Northern and southern Vietnam
Northern Vietnam and Southern Vietnam are two general regions within Vietnam.
Of the two regions, the older is Northern Vietnam, where the Vietnamese culture originated over 2000 years ago in the Red River Delta, though Vietnamese people eventually spread south into the Mekong Delta. During the Trịnh-Nguyễn War (1627–1673), the country was partitioned between two ruling families, with the border being the Gianh River in Quảng Bình Province. From 1954 to 1975, Vietnam was again divided into two separate nations, divided by the Bến Hải River at the 17th parallel, each with its own government. Although the nation has been united since 1975, linguistic, cultural, and other differences serve to delineate the two regions from one another, with accompanying stereotypes.
Each region consists of four subregions, with often considerable cultural differences between each subregion.
Northern Vietnam includes the following subregions:
- Northwest (Tây Bắc)
- Northeast (Đông Bắc)
- Red River Delta (Đồng Bằng Sông Hồng)
- North Central Coast (Bắc Trung Bộ)
Southern Vietnam includes the following subregions:
- South Central Coast (Nam Trung Bộ)
- Central Highlands (Tây Nguyên)
- Southeast (Đông Nam Bộ)
- Mekong River Delta (Đồng Bằng Sông Cửu Long)
The Vietnamese nation originated in the Red River Delta, in what is today northern Vietnam. As the nation became stronger, the Vietnamese expanded southward in a process known as nam tiến (literally "southward march"). This culminated in the incorporation of territories formerly belonging to Champa and part of the Khmer Empire into Vietnam, quite relatively recently in Vietnamese history. Along with the troops sent south, civilians were also sent to cultivate the land, and in their contact with the native Chams and Khmers, slightly different regional cultures began to emerge. At the same time, it is important to note that Vietnamese of all regions still share a general Vietnamese culture.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Vietnam was ruled by a figurehead emperor of the Lê Dynasty. Actual power rested in the Trịnh lords in the North, called Đàng Ngoài (Outer Expanse) and Nguyễn lords in the South, called Đàng Trong (Inner Expanse). The two sides ruled their own domain independent of the other, and frequently fought each other. The imposed separation encouraged the two regions to develop their own cultures.
During French colonialism, the French divided the country into three parts, directly ruling over Cochinchina (southern Vietnam) while establishing protectorates in Annam (central Vietnam) and Tonkin (northern Vietnam). Consequently, Cochinchina was more directly influenced by French culture than the other two regions.
Between 1954 and 1975, the country was again divided. The North, ruled by a communist regime, had more contact with China and the Soviet Union while the South had more contact with the United States.
The cultural differences between the regions can be divided into two main categories: "tangible" cultural differences such as traditional clothing, cuisine, and so on; and "intangible" cultural differences dealing with stereotypes of behavior, attitude and such between the people of these two regions. Discussions of inherent differences between people in the North and in the South is considered taboo in Vietnamese state-controlled media.
Perceived traits and stereotypes
While relations between Northerners and Southerners are generally civil, the increased contact due to the influx of Northerners into the South since the end of the Vietnam War have given rise to some stereotypes about people from different regions:
- Northerners tend to view themselves as more cultured and refined.
- Southerners consider themselves more dynamic.
- Northerners are more concerned about status and appearances.
- Southerners are more free with their money while Northerners are more thrifty.
- Northerners are more conservative and afraid of change, while Southerners are more dynamic.
- Southerners are more direct while Northerners are more formal.
A satirical poem, titled Tính tình con gái 3 miền (Personalities of Ladies from the 3 Regions), composed by Nguyễn Tất Nhiên, plays on the stereotypical personality traits possessed by women from the Northern (Tonkin), Central (Annam) and Southern (Cochinchina) regions. The poem can be read here (in Vietnamese).
Cuisine is one of the cultural differences between the regions. With Northern Vietnam being the cradle of Vietnamese civilization, many of Vietnam's most famous dishes (such as phở) have their birthplace in the North. The South's cuisine has been influenced by the cuisines of southern Chinese immigrants and indigenous Cambodians, and thus Southerners prefer sweet and sour flavors in many dishes. Southern cookery also tend to use a greater variety of fruits and vegetables than the other 2 regions.
