Embrace Local Culture
Thousands of years ago, during the reign of King Kinh Dương Vương, the Xích Quỷ kingdom was an unknown stretch of a vast land on the far East, leaning its back on a range of high mountains while looking out facing the oceans from a long shoreline. He married princess Long Nữ, the daughter of Động Đình Vương - sovereign of the Động Đình Lake. They were then blessed with one child, a boy whom they called Sung Lam, popularly known in the kingdom as Lạc Long Quân, the "Dragon Lord of Lạc”. Because of Long Nữ’s origin, their son was believed to be a descendant from the line of the Dragons. And indeed, Lạc Long Quân had extraordinary strength and supreme intelligence. But his succession from his mother’s underwater world developed in him a strong fascination for the ocean, and the young man was often seen along the shorelines enjoying the waves and exploring the many sea creatures in sight.
Soon, he succeeded his father’s throne and governed the Lac-Viet tribe. Meanwhile, another kingdom rules the highlands in the north. Their king, Đế Lai, had a beautiful daughter named Âu Cơ. Wanting to unite his northern tribe with Lạc Long Quân’s kingdom; he agreed to give his daughter’s hand for marriage with the young man. And a lavish feast was prepared as princess Âu Cơ was wed with Lạc Long Quân. The two kingdoms then celebrated their unity.
Time went by, Âu Cơ gave birth to a pouch filled with one hundred eggs, which soon hatched into one hundred beautiful children. The children grew up strong and smart like their father, and as kind-hearted and skilful like their mother. They were taught well how to cultivate their lands and live nobly. But soon after, the couple started to grow unhappy. Lạc Long Quân always finds his heart longing for the coasts while Âu Cơ constantly yearns for the highlands.
The couple decided to divide their children, of whom fifty will live with Lạc Long Quân along the coasts. Âu Cơ will lead the other fifty to dwell with her in the highlands. However, they made a promise that despite the distance and separation, they must look after each other and always be there to lend a hand should one be in need.
So, Lạc Long Quân took fifty children to the coast and divided the areas for them to govern. He taught them the skills of fishing and the art of tattoos to scare off sea creatures as they dive and hunt for food. He also trained them to plant and harvest rice, as well as how to cook them in bamboo tubes. Âu Cơ, who took fifty children to the highlands, also divided her areas for them to govern. They were taught to live in the jungles and mountains, breed animals and cultivate the soil to grow fruit trees for food. They learned to build houses raised on bamboo stilts to keep themselves safe from wild animals.
The children of Lạc Long Quân and Âu Cơ are believed to be the ancestors of Vietnam. Today, Vietnamese people call themselves “the children of the Dragon and the Fairy” referring to Lạc Long Quân’s lineage from the world of the Dragons and Âu Cơ’s Fairy Clan from the highlands. Therefore, whichever part of the country one hails from, he belongs to one origin. Just as Lạc Long Quân and Âu Cơ promised to each other, all Vietnamese should love, honor and protect one another. This legend, then, has become the pride and bond of unity for all Vietnamese.
According to many authors, also from Wikipedia: “This legendary story is very important to many Vietnamese people for numerous reasons. Some interpret the story to imply a strong national unity and cultural tolerance. Other women and historians interpret the story to mean that matriarchal societies did exist and are equal to patriarchal societies. Vietnamese women view her as a heroine and as a symbol to fight for their nation and their rights.”
In what the West would recognize as 40 AD, Vietnam fell under the rule of a ruthless Chinese governor "To Dinh". The Trung sisters were daughters of a wealthy military family, who enjoyed liberties and training that others did not.
While the rest of the country suffered poverty and repression under the Chinese ruler, no one rebelled until the husband of one of the sisters, Thi Sach,took actions and got executed by the local Chinese authorities. While the Chinese believed they were thwarting a rebellion, they only ignited the fierceness of the Trung sisters who retaliated ruthlessly for three years to avenge his death.
The Trung sisters inspired over 80,000 men and women across the country-side in 65 individual towns to rise up and fight the Chinese invaders. Many believe that Vietnam would not be the country it is today if it hadn’t been for the Trung sisters and their fierce courage and faith in their countrymen.
Statutes and temples have been built around the country of Vietnam memorializing the sisters, and the Vietnamese pay tribute annually in ceremonies in February.
It is not unusual for women to act fiercely when repressed or treated unkindly. The Trung Sisters are inspirations to us all to be brave and stand up to injustice in the world.
Find this story in illustration from Elka Ray: https://embracehospitality.vn/shopping/
When travelling to a foreign country it is important to learn the basics about cultural customs and etiquette. This will help you to understand the locals, to immerse into a different culture and to be respectful during your visit. Here some of our tips:
And after all, don't get upset if people do not say thank you, please or just leave without saying goodbye. This is very common and normal in Vietnam. Generally the words we use for courtesy are not very commonly heard here. This doesn't mean that people are unfriendly or rude, but actually in Vietnam we don't need to say "the magic words" because it's normal to help and support your family and friends, there is no need to say thank you or please for that.
