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Culture

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The period of modern Vietnamese culture has gradually taken shape since the 30's and 40's of this century under the banner of patriotism and Marxism-Leninism. Vietnamese culture, with the increasingly intensive integration into the world modern civilization and the preservation and enhancement of the national identity, promises to reach a new historical peak.
It can be said that there were three layers of culture overlapping each other during the history of Vietnam: local culture, the culture that mixed with those of China and other countries in the region, and the culture that interacted with Western culture. The most prominent feature of the Vietnamese culture is that it was not assimilated by foreign cultures thanks to the strong local cultural foundations. On the contrary, it was able to utilize and localize those from abroad to enrich the national culture.

The Vietnamese national culture emerged from a concrete living environment: a tropical country with many rivers and the confluence of great cultures. The natural conditions (temperature, humidity, monsoon, water-flows, water-rice agriculture ...) exert a remarkable impact on the material and spiritual life of the nation, the characteristics and psychology of the Vietnamese. The Vietnamese nation was formed early in the history and often had to carry out wars of resistance against foreign invaders, which created a prominent cultural feature: a patriotism that infiltrated and encompassed every aspect of life.
Four great philosophies and religions have shaped the spiritual life of the Vietnamese people: Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity. Over the centuries, Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism have melded with popular Chinese beliefs and ancient Vietnamese animism to form what is known as Tam Giao (or `Triple Religion').
The Vietnamese language (kinh) is a hybrid of Mon-Khmer, Tai and Chinese elements with many of its basic words derived from the monotonic Mon-Khmer languages. The most widely spoken foreign languages in Vietnam are Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), English, French and Russian, more or less in that order.

