Things Every Foreigner Should Know About Vietnam

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Actually, there are a lot of hearsay and misunderstandings about Vietnam and Vietnamese people. We list some here and explain our point of view about them.

>> Tips for Safe Taxi Rides in Vietnam

We speak Vietnamese

We have our own native language with a distinct Latin alphabet which is unusual for Asian languages. Throughout the history, Vietnamese used two different systems of language – the writing system we borrowed and modified Mandarin while the speaking system we maintained our Mon-Khmer native tongue. Vietnamese grammar is easy but the speaking is very difficult because of the 6 tones. For beginners, to understand what Vietnamese people say in normal speed is impossible. Vietnamese also has regional accents which just make everything even harder. Take an example; the northerners and the southerners have difficulties when speak to each other and everyone almost can’t understand what Hue people say most of the time.

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Ho Chi Minh (or Sai Gon) is not the capital

Ho Chi Minh City is often mistaken as the capital of Vietnam for its larger population and more dynamic industries. Hanoi in general has more conservative culture than Ho Chi Minh City. This can be seen in the allergy toward PDA – Hanoians don’t really like show or being shown PDA in public. The nightlife in Hanoi is quite poor: everything is closed before midnight, there are only few night bars, clubs, dance floors which again are under control of government. But in the other hand, Hanoi is safer, rich in cultural charms. Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon is very westernized due to the deep influence of USA during Vietnam War. Saigonese are open, laid-back, less judgmental, easy-going, and speak more English than Hanoians. Nightlife in HCMC is exciting and vibrant. There is only one annoying thing about Saigon that is the pick-pocketing and robbery which can be very dangerous sometimes.

The traffic is CRAZY

No matter what where you stay, you can find the traffic erratic at some point like Da Lat – a famous touristy destination – has no traffic lights, or the number of motorcycles in Hanoi and HCMC combined is well over 10 millions (and 36 millions national wide). In rush hours, things get worse. If you are on foot, it’s a survival challenge to cross the roads when thousands of bikes, cars and buses leave you no space and hints where and when to cross. In this situation, just look for some locals to find help, they are experts in this.

If you decide to try riding motorbike in Vietnam, make sure you do it legally with full licenses, a qualified helmet and rules knowledge. North highland Vietnam is the best place for motorbiking with winding roads superb scenery.

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Some of us eat dogs and cats

Yes, some of us still eat dogs and cats both in cities and countryside. Even though there are a lot of campaigns to raise awareness, large numbers of dogs and cats are still be killed each year. Actually, both dog and cat are traditional dishes of not only Vietnamese culinary but also some other countries’ so it’s difficult to erase this age-old custom. Vietnamese do see dog and cat as friends but they are just as good as food, like any other animal else (except for whale because Vietnamese fishermen consider Whale as a sea god). Many westerners are offended by this fact but please bear in mind that there is an animal that is forbidden to eat in every country, and in Vietnam that’s not dog and cat.