along with the teachings of Taoism and Buddhism, it is to their credit that the Vietnamese have achieved as much as they have. So remember: 1) Time is not as valuable to the Vietnamese as time-conscious Americans feel it is to them. For the Vietnamese, the ability to live each day and have sufficient food, etc., is more important than anything else. 2) American exuberance tends to overwhelm and "smother" the Vietnamese.

Concept of Spirits and Spirit-Controlled Environment in Vietnam

Belief in good and evil spirits, both animate and inanimate, is basic throughout Vietnam regardless of other religions professed. Some Americans are superstitious; but usually in spite of their religious beliefs. Many Vietnamese are superstitious because of their beliefs. Some Vietnamese are very serious in seeking to appease evil or harm-causing spirits and the spirits of deceased ancestors. Not to appease would be to create problems. [Source: The Religions of South Vietnam in Faith and Fact, US Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel, Chaplains Division,1967 ++]

Thus the Spirit House, the Spirit Pole in the rice paddies, the mirror by the door of the home, the "ishi" lions at the Temples or homes, the Ancestor Altars or Shelves, etc., are attempts to be in harmony with the spirits, and to have the spirits to do the will of the appeaser. Moreover, pleased spirits can do much to counteract evil ones. It is widely believed by most classes throughout Vietnam that spirits have the power to do evil by causing sickness, death, and other troubles. It is because of such beliefs that: 1) Mirrors by the door frighten spirits and prevent them from entering the home. 2) Red paper representing the "Door God" does the same thing. 3) Buddhists desire that an even number of people be in a picture lest death be caused to one of the group. 4) Since spirits cause sickness and death, never joke about these lest the spirits be angered and take action. ++

Since the "life-stuff" of man lives in the head, patting the head is believed by some to be an attempt to steal away the spirit and cause death. NEVER PAT ANYONE ON THE HEAD. Better yet, simply keep your hands to yourself. Because the head is the residence of the soul, the feet are considered of lowest value. So do not sit with feet crossed, pointing the soul of the foot to anyone. This is considered gross insult by many Vietnamese. Many of the rituals created by Animism, wherever found in Vietnam, are designed to ward off illness, death, etc., by requesting protection or by propitiating an errant or evil spirit. Many women have small shrines to Quang An for protection during childbirth and while children are small. The small children may also wear numerous amulets as charms against harm or ailments caused by errant or wandering spirits. ++

Many Vietnamese families have a service within the first twelve years of a child's life which is suppose to cleanse the child from the evils of its birth and allow intelligence while promoting a healthy adulthood. This service may consist of a small altar dedicated to the goddess of birth--usually Quang An--on which are placed twelve bowls of sweet soybean and sugar soup. Twelve pieces of paper with pictures of the calendrical cycle is then burned. Because childhood is the time when the evil spirits are most zealous, the little ones must be carefully guarded. It is now that little boys especially must be protected and brass bracelets may be placed on the small child as the spirits do not like the feel of metal, or an earring may be worn by the male-baby to fool the spirits into thinking it is a girl. Likewise, the small children are sometimes cautioned not to play under the trees where the spirits "rest" for fear they may anger the spirits. ++

Pregnant women often observe many taboos in order that the strains of pregnancy be eased and that birth may bring forth well-formed children without deformity. They must not eat "unclean" foods such as the snake, rat, mouse, dog, or beef lest the child be retarded; this does not preclude the use of tobacco or betel-nut. Because her presence might create "bad luck" for a bridal couple, a pregnant woman is not supposed to attend weddings, nor is she to take part in funerals as this may cause her child to be a "crybaby". She is to also shun places of worship including the pagoda and shrines to avoid angering the resident spirits of these places: since the spirits often promenade at twelve and five o'clock, she must not be outside her house so the evil spirits will not see her and create harm for her or the baby. Within the house, she must always take care to avoid stepping over a sleeping place or the unborn child may be infected with lethargy so that it will take seven days after birth for its eyes to open. Moreover, stepping over her sleeping husband can afflict him with sleeping sickness even as drinking from a cup which he is using may create many problems for him. ++

