Vietnam the CountryAn introduction to the fascinating country of Vietnam.
Vietnam is officially known in English as the "Socialist Republic of Vietnam", sometimes abbreviated as SRV. The full name in Vietnamese is Cong Hoa Xa Hoi Chu Nghia Viet Nam.
In common usage, Vietnamese use two words "Viet Nam", and Americans use a single word "Vietnam".
Vietnam is part of South East Asia, bordered by ocean on the west and south, with China to the north and Cambodia and Laos to the west. Vietnam is about the size of New Mexico (329,560 sq km), but shaped in a long, narrow "S".
Vietnam has a hot tropical climate in the south and a monsoon climate in the north. The hot, rainy season lasts May to September and warm, dry season is October to March. (More on Vietnam weather).
Vietnam is a communist country. Religion, speech, press and other aspects of society remain under central control. Since Vietnam's "doi moi" (renovation) in 1986, Vietnam's economy and, to some extent, policies have become increasingly modernized and less restrictive.
Vietnam's flag is bright red with a yellow star. The red represents blood spilt during the country's fight for independence. The star represents Vietnam's unity and the points on the star represent the union of the people working together in building socialism. (Vietnam flag craft for children.)
South Vietnam's flag had three red stripes on a yellow background. Originally based on a design from the last Emperor of Viet Nam (Bao Dai), the red stripes represent the blood line of three regions of Vietnam and the yellow background represents the earth or skin color. This flag is still used by many Vietnamese American organizations, first generation Vietnamese immigrants, and Vietnam Veterans, symbolizing their sacrifices and the ideal of freedom.
Both flags call forth deep emotions for what they represent in Vietnam and in the Vietnamese American communities.
Vietnam is a populated country of over 85 million people. Although the villages have played a key role in Vietnam's psyche and social order, most people now live in the major cities where jobs are more plentiful. Due to the war, there are fewer older men in Vietnam (although they still are predominant in the government) and many younger people. Military service is still compulsory for 2 years.
The literacy rate is impressively high (over 90% are able to read). However, Vietnam is still a relatively poor and less healthy country.
Vietnamese is the primary language. It is a tonal language, relatively easy to read but difficult to speak. Luckily, English is growing in popularity. Some French is spoken in the North. Khmer and related languages are spoken in some areas. The 65 tribes speak their own languages Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian. (More on Vietnamese language.)
Trade agreements and increased modernization are making a great improvement in quality of life for Vietnamese and Vietnam's visitors. Tourism is increasing with better transportation, services and accomadations. Major exports are crude oil, marine products, rice, coffee and tea, rubber and clothing.
Vietnam's Three Regions
Vietnam is traditionally divided into three regions (North, South and Central) based on years of history, occupation and geopolitical settlement. These regions are known among Vietnamese for differences in dialect, food, history, culture and temperament of the people.
Vietnam Cities and Provinces
Hanoi is Vietnam's capitol, and the location of Vietnam's central government. Hanoi was the former capitol of North Vietnam under the French and during the war. It is an older gracious city. Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) was the capital of South Vietnam. It is the second largest city, and is a leader in business. Ho Chi Minh city is sprawling and vibrant, with a large Chinese center. (More on Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.)
Vietnam has 5 major cities or municipalities (city-provinces): Can Tho, Da Nang, Hai Phong, Ha Noi, and Ho Chi Minh and 59 provinces. Most of these allow international adoption.
Back to: Vietnam & Vietnamese Culture