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Vietnam's History, Language, and Culture

Recent History
For years, Vietnam formed part of the French colony of Indochina, along with Cambodia and Laos. In 1941, the Japanese occupied Vietnam during World War II as they attacked through South-east Asia. The resistance to the Japanese was the leader of the Communist Party of Indochina.

Revolutionary Communist Ho Chi Minh established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam during World War II, to win independence from France. Fighting continued until 1954, when the French surrendered at Dien Bien Phu. Following this Hanoi became the capital of North Vietnam, and Saigon the capital of the South - but Ho Chi Minh was determined to unite the country.
U.S. support to South Vietnam led to full-scale war with the Communist guerrillas in the South (known as the Vietnamese Communists), the North Vietnamese Army and the Soviet Union on one side, and the Americans and the South Vietnamese Army on the other - this broke out in 1965. The U.S. withdrew in 1973 and fighting continued until 1975, when Saigon fell to North Vietnamese troops. Vietnam was reunited under the Communist rule following year.

In 1978, Vietnam commenced a military occupation of Cambodia to drive out the genocidal Khmer Rouge and stayed there until 1989.

After withdrawing from Cambodia, Vietnam focused on rebuilding its own economy and after years of widespread poverty, inflation and pressure, the government started economic reform and renewal in 1986, with owners being allowed their own businesses. Following this, Vietnam's economy recovered, helped by the subsidized aid from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, despite these US commercial organizations boycotted trade with Vietnam. Relations with the United States eased after full diplomatic relations were restored in 1995.

Recent reforms resulted in rapid economic growth until the global crisis of 2008. However, there were no parallel reforms of the political environment in the country - the Communist Party does not intend to relax its hold on political power and has been criticized by human rights groups for increasingly suppressing online dissent, and free speech.

Vietnamese Culture

The Buddhist religion is the most widely practised in Vietnam (over 75% of the population). There are also Taoist, Confucian, Hoa Hao, Cao Dai and other ethnic minority Christians  who are mainly Roman Catholic.

Social conventions:
A handshake and a vocal greeting is normal. Clothing should be kept simple, intimate and discreet. Avoid shorts if possible as they are usually only worn by children. Shoes should be removed when entering Buddhist temples. In Vietnam, you should not touch the head. It is also courteous to give and receive gifts and business cards using both hands.


There are restrictions at ports, airports, some government buildings, and in similar areas elsewhere. It is polite to ask permission before taking pictures of people.

Language in Vietnam
Vietnamese is the official language.

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21 Day Vietnam/Cambodia tour


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