Vietnam Country Guide

People & Culture

Vietnam is home to 90 million people and most are ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh). There is a sizable ethnic Chinese community in Ho Chi Minh City, most who are descendents of migrants from Guangdong province and are hence bilingual in Cantonese or other Chinese dialects and Vietnamese. Various ethnic groups occupy the mountainous parts of the country including the Hmong, Muong and Dao people. There is also a minority ethnic group in the lowlands near the border with Cambodia known as the Khmer Krom.
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Reportedly 81% of the Vietnamese do not believe in God. Neverthless, 85% identify themselves with Buddhism though only 8% are practicing Buddhists. Buddhism practiced in Vietnam (like in China) is unlike in the rest of northern South East Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar practices Theravada Buddhism), the dominant school of Buddhism in Vietnam is the Mahayana School.

Catholicism is the second largest religion in Vietnam accounting for 7% of the population and less than 1% belong to other Christian denominations. Other religious beliefs among the Vietnamese include Hoa Hao (religious tradition based on Buddhism), Cao Dai (syncretistic monotheistic religion) and a minute number practicing Islam (70,000) and Hinduism (50,000).

Mosque near Chao Duc by

Vietnam has a long history as a tributary state of China and several periods under Chinese occupation. Thus, Vietnamese culture is heavily influenced by that of Southern China, with Confucianism forming the basis of Vietnamese culture. The Vietnamese language also contains many loan words from Chinese, though the two languages are unrelated. Nevertheless, Vietnamese culture remains distinct from Chinese culture as it has also absorbed cultural elements from neighbouring Hindu civilizations such as the Champa and the Khmer empires. The French colonization has also left a lasting impact on Vietnamese society, with baguettes and coffee remaining popular among locals.

French baguette in Hanoi by Maryam Laura Moazed

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