Despite the influence of the big culture of China over the history, the Vietnamese culture has been established with many features which are similar to the cultures in the Eastern Asia and different from the cultures in the South East Asia which was influenced by the Indian cultures (such as Cambodia, Laos and Thailand).
Although the Chinese culture is considered the most external culture influencing on the Vietnamese culture, the Kinh group still remains many own features of its culture. These customs still play crucial roles in the life of Vietnamese people today. Many historians believed that before the influence of the Chinese culture, the DongSon culture which was originated in the Northern Vietnam (and also developed strongly in other areas in the Pacific region) is the first stage of the Vietnamese history.
It can be said that the Vietnamese culture is a mixture of many old cutlures and the original Vietnamese culture. Apart from the influence of the Chinese culture, Vietnamese culture is also influenced by the smaller cultures such as Indian and Cham cultures and later on by Western cultures (France, Russia and America)
About 70% of Vietnamese currently live in rural areas, and although many are being influenced by the process of a growing economy, rural tradition and customs still play a vital role in shaping the national culture. The Vietnamese community is organised into villages. A village is a close and structured “organisation”. A village usually has a “communial house” (đình làng) which commemorates the founder (thanh hoang) of the village and is also a place for the village gathering, meetings or for organisating important events and festivals. A village is often bounded by the bamboos and has a gate. There is also a cay da, a swell, a big playing ground and even a communal padoga. The playing ground of the village house is the place for community gathering or important activities or the community. Leaders of the villages who are often the oldest or richest people in the community are respected. Each village always has its own “law” or principles. The image of a village demonstrate all good or negative features of the Vietnamese culture during the “Feudal time” (phong kien).
A village includes many families. Family in Vietnam is refered to a big family covering different generations living together in a house. Families are casted into different positions in the family hierarchy, the lower position in the family hierarchy need to express honnorifics to signify the status of and show respectful attitudes to the people in higher position in the family hieararchy, while people in higher position in the family hieararchy has responsibilities in care and education of the lower level children.
Responding culture to the natural environment
Since the foundation of the Vietnamese culture is an agriculture based, Vietnamese people have appropriate responding culture to the nature. Vietnamese people have a great understanding of nature, especially good natural conditions as well as experiences in fighting against bad features of the nature for agricultural development. For instance, Vietnamese people know how to use bamboos, Neohouzeaua, woods, rattan for building a house, and catch fishes or get water from rivers or streams or seas for food. In terms of housing architecture, the Vietnamese people has chosen good direction of the house and lands in order to avoid bad weather and harmful wind as well as to face to the solar direction or build a house near a river and stream in order to easily get water for daily life and for agricultural production. Another characteristic in the housing architecture is that it follows the law of “phong-thuy” (geomancy or wind and water). It means that the selection of land and house direction considers the harmonised combination of positions of lands or moutains, wind direction and water sources. This characteristic was well demonstrated in the architecture of the Thanglong royal palace Wall (thanh Thang Long), Ho royal palace Wall and Hue royal palace Wall or well indicated in the “three talents” theoroy of the people “heaven-earth-human in harmonisation”. The responding culture of people to the nature is also demonstrated in the fashion style, products fit seasons, wearing light material during summer and warm material in winter or applied in the production such as water irrigation, weather forecast and what seeds or plants are appropriate to which seasons.
Responding culture to the social environment
Since early childhood, Vietnamese people are taught how to follow common moral practice of the nation and follow the Confusion which educate people to accumulate good morality and taking “humanity” as priority, respecting the old and upper level people and protect the lower level people, practicing moral characteristics in order to dedicate to the nation and care for the own families. Vietnamese people have a high spirit of “respecting teachers and emphasizing parental roles principle”. Vietnamese people value roles of parents in giving births and roles of teachers in education. “The first day of the Lunar New Year, going to visit fathers, the second day of the Lunar New Year, visiting mothers, the third day of the Lunar New Year, visiting teachers”. Vietnam during the feudal time (phong kien) which means “respected men and looked down women”, this principle caused many unhappiness to the women. After 1945, the Government officially reconigsed the equal roles of men and women.
