Things I’ve Learned In Viet Nam

Things I’ve Learned In Viet Nam

“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.”

Thích Nhất Hạhn

It is spelled Viet Nam in Viet Nam in English and it seems to be spelled Vietnam in the US.

Vietnamese New Year is everybody’s birthday. Vietnamese  measure age by the number of lunar years you have lived.

Vietnamese weddings have seven to eight hundred guests. The groom’s family pays for the wedding.  (The men  like our tradition better) It  can be as cheap as ten dollars a head. The custom is to do the wedding above their social standing. (that sounds familiar)

Instead of bells, traditional gongs are used to call the Vietnamese children to school.


Although Vietnam is a developing country, it has a literacy rate of 94%.


Viets make up the largest ethnic group.  Nam means south country. Vietnam means country of southern Viets.


Fifteen per cent of Vietnamese  language is French ,fifteen per cent is minority groups and seventy per cent is Chinese.

They get along well with the other ethnic groups because Vietnamese believe that they are all people who” came from the same box”.


Among all developing countries, Vietnam has one of the lowest unemployment rates.


Korea is the biggest foreign investor in Viet Nam followed by Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.

They are the number one exporter for black pepper and  number two exporter for cashews, coffee and rice.

Three big things in a Vietnamese life is getting a wife, building a house and buying a buffalo. ( I guess for non villagers that means a job now)


Vietnam is crawling with Australians. it is a four-hour flight. They know everything  – who the best tailors are, where to get glasses made, good guest houses. Even if it is their first time, they have that information from their friends.

Beauty Treatments are everywhere.


No you have not had the best Banh Mi sandwich of your life unless it is on the side of the road in Saigon or Hanoi.


Same goes for Vietnamese  coffee.


Ruou ran (snake wine), a Vietnamese specialty of rice wine with a pickled snake inside, allegedly can cure any sickness.


If an older person wants you to drink with them, you have to show respect and obedience and comply. Older people appreciate respect and obedience much more than ability and success.

Gambling in casinos in Vietnam is illegal for local people but legal for tourists and expats.

One million Vietnamese dong is close to about fifty dollars. You feel rich all the time in Vietnam because all your bills are in denominations of several thousands.

When a guest comes to your house, the more meat you prepare, the more important the guest.

Buddhism here involves a communal house to worship the ancestors They practice a Theravedic Buddhism which includes Taoist and Confucian teachings. (altar a house in the Mekong Delta)


Vietnamese believe in the Lady Buddha.


The communist attitude toward Buddhism and all religions greatly influenced the less strict practice of any religion in the country.

Vietnamese believe that Happy Buddha is a sign of good luck and good deeds. Starving is not the only way to become Buddha.


They believe in burial. When they are able to, they bury near their  houses so they can watch  the house.


The Vietnamese language has six different tones. A change in tone changes the meaning of the word. This makes their language somewhat difficult to learn.

Dog meat is relatively popular in Vietnam Probably not where you are eating.

Vietnamese don’t take a shower in the morning. They prefer to take a shower in the evening.

Teenagers in Vietnam  love anything Korean –  food, music, hairstyle, clothes, etc. Yes, K-POP is a big thing here.

So is karaoke.


When Vietnamese drink tea or water (or anything), they always leave 5 to 10% in the cup after drinking. They don’t empty their cups. There are many lovely teas – jasmine,ginger, peppermint, licorice and Palm leaf to name  a few.

According to the Vietnamese News, taxis are a stain on Vietnamese hospitality. Ho Chi Minh City distributed leaflets warning tourists and are wondering if that would help. Mai Linh and Vinasun are the most reliable taxis.

An estimated ten million motor bikes travel on the roads of Vietnam every day. You will be painfully aware of the mass use of motorbikes here. They crowd every alley, curb, and sometimes sidewalk. This is because in Vietnam, not only are bikes relatively cheap, but they’re easy to fix, and they run for many hours on just a few litres of gas,


Vietnamese take a nap after lunch. This means driving from twelve to one pm is really quiet and smooth. Yes, no traffic jam!


They wear helmets not to be safe on the roads but in order not to be fined by the police/traffic officers.


Nobody respects pedestrian lanes crossing here. The trick is be assertive and don’t stop crossing no matter how scary and also pray.


Every family has 2 or more motorbikes and they are parked on the ground floor. Sometimes  the living room is a garage at the same time.


The Vietnamese peasant cared nothing for politics in war-time. They leaned toward those who harassed them  the least. (American bunker near Danang)


The truth about this very special country is that you can’t really understand it without visiting it. Seeing the different Vietnam landscapes at sunset, sailing down Halong Bay and the Mekong River, watching the fishermen throw their nets in Hoi An, seeing the families on motorcycles after school, the water buffaloes in the rice paddies and the women in the triangle hats , drinking Vietnamese coffee, tasting the food and feeling the resilience, sense of humor and heart of the people are all things I will remember. It’s a mixture of images, sounds, and even smells and textures that can’t be compared to anything else in the world. (Phu Quoc sunset)


Di du lịch một cách an toàn



6 thoughts on “Things I’ve Learned In Viet Nam

  1. Jayne,
    As always I found myself enchanted with your writing…. Obviously a beautiful country, one that my brother Ric fought hard to save many lives. He was stationed there in the seventies.
    He saw a lot of beauty in the country and the people. My brother was an amazing artist and
    he brought home a huge sketch pad of many of the village people at work and play. Though he survived the Viet Nam war he is no longer with us. One day I
    Would like to see this beautiful country..
    Welcome home,


  2. Great Blog, and super useful since I will be traveling there in January. One question: What do you mean by “According to the Vietnamese News, taxis are a stain on Vietnamese hospitality. Ho Chi Minh City distributed leaflets warning tourists and are wondering if that would help.” Stain? Should taxis be avoided? What are tourists to be “warned” about re: taxis? Looking forward to a sip of snake wine!

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