Vietnam is the second largest coffee exporter in the world.
For the Vietnamese, coffee is not just a drink to start the day, it is part of the Vietnamese culture and lifestyle.
The daily social life of the Vietnamese very much revolves around gathering for coffee and has become a custom deeply woven into the everyday fabric of Vietnamese society. Coffee is sipped from morning till night.
The slow-drip method that uses a small metal chamber called a phin to filter the liquid directly into a coffee cup. Locals can sit for hours drinking one single cup of coffee - this is very typical for Vietnamese. The coffee time is the time to reflect and relax. Most of the people work long hours so the coffee break is somewhat sacred.
Watching the ca phé den slowly form drip by drip in front of you encourages slow-sipping, and when the coffee is this good you’ll want to make it last.
Generally Vietnamese drink their coffee with ice and in two ways:
1. Cà phê sữa đá - Iced coffee with sweet condensed milk
2. Cà phê đen đá - Iced black coffee (most of the places add sugar already, so if you wish it without you should tell when ordering)
Where in Hoi An to have a good local coffee:
Vietnam is very rich in stories, sages and folklore and people have some of the strongest believes and superstitions. All of this ancient history and traditions have been formed over centuries and have a fusion and influence from many other countries like China, Japan, France and many more.
Families believe in good and bad luck and superstition is part of the daily life. Today we wish to share some of the most important superstition of Vietnam.
Lunar New Year:
The first visitor on the first day of the Lunar New Year (Tet) indicates the families luck of the year.
Yes that's right if the family has a difficult year, the first visitor is kind of responsible for it.
Ghosts / Evil Spirits
Most people believe in ghosts and are actually scared of them. Per example locals often tell their newborn babies they are ugly and put a dirty mark on the forehead. It is believed when expressing lavish admiration for a new baby, the devils might hear you and steal the child because of his desirability.
The first customer of the day will indicate how profitable the day will be. To tourists it often seems just like a trap, but actually most locals still believe it. Also it is very rude to go in the early morning as first customer into a shop to just look around and not buy anything - the shopkeeper will worry about bad luck as the first customer didn't buy anything
Numbers are very important and a big part of the local superstition. The wedding day must be a lucky number, your new house can only be build on the right day and so on...
Vietnamese has nothing to do with Halloween but its celebrated during the 7 month of lunar calendar - this year the month of August. Generally this month is associated with bad luck and on the 15th August is the Ghost Festival, where the locals pray and give offerings to the spirits.
Vietnamese believe that we consist of two parts - Body and Soul. During the month of Ghosts the gates to the underworld open and the spirits wander around the living.
Families make offering for their ancestors to find the way home. However the lonely spirits are believed to are lost and disoriented, this will bring anger and they will curse the living with bad luck.
In addition to worshiping ceremonies there is a list of things you should and shouldn't do during this month:
* Offer food to lost spirits any day of the month
* Eat vegetarian food
* Avoid conflicts
* Visit your families graves
* Keep the light on at night, it will keep the bad spirits away
* Call out other's names at night - the devil might remember their names
* Pick up money on the street - the spirits might follow you home
* Take pictures at night
* Don't get married during the ghost month
Once upon a time, people didn't know how to calculate the time and age. There was a King who was famous for his intelligence and virtue. His country was very peaceful and prosperous. Once, the King thought of rewarding the oldest in the country, but no villager could choose the oldest. Facing this situation, the King sent messengers to find the gods to ask for the way to calculate the age.
Obeying the King, the envoys departed. The first God they met was the River God. The God of the River, dressed in white with water-soft hair, heard the messengers and said:
”I've been here for a long time, but not as much as my mother. Come to ask my mother - the Sea God.”
The Sea God, wearing a blue dress, was lulling her children with the sound of waves. The Sea God pointed to a mountain far away and said:
”Ask the Mountain God. He was born before me. When I grew up, the Mountain God was old already.”
The envoys again went to see the Mountain God, but the God also shook his head and pointed to the sky:
”Come to ask the Sun God. When I was born, I had to close my eyes, because of the sun light. The Sun God was before me.”
“How can I to meet the Sun God, it’s impossible.” With frustration, the envoys returned. On the way, they met an old lady sitting intently in front of a peach blossom tree with a sad-looking face. They came and asked:
”Why are you sitting here?”
The old woman answered:
”I'm here to pick peach blossoms. In the past, my son walked away, when this peach tree was blooming. Now, every time the peach blossoms bloom, I pick a flower to remember him.”
A thought flashed, the messengers rushed back to the capital.
They told the King the story of the old woman who picked peach blossom and counted the time to wait for her son. With his erudition, the King immediately found out the way to calculate the age of people: every time the peach blossom blooms represents a year passed by. Later it was known that every twelfth full moon and then waning, peach blossom only blooms once.
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