The cultural mindset
Many tourists come to Vietnam with the perception that Vietnamese are quite similar to Thai, a travel destination that many of them know quite well. When you have the time to meet and understand the people you will discover that despite similarities in appearance, there are some differences in thinking and behaviour.
Firstly, Vietnamese has live under strong influence from Confucianism. This is presented in their work ethic, duty and morality. In Vietnam, people respect learning and teachers have the important role in their life. There is a Teacher Day (20 November) in Vietnam and students express their gratitude to the teachers on the day. The same thing happens during Tet.
Old society is ranked by 4 levels: scholar, farmer, manufacturer and trader which save the most respectful for whom work in intellectual fields. Ruled by the thinking, a farmer family in the countryside save all the money they have and invest in education for their children with a wish that one day their children can become teachers. Parents do not dare to spend money for their own but send children to the city for getting higher education.
Vietnamese accept their destiny and society order. Normally, the oldest son in the family will heritage the duties and responsibilities from the father after he pensioned and passed away. He will take care of finance of the family as a bread earner. He will work to maintain former living standard for the family. It is normal in Vietnam the oldest son or daughter will work at the farm and send his younger brothers and sisters to the city for following higher education. He or she wait until the youth go to the college and after that he or she can think about his own happiness and get married.
One of the most character of Confucians is pride and self-respect. Especially in the North, people has relatively high level of self-respect. Everyone should protect their faces. Do not loose their face in public. Even in difficultly economic situation, a cyclo driver in Hanoi wears a relatively formal costume when he hardly works on the street.
Secondly, their filial piety. Children have to respect the seniors in the family. They have to worship and remember the day they passed away and make it important events even though many generations ago. Children has to take care of their parent then they retire. In Vietnam, there is not popular if you send your parents to nursing home. Student should not argue with the teachers or parents. Their duty is obeying and follow the tradition and be harmony with the superiors. Nowadays, the youth is influenced by Western democracy and they also raise their voices at school and at home, but until they are financially independent, they must act in harmony with the seniors.
Another character of Vietnamese is collectivism. That means society over individual. That is the character I think very close to Jante Law in Scandinavia countries. People are taught to think about harmony of the society than themselves. Vietnamese use the proverb “we” more than “I” when they talk. The “I” is normally considered as an ugly thing.
Last but not least, their entrepreneurism. Especially in the South, people are more practical and has a strong entrepreneur spirit. Everyone wants to make a business even a small vendor service. Therefore, in Vietnam, we cannot rely on data of unemployment statistics because normally a man can have many jobs at the same time and when he jobless with one job, he still has many things to make money. The southern people do not to be so formal and rigid especially in their business deals. They are more open and frank more than other Asians. When they invite you as a partner of their business for a meal, that means they like you and want to know you more even though they meet you a few times.