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A Country, One Culture?

Updated: May 9

When people talk about Vietnamese culture, it's often described as a singular entity. But the reality is that beneath the umbrella of Vietnamese identity lies a diversity of regional subcultures, each shaped profoundly by their unique histories and surroundings.

As volunteers working in Vietnam, it's important to understand that culture is not monolithic across the country. Northern Vietnam, Central Vietnam and Southern Vietnam are the three main historical, geographical and cultural regions within Vietnam. Each region consists of subregions, with considerable cultural differences originating from each subregion.

Geography & Climate:

  • Northern Vietnam shares borders with Laos and China, featuring a humid subtropical climate with four distinct seasons: Spring (Jan-Mar), Summer (Apr-Jul), Autumn (Aug-Oct), and Winter (Nov-Jan).

  • Central Vietnam borders Laos. It has a tropical monsoon climate characterized by two seasons: a rainy and cold season (Nov-Feb) followed by a dry and hot season (Mar-Oct).

  • Southern Vietnam borders Cambodia. It has a tropical savanna climate with two distinct seasons: a rainy season (May-Sep) and a dry season (Oct-Apr), ensuring hot temperatures year-round (25-38 degrees Celsius).


  • Northern Vietnam: Immerse yourself in the architectural wonders of Vietnam and discover the charm of simple, small houses in the Red River delta and traditional wooden houses on stilts nestled in the mountainous areas.

  • Central Vietnam showcases its architectural beauty through the graceful garden houses in Hoi An and the awe-inspiring royal complexes in Hue.

  • Southern Vietnam captivates with its blend of modern structures, tall houses, and captivating colonial French buildings.

Food and Taste:

Vietnamese cuisine, renowned for its freshness and healthiness, is rapidly gaining popularity worldwide. With its remarkable diversity, Vietnamese food can be classified into three primary categories based on the country's distinct regions: the north, south, and central regions.

  • Northern Vietnam being the "cradle" of ethnic Vietnamese civilization, bears many of Vietnam's signature dishes (such as phở and bún chả). The cuisine is perceived to be complex in ingredients but simplistic in flavours.

  • Central Vietnam delights with its colorful, decorative, and complex cuisine, featuring smaller portions served in multiple courses. Prepare to be enchanted by an immense variety of spices and bold flavors. Central Vietnam dishes also feature a large amount of seafood.

  •  The South's cuisine has been influenced by the cuisines of southern Chinese immigrants and indigenous Cambodians, and thus Southerners prefer sweet and sour flavors, respectively, in many dishes.  Southern cookery also tends to use a significantly larger variety of fresh ingredients while Northern cuisine mainly relies on preserved and dried goods.

Accent & Language:

The Vietnamese language features many accents. The three major dialects are those of the North, Center, and South with major differences in phonology and vocabulary. Due to cultural prominence, the Hanoi and Saigon accents are mostly intelligible to speakers from other regions. The Central accent, in particular from the provinces of Nghệ An, Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Bình, Quảng Nam, and Quảng Ngãi is often unintelligible to speakers outside of these regions.

While Vietnam is often seen as a unified country, its cultural richness lies in the diversity found within each region and its subregions. Exploring Vietnam's cultural tapestry unveils a captivating array of traditions, customs, and cuisines that vary from north to south and from highlands to coastal areas. Hope you will have a great journey with volunteering and exploring the cultural wonders of this extraordinary country.



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