When we landed in Hanoi, Vietnam, we stepped into the 90-degree humid weather, and the city was bustling with HUNDREDS of motorbikes all around us… our senses were definitely peaked! Vietnam is a colorful country with a lot of history and a lot of character. It’s important to look into the country’s statistics and information in order to understand more about the people who live there.
First of all, Vietnam is part of an area of the world called “Southeast Asia,” and more specifically part of “IndoChina,” which is comprised of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, and Peninsular Malaysia. It is the easternmost country of Southeast Asia, and shares a border on the north to China. With an estimated 90.3 million inhabitants as of 2012, it is the 13th-most-populous country in the world!
Here are some basic facts about Vietnam:
Capital: Hanoi (in the north)
Currency: VND, Vietnamese Dong
Language: Vietnamese. And a lot of people speak basic English, nowadays, as the study of English is now obligatory in most schools.
Population: 90 million+ (2013)
Government: Marxist-Leninist (communist/socialist) single-party state
Economy: GDP: 320 billion, GDP Per capita: $3,547 (2013)
Religion: About 85% of Vietnamese identify with Buddhism, though not all practice on a regular basis. Other religions include Christianity, Hòa Hảo, and Cao Đài. (2013)
Literacy Rate: 93.2% (2010)
Climate/Seasons: Because of differences in latitude and the marked variety in topographical relief, the climate tends to vary considerably from place to place. During the winter or dry season, roughly from November to April, monsoon winds usually blow from the northeast and pick up considerable moisture. Temperatures vary less in the southern plains around Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta, ranging 69.8 and 82.4 °F over the course of the year. Seasonal variations in the mountains and plateaus and in the north are much more dramatic, with temperatures varying from 41.0 °F in December and January to 98.6 °F in July and August.
Foods: Vietnamese recipes traditionally feature a combination of main items including lemongrass, ginger, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander, Saigon cinnamon, bird’s eye chili, lime and basil leaves. Common ingredients include fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, rice, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is known for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of oil, and reliance on herbs and vegetables, and is considered one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide.
Work environment: Overall, the population in Vietnam is centralized in agriculture (63%), and industry and services (37%). Women make up 48.45% of the working population. Paid maternity leave is 4-6 months. Minimum vacation days per year: 10 days.
Unemployment Rate: 4.5% (2012)
Education: Kindergartens are not compulsory, tends to only be popular in larger cities, and will usually admit children ranging from 18 months to 5 years of age. Primary education starts at age 6, is compulsory, and goes from grade one to grade five. Secondary school or Junior High School includes grades six through nine, and is NOT compulsory. Same goes for High School, which includes grades ten through twelve. After high school, if a student wishes to go on to University, they must pass an entrance examination . . . but it was estimated in 2004 that only 20% of the 1 million students that took the exam actually passed!
Life expectancy: 76.9 years old (2010)
Drinking/Smoking age: There is no legal drinking age in Vietnam, but you have to be 18 years old to purchase alcohol. There is no legal smoking age. (2013)
Driving: Minimum driving age is 18. People drive on the RIGHT side of the road (same as the US) (2013)
Interesting Vietnam facts:
An elegant looking conical palm hat, which is traditionally known as a “non bai tho” (a hat with poetry written on it), is worn as part of a woman’s formal dress. This traditional conical hat is particularly suitable for a tropical country like Vietnam, where fierce sunshine and hard rain are commonplace.
- Approximately 40% of all Vietnamese, or more than 30 million people, share the same family name, Nguyen.
- One of the delicacies in the country is the Vietnamese Snake Wine, also known as “ruou ran.” This is typically made of rice wine with a dead snake floating in it. This wine is believed to be an aphrodisiac drink in Vietnam and is commonly consumed on occasions like Valentine’s Day or marriage anniversaries. This wine is believed to cure night-blindness and impotence as well.
- The length of Vietnam from north to south is about 1,025 miles. It is roughly the distance from New York to Miami.
- 9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty during the official Vietnam era from 1964 to 1975, including 2,709,918 Americans.
- Most Vietnamese people take a nap after lunch. This means driving from 12noon to 1pm is really quiet and smooth.
- Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is located at the same geographical latitude, 21 degrees North, with Honolulu in Hawaii and Cancun in Mexico.
- In Vietnamese schools, instead of bells, gongs are used to call children.
Nobody really respects pedestrian crossing lanes in Vietnam. You look left and right, say a little prayer, cross quickly, and the motorbikes *usually* zoom around you as you cross the road.
- The tunnel network underneath Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City stretches out to over 75 miles. The Cu Chi tunnels were heavily fortified and served as the base for the Viet Cong during the Tet Offensive, and have been preserved by the government and turned into a tourist attraction.
- The Vietnamese wear helmets not to be SAFE on the roads, but in order not to be fined by the police/traffic officers.
- Every family has 2 or more motorbikes and they park them inside, on the ground floor, which means the living room is basically a garage, too.