The Significance Of Vietnamese Culture
Vietnam, a country that has changed rapidly in just a short amount of time. History has a lot to tell about the long, narrow country that shares its borders with China, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. After the Vietnam War, the country was restored and filled with hope. From the French colonization to the Vietnam War and even the current postwar era, these drastic changes in the social environment have led to many changes in the culture as well. These changes contributed to the different foods and traditions in every region of Vietnam. Despite being well-influenced by their neighbors and their changes, Vietnamese culture is well-cultivated by the combination of its lifestyle, cuisine, education, and religion.
Similar to other developing countries, lifestyles differ between rural areas and urban areas of Vietnam. Although there are differences between the young and the old, aspects of life continue to remain the same. Like many other southeast Asian countries, Vietnamese people are well known for their kindness, friendliness, and hospitality. For this reason, the importance of family is an important part of the Vietnamese people’s lifestyle. Traditionally, most families in Vietnam have both parents working, so it’s the grandparents’ responsibility for taking care of them. With that being said, respect for the elders is essential and comes a long way, not only in the family but also society in general. Considering that Vietnam is an agriculture-based economy, there are more people living in rural areas than urban cities. It is stated that most civilians live in the countryside from lowlands, mountain areas and the coastal line. These rural areas can be characterized for their bamboo-hedged villages, green paddies, and farmers with their conical hats.
Vietnamese villagers survive through their farming, raising livestock, and with the help and support from others. Vietnamese people are known to be very hard-working. It is an attribute given that they often have to endure many natural disasters and harsh conditions of their tropical environment. In fact, a large amount of people consider working in industrial places or the city, instead of working with the conditions in the fields. Also, the youth would often choose to pursue higher studies in the bigger cities rather than doing manual labor. Although many rural people seek to live a better life in these bigger cities, living expenses can be very difficult to manage. The Vietnamese lifestyle in urban areas is considered to be very modern and complicated. Generally, most families would find higher-paying jobs or even as far as working two jobs to make ends meet. The lifestyle in the city is influenced by industrialization and modernization.
Due to its rich food culture, Vietnam offers one of the best cuisines to many people and tourists around the world. The Vietnamese cuisine is well cultivated and diverse due to its geography and influences. The Vietnamese cuisine was historical influenced particularly by the colonial French and Chinese culture (“Vietnam”). In fact, the country’s geography is also apparent in its cuisine. Take a look at the country’s food production, for example, a majority of their produces are seafood based. Geography plays such an important role because of how vertically it stretches along the South China Sea. However, the South China Sea is not the only important factor to the cuisine, the influence also comes from its neighboring countries. For example, the northern part reflects the Chinese cooking heritage by specializing in noodle soups and soy sauce-based dishes, which differ drastically from the spices used in other regions. Central Vietnam is more abundant with fresh produce, which uses a variety of spices and to serve more vivid and colorful dishes. Lastly, southern Vietnam, most heavily influenced by Thailand and Cambodia is often known for the sweet and spicy dishes similar to Thailand’s cuisine.
The different specialties in each of the three regions make the Vietnamese cuisine very well diverse and versatile. The Vietnamese cuisine has many signature dishes but perhaps the most famous and recognizable foods are Phở and Banh Mi. Many Vietnamese dishes are often burst with complex flavors, showing us a culture of many influences. Phở can be described as a noodle soup that consists of soft rice noodles, flavorful and fragrant broth, and few herbs and spices. There are many types of Pho out there, but Phở Bo and Phở Gà are the traditional and most popular ones.
Other types are Phở Bò Viên and Phở Tôm but are lesser-known. Banh Mi is also another universal dish that is very well known. Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich that has a crispy French baguette as its base and a variety of grilled meats and pickled vegetables. Specifically, the sandwich itself consists of red pork meat, cucumbers, cilantro, and pickled carrots. Through colonial contact with the French brought over the baguette, and the combination of the two cultures created a food item that’s recognizable in its own right and is now being eaten globally.
In Vietnam, getting a job is very crucial when you are trying to provide for your family. Finding a job, on the other hand, can be stressful and competitive, partly due to a strong education system and scarcity of jobs. The Vietnamese have high respect for learning and higher education, that is because the government has always set aside a significant portion of its budget for education (Hays). Education in Vietnam is authorized on a national level by the Ministry of Education and Training. The education system is divided into three stages: Pre-school, Primary school, and Secondary school. Pre-school in Vietnam isn’t mandatory, but if parents would like to enroll their kids they would have to select from a list located at their local education office. Pre-school education for kids, age ranging from 3 to 5.
Kindergarten is also available but mainly in larger cities and the fees are reasonable. Primary school is required by law lasting about 5 years between the ages of 6 to 11 years old. This stage of schooling is provided free of charge, resulting in 95% of children enrolled in the beginning years. The curriculum is focused on basic subjects like Math, Science, Social Studies, Physical Education, and Vietnamese language. Lastly, Secondary school is not mandatory but students that wish to pursue secondary school must take an entrance exam. Students in secondary school age from 11 to 18 years old. Competition for these schools is extremely intense.
Vietnamese people also value their religious beliefs just like their education. Vietnam can be classified as an atheist country, because of its communist regime. Nevertheless, most Vietnamese people are not atheists but believe in a combination of three religions: Buddhism, Catholicism, and Confucianism. Buddhism was introduced in Vietnam in the second century BC. Buddhism remains the most popular religion in Vietnam, generally because of its traditions as well as its philosophy from other faiths like Confucianism and Taoism.
While most Vietnamese today would identify themselves as Buddhists, not many of them participates in Buddhist rituals. Catholicism was first introduced in the late 16th century. This influence was strengthened by the French during its colonial ruling. Catholicism is far the most widespread Christian church in Vietnam. Confucianism is not a religion but rather than a social behavior. The teachings are about god but mainly focuses on how one should conduct one’s life. The values of Confucianism is important to Vietnamese people's view of life and family.
Overall, the country of Vietnam has much to offer whether you are a local or a visitor. The Vietnamese culture is a blend of traditional and contemporary values; the aroma of the food, the harmony of many religions and the family-oriented relationships are what makes it interesting. Through its lifestyle, cuisine, education, and religion, Vietnam is a wonderful and industrious country with a fascinating culture that deserves to be visited.
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