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Story Behind Vietnam’s Tiny Chairs and Tiny Tables

Updated: May 9

If you have traveled to Vietnam, you’ve likely experienced enjoying a delicious Banh Mi while awkwardly trying to fit your knees under a child-like blue/red plastic table. One of the peculiar things about Vietnam is that some of the most delicious food is served on the tiniest chairs and tables. Besides, there's actually a fascinating history behind those little tables and chairs.


In Vietnam the higher the chair is, the more money you have to pay. If you go to restaurants offering you high chairs, nice atmospheres, you should be ready to be charged much more than in restaurants providing you with meals on small chairs.

Would you be willing to sit on the ground to have a free glass of lemon tea?

Just kidding!


Let’s discover the story behind them.



Are Vietnamese Short?

Contrary to popular belief, the prevalence of tiny tables and chairs in Vietnam is not primarily due to the height of the Vietnamese people. While historical factors such as malnourishment among older generations did contribute to shorter stature, this is no longer the main factor today.


Younger Vietnamese generations have benefited from improved nutrition, resulting in increased height. The availability of high-quality protein, once a luxury reserved for special occasions, has become more accessible. The days of widespread stunting, a height-reducing effect of malnourishment, are largely behind us.


However, despite the taller stature of modern Vietnamese, the tradition of using tiny furniture persists. Therefore, we must delve deeper into the phenomenon to uncover its other explanations.




Pop-Up Businesses and Side-Hustles

One significant reason behind Vietnam's affinity for tiny chairs and tables lies in the prevalence of pop-up street restaurants. This aspect of Vietnamese culture is truly captivating. During breakfast and lunch hours, sidewalks come alive with semi-professional street vendors who offer some of the best food in the country.


Even established brick-and-mortar shop owners take part in this vibrant scene. For instance, a piano repairman might seize the opportunity to earn extra income by serving homemade noodles on tiny plastic chairs and tables right beside his inventory of instruments.


In this dynamic environment, the practicality of Vietnamese tiny furniture becomes evident. It can be deployed quickly, stacked easily, moved around effortlessly, and stored conveniently. This versatility perfectly suits the needs of pop-up businesses and side-hustles that characterize Vietnam's street food culture.




The Economic History Unveiled

The tiny furniture phenomenon in Vietnam reveals a fascinating aspect of the country's economic history. Once influenced by factors like malnourishment and height disparities, it has now evolved into a testament to the adaptability and resourcefulness of Vietnamese entrepreneurs.


Next time you come across those charming tiny chairs and tables in Vietnam, remember that there is more to them than meets the eye. They represent a blend of tradition, practicality, and the entrepreneurial spirit that defines this remarkable country.



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