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Culture & Identity of Vietnam

Introduction

The way of life in Vietnam is fairly diverse. This is especially true based on the differences in occupations and geography. Over two thirds of the population lives in rural areas, but the landscape prevents traditional farming for many people.

About half the population works in agriculture; for these people the daily way of life is heavily dependent on mother nature. Work generally begins early with the rising of the sun and ends with the setting of the sun. This makes work days of different lengths, but the weather and seasons also help dictate when work can be done and how much work needs to be done.

More than just the working hours, the time in these fields is also very diverse. Few people have heavy machinery so much of the work is done by hand or with simple machinery. For some, their farms are terraced rice fields on the hillside, while for others there is a flatter plot of land. These changes also dictate what can be grown and how work is done, giving rise to great diversity among the farmers.

For the other half of the working population the jobs are quite varied and again there are numerous different lifestyles. Many of these people work in the services sector, with a slightly smaller number working in industry. For many of these people working hours are more regular so the way of life seems to follow more of a pattern than it does on the farms. For these people, like the many farmers, tend to begin the day early, often starting work and school as early as 7:00 am. Many people work until about 4:00 pm with a long lunch break, but there is great variation on this; more importantly, most people have regularly working shifts so have a daily or weekly pattern.

No matter the location, the schedule, or the job, life in Vietnam seems to be focused on family above all else, both in the rural areas as well as in the cities. Many people work to help support their greater family, not just their spouse and children as often times family means a large family covering three generations with everyone taking on differing roles, from working and housekeeping to raising children.

Identity

The people of Vietnam generally identify by their ethnicity and for most of the population that ethnicity is Viet or Kinh, which are often grouped together and translated into English as Vietnamese. These identities were historically only defined by the ethnicity, language, food, dress, and culture of the people, but since the communists came to power in Vietnam, they have been slowly altering the definition to include social and political aspects that are in line with communist ideologies. Due to this effort, it is difficult to completely separate the term "Vietnamese" from the political entity as the people living in Vietnam today define their culture in ways that the communists have dictated.

Many ethnic Vietnamese outside of Vietnam identify as Vietnamese, but reject the social and political definition that the identity is slowly gaining in Vietnam itself. For these people, the Vietnamese identity is still only tied to the ethnicity, language, food, dress, and culture, but can also be more narrowly defined to include any ethnic Vietnamese, no matter their culture.

This page was last updated: November, 2013