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Vietnam at a Glance

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Capital:

Hanoi

Land:

325,360 sq km

Currency (code):

dong (VND)

Exchange rates:

dong per US dollar - 16,119 (2007), 15,983 (2006), 15,746 (2005), NA (2004), 15,510 (2003)

Population:

85,262,356 (July 2007 est.)

Age structure:

  • 0-14 years: 26.3% (male 11,617,032/female 10,784,264)
  • 15-64 years: 67.9% (male 28,711,464/female 29,205,498)
  • 65 years and over: 5.8% (male 1,919,138/female 3,024,960) (2007 est.)

Population growth rate:

1.004% (2007 est.)

Religions:

Buddhist 9.3%, Catholic 6.7%, Hoa Hao 1.5%, Cao Dai 1.1%, Protestant 0.5%, Muslim 0.1%, none 80.8% (1999 census)

Climate:

Summer rainfall is heavy in most areas. While the south experiences a mostly tropical climate, the north has four seasons (two are short); winter months are chilly, but temperatures do not reach freezing. In the south, May to September is hot and rainy, while October to March is warm, humid, and dry. Temperatures are often above 84°F (29°C). Approximately 17 percent of the land is arable; 30 percent is covered by tropical and highland forests.

Language:

Vietnamese is the official language, although ethnic minorities still speak their own languages at home. English is the most popular foreign language to study. Older people may speak some French. Some adults speak Russian or another foreign language because Vietnamese citizens would often work in other communist countries prior to 1991.

General Attitudes:

Vietnamese respect those who respect others. Children must respect teachers and parents. Vietnamese value marital fidelity, generosity, gentleness, and hard work. The lazy, selfish, and disloyal are despised. Promptness is important to the Vietnamese; the time stated is the time meant. Neighbors help each other, and families support one another. Vietnamese hope for a future of wealth and security but worry that traditional family and cultural values will be lost in a modern economy.

The Vietnamese lived under Chinese domination for one thousand years, followed by almost one hundred years of French colonialism (1858–1954). Then came 30 years of civil war, which included the war against the United States. This long struggle for independence has given the Vietnamese a deep sense of national pride. Still, people focus on the future rather than the past. They often are baffled by the fixation many people in the United States have with the “American War,” which they see as past history. Rather than being anti-American, most people today have an interest in all things from the United States.

People are both pleased with their nation’s progress and uncertain about the future. Urban areas are enjoying better basic services, a more open cultural atmosphere, and a growing economy. Unfortunately, the countryside—where about three-fourths of the population lives—continues to be neglected. Peasants still are dominated by party officials, still lack access to cultural opportunities and basic services (health care and education), and still live in grinding poverty. Such inequality encourages migration to urban areas and strains urban infrastructure.

Greetings:

Vietnamese shake hands when greeting formally, but otherwise greet verbally, bowing the head slightly and standing at a distance of about 3 feet (1 meter). A formal greeting between strangers is Xin chao. The most common greeting among friends is Di dau day? (Where are you going?). Co khoe khong? (How are you doing?), Lam gi day? (What are you doing?), and Chao (Greetings) are also popular.

In other situations, Vietnamese greet with a variety of phrases that are nearly always accompanied by a title. The title used depends on the relationship of the two individuals. Titles are based on family, as if everyone were related. For instance, a person greeting a man about the same age as the person’s father calls the man bac (uncle): Bac di dau day? (Uncle, where are you going?). If the man is of the person’s brother’s age, the title used is anh (brother). If a man greets an older woman of his mother’s generation, he greets her as co (aunt) and refers to himself as chau (nephew).

Peers might call each other by their given names, and younger people are addressed by given name. Names in Vietnam are structured with the family name first, followed by a middle name and a given name (e.g., Nguyen Huu Minh). Professionals or officials are addressed by one or more appropriate titles (e.g., Bac si for “doctor”).

Labor force:

45.73 million (2007 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

  • agriculture: 56.8%
  • industry: 37%
  • services: 6.2% (July 2005)

Unemployment rate:

4.2% (2007 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

8.1% (2007 est.)

Natural resources:

phosphates, coal, manganese, bauxite, chromate, offshore oil and gas deposits, forests, hydropower

Exports:

$49.91 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities:

crude oil, marine products, rice, coffee, rubber, tea, garments, shoes

Exports - partners:

Panama 21.2%, US 12.3%, Japan 9.4%, Australia 5.7%, China 4.5% (2006)

Imports:

machinery and equipment, petroleum products, fertilizer, steel products, raw cotton, grain, cement, motorcycles

Imports - commodities:

machinery and equipment, petroleum products, fertilizer, steel products, raw cotton, grain, cement, motorcycles

Imports - partners:

Germany 17.7%, China 12.9%, Singapore 11.5%, Taiwan 9.8%, Japan 8.4%, South Korea 7.3%, Thailand 4.2% (2006)

 

References:

“Vietnam.” CultureGrams World Edition. 2008. ProQuest. <http://online.culturegrams.com>.

“Vietnam.” THE WORLD FACTBOOK. 2008. CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY. <https://www.cia.gov>.

“Vietnam.” Factsheet. May, 2007. Economist Intelligence Unit. <http://www.economist.com>

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