Concept of Individuality in Vietnam

In contrast to the Confucian teaching that the individual is merely a link between past and future generations, Buddhism stressed individuality. Among the Twelve Principles of Buddhism, the place and responsibility of the self is emphasized when it is declared that "self-salvation is for any man the immediate task". Man is not his brother's keeper; but must find his own way to Nirvana by escaping the Wheel of Existence through the use of the Eight-Fold Path and the elimination of the 108 Desires or Cravings. Because each individual has his own Karma which must be worked out for eventual salvation, it is necessary that merit be gained through good works in order to climb the ladder to Nirvana. For the Buddhist Monk, this may be done through giving sermons, through meditating, etc. For the laity it will include meditation before Buddha's statue, and giving gifts to the pagoda and the monk. In some cases there may be merit granted for helping other people; but, normally, the greatest merit is gained through help to the pagoda and to the monks. The denial of the 108 Desires or Cravings means submission to fate and resignation to life as it is. This denial prevents involvement in the quest for a better life and the acquisition of material things, as these are thought to be illusory. The real virtues, by contrast, are patience and humility. [Source: The Religions of South Vietnam in Faith and Fact, US Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel, Chaplains Division,1967 ++]

The preceding concepts create the following ideas and behavior patterns: 1) Avoid showing anger to anyone who offends. The more annoyed or perturbed the Vietnamese becomes, the more polite he will be, he will speak in a softer voice, and he will smile more. Therefore, loud speech, vulgarity, and anger by Americans are acts which may create concealed or repressed anger and hostility. 2) Humility is revealed in attempts to make you feel completely at ease. You will be seated higher than your hosts. Dignitaries and officials walk in front of others. Places of honor are offered to guests. Humility prevents the Vietnamese from contradicting you, even if you are wrong. And verbal agreement may be given to your plan, even when there is no intention to follow it up with action. 3) Teachings of individuality and eternal Nirvana tend to hinder industrial growth, capital investments, and general economic progress. Such material developments run contrary to the idea that man can find ultimate success only in the denial of the very drives which facilitate them. ++

Men in all cultures-including the Vietnamese-respond to problems of life in one of four ways or modifications thereof: (1) Fight or resist; (2) Submit, accept, or surrender; (3) Take flight or flee; and (4) Ignore the problem: the "head in the sand" attitude. ++

Vietnamese Sense of Humor

In a discussion on TNH Hanoi Forum on why Vietnamese often don’t get Western jokes, Donkey-abroad wrote: "Our cultures probably have different ideas of what is actually funny. I think maybe a more important one, that I come across a lot with my wife, is that although she is fluent in English, she can't really distinguish the different tones of my voice. As a lot of my humour will often be sarcastic one liners, she thinks I'm being serious when I say something sarcastic because she can't differentiate the tone of voice I'm using. Just like I can't here the different tones in Vietnamese. Vietnamese have a tonal language, so tones for definition rather than expression are what their ear's are used to. [Source: TNH Hanoi Forum //\\]

"I think that the other reason may also relate to the type of humour we have. A lot of humour in English relies on a "play on words" and knowing the second or third meaning of a word that may be spelt differently but sound the same. While we as native English speakers can pick this up and normally pretty instantly get that the person telling the joke isn't using the main definition of the word and understands which second meaning they are using and gets the joke, I think someone not speaking their native language is always going to find this more difficult. //\\

"For example, to bring back an old classic, the first version is what people hear when you first say this joke, but on thinking about it, a native speaker is going to realise that it is actually meant to be like the second version and therefore get the joke. A) Two nuns in a bath, one says, "Where's the soap?" The other says, "it does, doesn't it" B) Two nuns in a bath, one says, "Wears the soap!" The other says, "it does, doesn't it" //\\

Newman wrote: Like many things here, I find it is all about relationship and context. I rarely try and be "funny" to my Vietnamese friends. It is highly unlikely they would understand my Aussie or Kiwi blended and twisted sense of humour given they have a very different culture and context to me. What I do find is that if, during the course of normal conversation, I am self-deprecating about my poor Vietnamese, my experiences here, the differences between our cultures and environments etc, laughter and general hilarity is often the result. But, like my own culture, it is based on relationship, not mere acquaintance. With my good friends, we have a great, funny and relaxed time when we go out because we know each other and they understand that I can poke fun at myself and that it is OK for them to laugh. Conversely, they will also poke fun at themselves and we also have a good laugh. So, relax and don't try too hard to be funny. Develop strong relationships and allow things to move naturally. //\\

"I actually find my Vietnamese friends have a great sense of humour and love to go out, relax and have fun. Just last night we were chatting with friends about Tet and how we should not expect much work to get done from late January through to end of February with all the preparations and after-parties that will occur. We had a raucous debate about this, all of us almost falling off our chairs with laughter. It is a great way to learn about how friends tick and what is really important to them - humour is a terrific cultural understanding tool, but it takes time." //\\