Vietnamese cuisine uses very little oil and many vegetables, and is mainly based on rice, soya sauce, and fish sauce. Its characteristic flavors are sweet (sugar), spicy (serrano peppers), sour (lime), nuoc mam (fish sauce), and flavored by a variety of mint and basil. A traditional meal of the Vietnamese people includes rice, vegetables and fish. It is added by a small bowl of fish sauce as considered a center component in the meal of Vietnamese people.
Vietnam also has a large variety of noodles and noodle soups. Different regions invented different types of noodles, varying in shapes, tastes, colours, etc. One of the nation's most famous type of noodles is phở (pronounced "fuh"), a type of noodle soup originating in North Vietnam, which consists of rice noodles and beef soup (sometimes chicken soup) with several other ingredients such as bean sprouts and scallions (spring onions). This food was originated from Northern Vietnam. There are also many good food from Central and Southern Vietnam, specialising for different areas or regions.
Vietnamese fashion is much diversified. In feudal Vietnam, clothing was one of the most important marks of social status and strict dress codes were enforced. Commoners had a limited choice of similarly plain and simple clothes for every day use, as well as being limited in the colors they were allowed to use. For a period, commoners were not allowed to wear clothes with dyes other than black, brown or white (with the exception of special occasions such as festivals – New Year, weddings or other particular events), but in actuality these rules could change often based upon the whims of the current ruler.
One of the most popular clothes worn by women during the period before the 20th Century was “ao tu than” or “4 part dress”. Many researchers in this field believe that “ao tu than” might appear during the 12th Century. During 18th Century, the peasants across the country also gradually came to wear silk pajama-like costumes, known as "Áo cánh" in the north and Áo bà ba in the south. The headgear of peasants often included a plain piece of cloth wrapped around the head. For footwear peasants would often go barefoot or simple wooden shoes whereas sandals and shoes were reserved for the aristocracy and royalty. At any important events, men often wore a traditional long dress with 2 pieces in front, a black or grey scarf (khan xep) which was made of silk or cotton tieng around their heads. Differently from the fashion by the ordinary people, fashion of the royal place was much diversified and sofisicated with around 30 styles which were chosen based on different types of festivals or events. Monarchs had the exclusive right to wear the color gold, while nobles wore red or purple.
By the tuberose- a famous painting by artist To Ngoc Van
The most popular and widely-recognized Vietnamese national costume is the Áo Dài, which is worn nowadays mostly by women, although men do wear Áo dài on special occasions such as weddings and funerals. This style was originated in the 18th Century or in the Royal period in Hue. Áo dài is similar to the Chinese Qipao, consisting of a long gown with a slit on both sides, worn over silk pants. It is elegant in style and comfortable to wear. Up to now, “ao dai” has been developed and created with different styles in shapes in order to adapt to the current fashion and societal changes. Many people believe that “ao tu than” was actually first version of “ao dai” and then was changed in to “ao ngu than – 5 parts of ao dai” and finally into the current “ao dai”.Thanks to its popularity, “ao dai” has become a symbol for the country, representing the Vietnamese culture.
The major religion in Vietnam is “Tam giao – 3 triangle religion”. Historically, the so-called Tam Giáo ("triple religion"), characterizing the East Asian intricate mixture between Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism has always had a large impact on Vietnamese society and philosophy. Apart from these religions, there were two other religions which were domestically originated namely Cao Đài and Hoà Hảo. Christian religion accounts for 8% and majority of this religion is following Roman Catholic and other minority of Christian religion follows Potestian religion (as later stage).
The biggest Potestian churches in Vietnam include Phuc Am and Phuc Am Degar. Christian religion which was imported to Vietnam has been also vietnamised to Vietnamese people. The most explicit example of this move is demonstrated in Phat Diem Stone church (Nha tho da Phat Diem Ninh Binh), an architecture mixed between Western churches and curving roof of Vietnamese pagoda architecture. A mixture of Sunni Muslim and Bashi Muslim have been also localised and practiced mainly in the Cham ethnic minority group, however a small number of Veitnamese people also follow Muslum in the South Western part of Vietnam.