Skip to Main Content

Through the Lens of Time: Vietnamese Culture


General Background

The Vietnamese culture is a synthesis of ideas, beliefs, and influences of the Chinese, the Europeans, and the Socialist era. For centuries, many groups, Vietnamese and foreign, have contributed to this rich complex culture.


China dominated Vietnam for 1000 years and the Asian cultural influences underlie many of the traditions and beliefs of modern Vietnam, particularly Confucianism. Ancestor worship and respect for elders, as practices of Confucian philosophy, were adopted by Vietnamese and held through the generations.  


French colonialism, in the mid 1800s, brought about the spread of Catholicism,  and the adaptation of the Vietnamese language to the Roman alphabet.  European cultural influences are evidenced in the cuisine as well as in the arts. Though Vietnamese art is deeply rooted in ancient mythological beliefs and symbols, natural elements, landscape, etc., the colonial era introduced Western artistic expression and methods, initiating the beginnings of Vietnamese modern art.


Socialism’s cultural impact lies mainly in the people’s exposure to government controlled media and socialist programs and only the influences of the cultures of communist nations. Since the 1990s, the government and the people are open and interested in economic development with foreign nations, and the culture of Asian, European and American culture and media.


A central element of the Vietnamese culture is the family unit. It is where most other elements and traditions of the culture is practiced and witnessed. The immediate family consists of two to three generations and often the immediate family and the extended family of relatives live in close proximity.  Ancestors are venerated and elders are respected and honored. Community and family values are deeply rooted, and working hard and studying hard are held in the highest regard.