Vietnamese Jokes

Short Vietnam Jokes Q: What do you call Vietnamese guy that wants to be black? A: Vinegar. Q: What happens when a Mexican and an Vietnamese man make a baby? A: A car thief who can't actually drive is born. Q: How do you blind an Vietnamese woman? A: You put a windshield in front of him. Q: How does every Vietnamese joke start? A: By looking over your shoulder. Q: Whats the difference between a smart Vietnamese man and a unicorn? A: Nothing, they're both fictional characters Q: Did you hear about the winner of the Vietnamese beauty contest? A: Me neither. Q: Why wasn't Jesus born in Vietnam? A: He couldn't find 3 wise men or a virgin. [Source:, submissons by: daniellegibson, gezahegn.serawit, 2lawyers >><<]

Blind Fold An American man was sitting in his favorite restaurant when a Vietnamese bloke said to him, "I am sick of seeing your big round eyes." The American replied, "Put on a blind fold." The Vietnamese man asked, "Where do I get one? The American then said, "Here take my shoe lace." >><<

Free Man: A Vietnamese couple who has been married for twenty years went to the wedding reception of a close comrade's daughter. During the ring exchange ceremony, the husband started to cry profusely. The wife, surprised by her husband's emotional outburst, said, " I didn't realize that you have so much feeling to share with your comrade's happiness." The husband replied, "No, you are wrong! That was not why I cried." He continued, "Twenty years ago, your father caught us doing it, and threatened that if I don't marry you, he'll get the Viet Cong to put me behind bars for twenty years. Weeping even louder, the husband said, "If I had just gone to jail, I would've been a free man by now. I made a big mistake. " >><<

Cigar: An American GI was fighting in Vietnam. One day he received 2 letters from home, one letter comes from his mom asking for his picture, one letter comes from his girl friend also asking for his picture. He had only 1 picture that he took at a beach standing naked. He didn't know what to do so he decided to cut the picture into two, the top half he sent to his girl friend. The bottom half he sent to his mom because he knew his mom had a poor eyesight, she wouldn't know. When his mom received the bottom half of his naked picture, she sighed: "Poor my little boy! He has no time to shave his beard. He looks like his father, always has a cigar on his mouth." >><<

Border Patrol: Tuan comes up to the border between Vietnam and China on his bicycle. He has two large bags over his shoulders. The guard stops him and says, "What's in the bags?" "Rice," answered Tuan. The guard says, "We'll just see about that. Get off the bike." The guard takes the bags and rips them apart; he empties them out and finds nothing in them but rice. He detains Tuan overnight and has the rice analyzed, only to discover that there is nothing but pure rice in the bags The guard releases Tuan, puts the sand into new bags, hefts them onto the man's shoulders, and lets him cross the border. A week later, the same thing happens. The guard asks, "What have you got?" "Rice," says Tuan. The guard does his thorough examination and discovers that the bags contain nothing but rice. He gives the sand back to Tuan, and Tuan crosses the border on his bicycle. This sequence of events if repeated every day for three years. Finally, Tuan doesn't show up one day and the guard meets him in a noodles restaurant in Vietnam. "Hey, Buddy," says the guard, "I know you are smuggling something. It's driving me crazy. It's all I think about..... I can't sleep. Just between you and me, what are you smuggling?" Tuan sips his beer and says, "Bicycles." >><<

School Lunch: Two Vietnamese exchange students arrive at the university cafeteria for lunch and ask what was available for lunch and were told there were pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs and fries. They each order a hot dog and sit down at a table to eat. After one unwraps the tin foil off his hot dog he looks at the hot dog and asks the other - "So what part of the dog did you get?" >><<

Vietnam Vet: A man was being interviewed for a job. "Were you in the service?" asked the interviewer. "Yes, I was a Marine," responded the applicant. "Did you see any active duty?" "I was in Vietnam for 2 years and I have a partial disability." "May I ask what happened?" "Well, I had a grenade go off between my legs and I lost both testicles." "You're hired. You can start Monday at 10 am." The somewhat surprised applicant asked, "When does everyone else start? I don't want any preferential treatment because of my disability." "Everyone else starts at 7 o'clock, but I should be honest with you," explained the interviewer. "Nothing gets done before 10 o'clock because we just sit and scratch our balls trying to decide what to do first." >><<

Vietnamese Tradition: A soldier in Vietnam saw a local man coming down the road with his wife behind him with a bicycle loaded with all their possessions. The soldier asked him why he carried nothing but a cigarette and his wife had to push the loaded bicycle alone. The man replied, "TRADITION". Two weeks later he saw the same local man on the same road but this time she was in front and he was pushing the loaded bicycle. The soldier asked him what happened to TRADITION and the man said "LAND MINES." >><<

