VIET NAM – THE COUNTRY OF PEACE
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 east 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.
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.)
Vietnam is a populated country of over 90 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.
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 accommodations. Major exports are crude oil, marine products, rice, coffee and tea, rubber and clothing.
Vietnam’s Three Regions
Map showing the major cities of Vietnam. 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’s Cities and Provinces
Hanoi is Vietnam’s capital, and the location of Vietnam’s central government. Hanoi was the former capital of North Vietnam under the French and during the war. It is an older gracious city. Ho Chi Minh City (formerly knew as 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. Vietnam has 5 major cities or municipalities (city-provinces): Can Tho, Da Nang, Hai Phong, Ha Noi, and Ho Chi Minh and 63 provinces. Most of these allow international adoption.
Vietnam’s Important Holidays
The most important holiday celebrated in Vietnam, and indeed by Vietnamese people worldwide is Tet, The Vietnamese New Year. Tet is commonly described as Christmas, Thanksgiving and your birthday all celebrated at once. The second most celebrated Vietnamese holiday is the Mid-Autumn-Festival. This celebration honors the harvest time and family. There are many other Vietnamese holidays, religious and non-religious, wide-spread and local, influenced by Chinese culture or unique to Vietnam. Most Families of Children from Vietnam chapters celebrate both Tet and Tet Trung Thu, either with their local Vietnamese community organizations or independently.