While the World seems to have become an ever-shrinking place, that is merely because of the availability of plenty of commercial air flights and the Internet which can send messages backwards and forwards across the Planet instantly. Society has changed and every country is now influenced by contact with others and the influx of tourism is likely to continue that process. Lest that worries you, the preservation of the history and culture of countries in all continents is something that their governments are committed to maintain. If you are considering a Vietnam holiday for example, you will be joining in excess of 10 million annual visitors. Many tourists travel to Vietnam precisely because of its rich history and culture which everyone wants to preserve.
Outside influences are not just a modern phenomenon. Over time, this part of South East Asia has been influenced by near-neighbours. India and China are modern-day powerhouses and the movement of their people over neighbouring regions has been something that began many, many centuries ago. Their contribution to today’s Vietnam does includes things that have been embraced and included in a rich culture that is likely to be so different from home for every tourists arriving from outside the immediate area.
Vietnam travel packages inevitably include plenty of content that relates to Vietnamese culture; its people, religion, art and music, customs and etiquette. Some things that you may find totally different from home should be taken on board in order not to offend naturally hospitable people. The most important of these is probably having due respect for religion and religious sites. Ironically, in a country when the vast majority of the local population is Buddhist, the government stance is that Vietnam is officially an atheist country. That does not mean that there is any obstacle to people devoutly following their religion. It is worth noting that even though Buddhism predominates, ancestor worship is important to every family while there are elements of religion drawn from Confucius. Some locals are Muslim while there is a small percentage of Christians, born of colonial days and times before that. There are both Catholics and Protestants.
If you are taking a Vietnam family holiday, you all need to observe the etiquette expected of everyone at religious sites. Even though temperatures may be high, it is essential that everyone dresses respectfully. That means that no one should wear shorts or T shirt, shoulders need to be covered and mini-skirts will be frowned upon. You must remove your shoes and socks on entering a temple as well as a private home. It is no real sacrifice to make for the experience of seeing some wonderful temples and even of being able to observe ceremonies at festival times.
When you travel in Vietnam, it is worth knowing sufficient about customs and etiquette so that you avoid offence. You will already have read about wearing appropriate clothing; casual is fine and when there may be insects around, it may be more comfortable to wear trousers rather than shorts anyway. You can wear swimwear on the beach but if you leave the beach to walk around the streets, put some more clothing on before you go. You will need to learn how to haggle; it is fun and a normal activity among the locals. Whatever you do, don’t lose your temper because that can cause offence in itself. Keep smiling as you negotiate. Sellers will expect you to refuse the first price quoted anyway.
Public displays of affection are frowned upon in Vietnam although holding hands is acceptable. There are different parts of the body that are significant to the Vietnamese.You should never touch anyone’s head in any circumstances because the head is regarded as holy. In contrast, the feet are considered rude if you to point in any way, intentionally or unintentionally. Never put your feet up on to furniture either. You should use both hands if you are receiving and passing on any dishes during a meal. On that note, Vietnamese cuisine can be regarded as part of the Country’s culture. It is a style of cuisine that has become popular well outside national boundaries and is certainly one of the many pleasures of taking a holiday in Vietnam.
Vietnam’s art, music and dance has evolved over centuries with both India and China having some influence on each aspect. If you want to enjoy some local entertainment, water puppetry is a tradition that dates back to the 11th Century in the Red River Delta of North Vietnam. The River regularly burst its banks to flood the surrounding lowland areas; a great stage for water puppetry that has increased in popularity in recent years as tourist numbers grew.
Ancient theatre has existed since the Bronze Age as evidenced by drawings on old drums; Cheo, as it is called, is a Chinese word meaning laughter. Today, these comedy shows encourage audience participation. In the 13th Century another form of performing art arrived from China, Hat Tuong. It involves plenty of make-up, stylish and colourful costumes, traditional musical instruments and masks.
There are regional variations in music; Dieu Bac is from the North, Dieu Nam the South. Bac is certainly close to Chinese music while Bac is more attuned to the ancient Cham Kingdom from the Middle Ages. Silk painting, block printing and calligraphy are traditional skills while local handicrafts can be found throughout Vietnam, much of it produced by the indigenous tribes that still inhabit rural regions of Vietnam; lacquerware, pottery, silk products, conical hats and parasols all make great souvenirs and presents. There are thought to be around 2.500 ‘’craft villages’’ in the Country so you are certain to be able to visit one or two during your time in Vietnam.
While there is traditional costume with many variations depending upon tribe, such clothing is really only worn on special occasions; most is unsuitable for daily life in rural areas. If you are lucky enough to be in Vietnam during a festival, you will see these clothes and you will be impressed, as you will be by every aspect of Vietnamese culture.