Currency Exchange: "A Vietnamese man walked into the currency exchange in New York City with 2 million vietnam dong and walked out with $100. The following week, he walked in with another 2 million vietnam dong, and was handed $84. He asked the teller why he got less money that week than the previous week. The teller said, "Fluctuations." The Vietnamese man stormed out, and just before slamming the door, turned around and shouted, "Fluc you Amelicans, too!"" >><<

Vietnamese Pizza: An American businessman goes to Vietnam on a business trip, but he hates Vietnamese food, so he asks the concierge at his hotel if there's any place around where he can get American food. The concierge tells him he's in luck; there's a pizza place that just opened, and they deliver. The concierge gives the businessman the phone number, and he goes back to his room and orders a pizza. Thirty minutes later, the delivery guy shows up to the door with the pizza. The businessman takes the pizza, and starts sneezing uncontrollably. He asks the delivery man, "What the heck did you put on this pizza?" The delivery man bows deeply and says, "We put on the pizza what you ordered, pepper only." >><<

Phone Call: Three men want make phone call from Hell to remind to their relatives about its harsh conditions Their Nationalities were American, Italian and Vietnamese. So they decide to go to Devil who is the boss. So the American made a call and the Devil made him to pay 100 USD, then an Italian made a call and the Devil made him to pay 10 Euros on fact that Italy is less developed than that of USA. LASTLY the Vietnamese made a call and the Devil made him to pay a cent Both the American and Italian complain as it is not fair and the devil responded to them "The Vietnamese call was a local call whereas your was an International call" >><<

The Foreigner: Once there was a man that came from Vietnam to America, He couldnt speak English so he went to choir and learned how to say "Me me me me me me." Then he went to the store and saw a little girl say "He stole my dolly" And on his way home he went to get meat from the butcher and learned how to say "Big butcher knife big butcher knife." Then he went home and watched an air freshener commercial and learned how to say "Plug it in Plug it in." Then he went to the store and there was a murder the police said "Who killed this man?" The foreigner said "Me me me me me me me." The police said "Why did you kill him?" And the man said "He stole my dolly." The police man said "What did you kill him with?" The man said "Big butcher knife big butcher knife." Then they took him to jail and sentenced him to death. The police man said "any last words?" And the foreigner said "Plug it in plug it in." >><<

Regional Differences Among Vietnamese

Individual Vietnamese have a strong sense of regional cultural identity. The region in which a person lives or comes from has a strong impact on the person’s preferences relating to such things as festivals, food, drink, clothing, cultural personality, music and language dialect. Some Vietnamese refer to themselves as kinh , meaning lowlander, to distinguish themselves from the highland "tribespeople." They often also identify themselves as "northern," "southern" or "central" Vietnamese.

The north has the most Chinese and Confucian influence while the south is influenced more by Khmer and Cham culture and Theravada Buddhism. Central and northern Vietnamese are regarded as more hardworking, patient and prudent than people in the south. They tend to plan more carefully for the future, are more tactful and polite, and less revealing in their feelings. People from central Vietnam are often teased for their low moral standards.

According to the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: " Diverse cultural traditions, geographic variations, and historical events have created distinct traditional regions within the country. The general topographic dichotomy of highland and lowland regions also has ethnolinguistic significance: The lowlands generally have been occupied by ethnic Vietnamese, while the highlands have been home to numerous smaller ethnic groups that differ culturally and linguistically from the Vietnamese. The highland peoples can be divided into the northern ethnic groups, with affinities to peoples in southern China, and the southern highland populations, with ties to the Mon-Khmer and Austronesian peoples of Cambodia, Indonesia, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia. [Source: Encyclopedia of Sexuality, |+|]

"A north-south variation also evolved among the ethnic Vietnamese as they expanded southward from the Red River Delta along the coastal plain and into the Mekong River Delta. The Vietnamese themselves have long made a distinction between the northern region, with Hanoi as its cultural center, the central region, with the traditional royal capital of Hue, and the southern region, with Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) as its urban center. The French also divided Vietnam into three parts: the northern Tonkin, the central Annam, and Cochinchina in the south. Official efforts to move families from the densely populated areas to the "new economic zones" in the Central Highlands have tended to marginalize the minority groups living there, in addition to causing ecological stress. |+|

Differences Between Northern and Southern Vietnamese

Vietnam was not truly unified until the 18th century. Before then southern Vietnam was mostly part of the Khmer and Cham kingdoms. The north has traditionally been poorer, more traditional, and more conservative than the south while the southerners have traditionally been richer, freer and more hedonist, spontaneous, capitalistic, Christian and direct than northerners.

Southerners are much more materialist and entrpreneurial than northerners. They have a reputation for being more willing to splurge and spend money than the northerners. After the Vietnam War the South got richer quicker and more investment went south. At first foreign investors were more comfortable dealing with southerners, plus many overseas Vietnamese investors had ties to the south.