Popular artistic forms include: traditional painting produced on frame-mounted silk; an eclectic array of theatre, puppetry, music and dance; religious sculpture; and lacquer ware.
VIETNAMESE CUISINE
Vietnam is a long, skinny country stretching from Hanoi and the Red River in the north to Ho Chi Minh City and the fertile Mekong River Delta in the south. These ends are connected by a mountainous spine that runs along the South China Sea. On the west, Vietnam is bordered by Laos and Cambodia, and to the north, lies China. The food of the north, through stir-fries and noodle-based soups, shows the heavy influence of Chinese cooking. The mountainous middle section, with the former Imperial capitol, Hue, at its center, has an abundance of fresh produce.
It was in Hue that royal chefs developed the more elaborate dishes of Vietnamese cuisine. The southern region is tropical, sustaining rice paddies, coconut groves, and many more spices than the north. As in the rest of Southeast Asia, there is an ancient layer of Indian cultural presence, most obviously evidenced in the religion of Buddhism (which, during the first millennium C.E., made its way along the Silk Road from India to East Asia). French colonization of Vietnam, which began in the 16th century and ended in the middle of the 20th century, also had a deep influence on Vietnamese cooking. The cuisine balances all these influences. One street vendor may noodle soup, pho bo, from his cart. The next vendor over might sell baguette smeared with one of the many ground pork concoctions known as pâtés. Both may be complemented by the ubiquitous native fish sauce (nuoc nam) or dipping sauce (nuoc cham -- made from fish sauce, water, sugar, and lime juice and seasoned with chiles and garlic).
As in many of the neighboring countries, a Vietnamese meal is rarely divided into courses. All the food is served at once and shared from common dishes. Meals are anchored by a starch, usually rice and sometimes noodles (especially in the north where grain is more prevalent than rice). The Vietnamese prefer long-grain rice to the glutinous short grain varieties preferred by northern Thai and Japanese palates. Most meals include a soup, a stir-fry, and another main dish. Often, a light salad with shrimp or beef and vegetables will accompany the meal. Like the Chinese, the Vietnamese eat from a bowl with chopsticks.
Vietnamese cooking is generally not as rich or heavy as the coconut milk curries, of, say, Thailand or India. All that coastline means that fish and seafood are central to the diet. Other meats -- pork, beef, and chicken -- are also common, but in smaller quantities. Vegetables are often left raw, especially in the south, to act as a fresh contrast to the spicy cooked meat. The distinct flavors of Vietnamese food come primarily from: mint leaves, coriander, lemon grass, shrimp, fish sauces (nuoc nam and nuoc cham), star anise, ginger, black pepper, garlic, basil, rice vinegar, sugar, and green onions. Many flavorful marinades are made by some combination of these flavorings. Marinated meat or fish is quickly sautéed in the wok and served with an array of raw vegetables and herbs. All this may be eaten over rice or rolled in a rice-paper wrapper or lettuce leaf (or both), then dipped into a pungent sauce.
Roll Your Own
The other do-it-yourself element in many Vietnamese meals comes with roll-your-own rice-paper rolls. For example, grilled chunks of lemongrass beef (thit bo nuong), grilled meatballs (nem nuong), or freshly steamed shrimp (tom) all come served with a salad plate together with a stack of moist rice papers (banh trang) or fresh rice wrappers (banh uot). You lay a wrapper on your open palm, put in a piece or two of meat, several strips of pickled radish, perhaps some herbs, sprouts, or rice vermicelli, then tuck over the ends and roll it up. You now have your own unique fresh spring roll that can be dipped in nuoc cham or nuoc leo, or eaten simply on its own.
Market and Restaurant Foods
Market food is at its best, and offers the greatest selection in the morning before the day gets hot. While breakfast in the south and north is generally soup, in rural areas it can be xoi -- sticky rice steamed in a leaf wrapper. Often peanuts or mung beans are steamed with the rice. In addition to street food, you'll want to experience a Bo Bay Mon or "Beef Seven Ways" restaurant. Beef dishes include beef fondue (bo nhung dam), grilled beef-stuffed leaves (bo la lot), beef pate steamed in banana leaves (cha dum), and beef rice soup (chao thit bo). Another restaurant specialty, often eaten for lunch in the south, is banh xeo, a kind of crepe filled with finely chopped vegetables and meat.
Beverages
Freshly pressed sugarcane juice is available from vendors in the afternoon and evening. Vietnamese beer is good; try Saigon Beer or 333. Vietnam grows its own tea in the region around Dalat. Tea is consumed morning to night; it's served before or after but never during a meal. For another caffeine hit, try Vietnamese coffee black and hot or iced with condensed milk, gafe suda -- our favorite. The coffee is made in individual slow-drip filters and can be very strong.
Family Culture
Respect for parents and ancestors is a key virtue in Vietnam. The oldest male in the family is the head of the family and the most important family member. His oldest son is the second leader of the family. Sometimes, related families live together in a big house and help each other. The parents chose their children's marriage partners based on who they think is best suited for their child. When people die, their families honor their ancestors on the day of their death by performing special ceremonies at home or at temples and by burning incense and fake money for the one who died. The Vietnamese believed that by burning incense, their ancestors could protect them and their family from danger and harm.
Days before the ceremony starts, the family has to get ready, because they won't have enough time to get ready when the guests arrive and the ceremony starts. Usually the women cook and prepare many special kinds of food, like chicken, ham, pork, rice, and many more including desserts.
While the women are busy cooking, the men are busy fixing up and cleaning up the house, so it won't be messy and dirty because of all the relatives of the person that died will come for the ceremony and show honor and respect to that person
Events
Special prayers are held at Vietnamese and Chinese pagodas on days when the moon is either full or the merest sliver. Many Buddhists eat only vegetarian food on these days. Some of the major religious festivals follow a lunar calendar. They include: Tet (late Jan-early Feb), the most important festival of the year, marking the new lunar year as well as the advent of spring; Wandering Souls Day (August), the second-largest festival of the year, when offerings of food and gifts are given to the wandering souls of the forgotten dead; Doan Ngu (June), when human effigies are burnt, becoming soldiers in the god of death's army; and Holiday of the Dead (April), which commemorates deceased relatives.
Asian Female/ Caucasian Male Relationships
Updated Friday, Mar 08, 2002, 10:21:39 AM to reflect the 100 most recent valid responses.
Assuming you are an Asian female, which of the following most attracts you to Caucasian males?
  • Their facial features 56%
  • Their physique 11%
  • Their attitude and personality 29%
  • Their education & cultural values 4%
Assuming you are an Asian female, which of the following most dissuades you from relations with Caucasian males?
  • I don't find them physically attractive 0%
  • I don't find their personalities and attitudes appealing 13%
  • I don't think they would find me attractive 74%
  • I'd rather not deal with the disapproval of family 13%
Assuming you are a Caucasian male, which of the following most attracts you to Asian females?
  • Their facial features 66%
  • Their physique 14%
  • Their attitude and personality 17%
  • I'd rather not deal with the disapproval of family 13%
  • Their education & cultural values 3%
Assuming you are a Caucasian male, which of the following most dissuades you from relations with Asian females?
  • I don't find them physically attractive. 0%
  • I don't find their personalities and attitudes appealing. 9%
  • I don't think they would find me attractive.76%
  • I'd rather not deal with the disapproval of family. 15%
 
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