10 Things You Might Not Know About: Vietnam

Vietnam, or as some call it, “The Land Of The Rising Dragon,” is an elongated coastal state in Southeast Asia and borders Cambodia, Laos, and China to the south. The country fascinates its visitors with dreamlike bays and coastal regions, lush green highlands and rice fields, as well as lively metropolises. But there’s much more to learn about this dynamic country!

Kings and Queens of Cashews

Vietnam is the world’s largest exporter of cashew nuts with a 25 percent share. In 2017 around 353,000 tons of cashew nuts were exported, which led to total revenue of 3.5 billion USD. But cashew nuts are not the only export hits: Vietnam’s also the second-largest rice and coffee exporter worldwide. 

Lucky Dragons and Turtles

Dragons and turtles are sacred animals in Vietnam and are considered lucky symbols. Especially turtles are highly worshipped and believed to bring luck and health to the Vietnamese due to their old age. Next to dragons and turtles, other symbols of luck are unicorns and the phoenix. You can find the images of these four symbols in many prominent and religious buildings.

World’s Largest Cave

Credits: Dave Bunnell

The “Hang Son Doong” cave is located in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in central Vietnam near the border to Laos. Because of its many caves, among other things, the park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2003. “Hang Son Doong” alone is 38.5 million cubic meters in size, 8.9 kilometers long, its roof 200 meters high, and its deepest point is 490 meters underground. With these measurements, the cave has its own river and several beaches inside – you can even find clouds there. If this doesn’t impress you, we don’t know what else will. 

Nguyễn

40% of the Vietnamese have the family name “Nguyễn,” making it the country’s most common surname. There is a long history behind this name. Today, since so many people share the same last name, some families tend to add family-specific “epithets” like “Nguyễn Hữu,” “Nguyễn Văn,” or “Nguyễn Tiến.” 

Motorbikes – Motorbikes EVERYWHERE

There are significantly more motorcycles than cars in Vietnam since very few people can afford a car. The reason: high taxation associated with buying one. There are around 45 million mopeds and only 2 million vehicles for every 93 million inhabitants. So, as a pedestrian, it is not that easy to cross a street. Unfortunately, the many rattling mopeds and motorcycles also emit a lot of exhaust gases. To protect themselves, many people in Vietnam wear face masks.

From Developing To Newly Industrialized 

Vietnam was often referred to as a developing country. But due to a transformation from a central administration economy to a socialist market economy, which triggered rapid economic growth, the country became an attractive investment location for international companies. As a result, in 2011, the World Bank had classified Vietnam as an emerging and officially Newly Industrialized Country. But even before 2011, Vietnam had one of the lowest unemployment rates of any developing country and has a literacy rate of 94%.

Difficult Language (or not?)

Yes, Vietnamese has six tones/pitches and many strange vowels that we cannot find in other languages. However, most people don’t understand that intonation is the only real problem with learning Vietnamese. All other aspects of the Vietnamese language are far more straightforward than you imagine—especially when compared to most European languages.

Grammar-wise, there are no genders, no definite or indefinite articles, no plural forms, no confusing verb endings, and tenses are pretty easy to learn. 

Floating Markets

The floating markets are among the extraordinary highlights in Vietnam. They sell locally produced fruit, vegetables, household goods, and animals directly from the ship – the marketers hang the available products on long poles on their boats. In addition, small sampans serve as mobile cafés, where you can buy soft drinks, an iced coffee, or a hearty noodle soup for breakfast.

Descendants of Dragons

Marble dragon statue in the hands of a warrior in a Buddhist temple in the city of Danang, Vietnam. Close up

According to ancient Vietnamese folklore, Vietnamese people are descendants of dragons. The dragon is, therefore, a mythical figure the Vietnamese worship. They also believe that the symbols of dragons bring rain, which they desperately need for the country’s large areas of agricultural land.

Vietnamese Food

The Vietnamese celebrate a profound food philosophy that they base on five elements: spicy (metal), sour (wood), bitter (fire), salty (water), and sweet (Earth). The ideal food dish should find the perfect balance of all these elements – which perhaps explains why Vietnamese food has become a global trend.