Ben Stocking of Associated Press wrote: "Northerners tend to think of themselves as more cultured, and view Hanoi as Vietnam's capital of art, literature, and scholarship. Some see Ho Chi Minh City as a place of glitz and fun, but a bit shallow. Southerners consider themselves more dynamic and tend to see Hanoi as a quaint, sleepy town. They have been more exposed to Western ways, while the north is more influenced by neighboring China and by communist central planning. [Source: Ben Stocking, Associated Press, February 22, 2007 ^+^]

"Southerners with money take their friends out to dinner; northerners tend to be thrifty and prefer to visit friends at home, said Kim Dung, a journalist who moved to Ho Chi Minh City from Hanoi 12 years ago. But northerners generally are more concerned about status and will buy one expensive motorbike while the southerner is more likely to buy two cheap ones, she said. Dung says she misses the village feel of Hanoi's winding streets and street vendors balancing baskets of fruit on their shoulders. ^+^

People from the north have a reputation for being indecisive. This is thought to be both a product of a traditionally cultural emphasis on collective decision-making and the modern red tape of the communist government. The is strong sense of working together for a common goal in the north. Southerners are regarded as lazy by many northerners. This perception some say is partly related to the abundance of food in the south— and less of a need to work to eat. Southerners still have a hard time getting into positions of influence in the government. They are often cynical about the government and ignore it propaganda.

Rivalry, Tensions and Distrust Between Northern and Southern Vietnamese

Some people in the north, particularly older people, still regard people from the south with some suspicion because their leanings in the Vietnam War. The younger generation does not seem to be preoccupied with the legacy of the war. They care more about how the soccer team is doing.

Ben Stocking of Associated Press wrote: "Northerners are rude, they talk funny, they are lousy drivers and have bad taste. When a Vietnamese blogger unleashed this tirade from down south recently, people 700 miles away in Hanoi responded with a flood of angry postings online and a few death threats text-messaged to the blogger's cellphone. The episode underscored a delicate truth about Vietnam: Hard feelings die hard. The United States has had 142 years to recover from the civil war. The Vietnam War's north-south division ended just 32 years ago.Vast cultural differences divide the former republics of North and South Vietnam. Hanoi is as far from Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, as New York City is from Atlanta . The two cities have different cuisines, different dialects, and different styles of doing business. [Source: Ben Stocking, Associated Press, February 22, 2007 ^+^]

"Relations are generally civil, even friendly. But occasionally, something stirs up old animosities. And nothing has stirred them like Nhu Hoa's shot in the country's thriving blogosphere, which she wrote after a weekend visit to Hanoi. "I came to realize that Hanoi was not a place for Saigonese, who are food connoisseurs," wrote Hoa, a university student who complained about everything from the condensed milk northerners use in their coffee [sticky and sweet] to the speed of their Internet connections [very slow]. "I don't like anyone who isn't from Saigon," Hoa declared. "I pity the parents who gave birth to this devil baby," Hanoi resident Bui Dung shot back in a typical online riposte. ^+^

"Since the war ended in 1975, legions of northerners have moved to Ho Chi Minh City, the country's business hub and a testing ground of stereotypes. Many northerners relish the nightlife and business buzz of Ho Chi Minh City, but the adjustment can be difficult. "I felt like I was coming to a foreign country," said Tran Thu Huong, 37, who moved here to direct an Australian educational exchange program. "People spoke Vietnamese, but I didn't understand what they were saying." At school, classmates ridiculed her daughter's northern accent. "I hate Saigon. I want to go back to Hanoi," the girl would proclaim. Six months later, the 11-year-old had transformed her accent and won acceptance. ^+^

"Northerners and southerners often use different words to describe the same thing. Southerners are direct; a northerner's yes may mean no, says Phan Cong Khanh, who owns a Ho Chi Minh City chemical company. He says he sometimes has trouble reading his Hanoi customers' wishes."Southern companies tell you what they need right away," Khanh said. "With northern companies, it's like a winding path." ^+^

"While plenty of southerners still harbor grudges over the war, many are willing to put them aside. Phan Ho Thien Vu, 26, a Ho Chi Minh City attorney, comes from a family that worked at the US military base in Cam Ranh Bay and lost everything after the war. His grandparents had to go to a reeducation camp and absorb communist dogma. "It's just the past," Vu said. "Forget it." Far more unites the regions than divides them, Vu saidBut he does have one big gripe about the north. "The service is terrible!" he said. "If you go to a restaurant and ask for an extra chopstick, the owners get angry at you." ^+^

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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