Central Vietnamese cooking, due to its royal setting, is quite different from the cuisines of both the Northern and Southern regions, in its use of many small side dishes and requires more time and more complex preparation (ingredient prep, cooking, serving etc), and also its distinct spiciness when compared to its counterparts.
Certain unusual foods are more prevalent in one region than in another. For example, dog meat is much more popular in the North than in the South. Cat meat is also eaten in certain parts of the country, like in Hanoi and Nghệ An.
Traditional clothes are also often used to symbolize different regions. Commonly the Áo tứ thân is associated with the North, the áo dài with the central region (due to its emergence in the Vietnamese royal court in the 18th century), and the Áo bà ba in the South (although many of these clothes are worn across different regions). However, the áo dài is now a very popular and widely-worn ladies attire nationwide .
Despite the countless different accents one can find in each province, the three main accents are those of the North, Center, and South. Of these, the Northern and Southern accents are usually intelligible to speakers from either region (unless it is a particularly heavy accent) but, strangely, the Central accent is often unintelligible to both Northern and Southern speakers.
Differences in these accents lay in several different factors, including but not limited to the following:
- Pronunciation of certain letters, an example would be: Hanoi "d" is pronounced like the English "z" while Ho Chi Minh City "d" is pronounced like the English "y"
- Northern Vietnamese has the full 6 tones, whereas Southern Vietnamese has only 5 (merging two of the tones into one)
- Words ending in "nh" are pronounced differently between North and South (See Vietnamese phonology for details)
- Merging of the "tr" and "ch" sounds in Northern Vietnamese
- Subtle differences in vocabulary between different regions
Because the accents of Central Vietnam (particularly that of the ancient capital of Huế) make extensive use of local vocabulary and, to the unaccustomed ear, reduce the number of tones to only 4, Central Vietnamese speech can be relatively difficult to understand for Vietnamese speakers from the Northern and Southern regions.
While these differences may seem superficial to non-Vietnamese speakers, even the difference in sound between Northern and Southern Vietnamese is quite striking.
The vocabularies of the different regions also differ, as certain words mean different things in different regions. For example, the word mận refers to two different fruits: it is used for Prunus salicina (a type of plum) in the North, while in the South it refers to Syzygium samarangense (the rose apple). Kinship terms are especially affected, as each term has a subtly different meaning in each region. In the South, the eldest child in a family is referred by the ordinal number 2, while in the North the number 2 refers to the second-eldest child.
Differences in climate
While the entire country lies in the tropics, there is quite a large difference in climate between Northern and Southern Vietnam.
Northern Vietnam features a humid subtropical climate and has a full four seasons, with much cooler temperatures than in the South (which has a tropical savanna climate), as well as winters that can get quite cold, sometimes with frost and even (rarely) snowfall. The lowest temperature reached in Hanoi was 2.7 °C in 1955. Snow can even be found to an extent up in the mountains of the extreme Northern regions in places such as Sapa and Lạng Sơn.
Southern Vietnam, with its much hotter temperatures, has only two main seasons: a dry season and a rainy season.
Miscellaneous cultural differences
- While Southern Vietnamese often ring in the Lunar New Year (Tết) with yellow mai (ume) blossoms, Northern Vietnamese often prefer hoa đào (peach) blossoms.
- Article about distinctions and stereotypes between northern and southern Vietnamese
- Article on Vietnam including climate information
- Article on Vietnam tourist including some informations about Hanoi and Saigon
- David Brown (2012-02-18). "Vietnam's press comes of age". Asia Times.
- Ben Stocking (2007-02-26). "Shall the South rise again?". Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- (Vietnamese) Hanoi People's Committee. "Hà Nội thanh lịch". Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- (Vietnamese) Hồng Phúc (2009-01-16). "Yêu Hà Nội, thích Sài Gòn". Saigon Times Online. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- "Đừng bao giờ lấy gái Bắc làm vợ!". Phụ Nữ Today. Phụ Nữ Today. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
- Nguyễn, Tất Nhiên. "Bài thơ nhận xét về con gái 3 miền khiến cộng động mạng ‘dậy sóng’". Duyên tình con gái Bắc. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
- Duyên tình con gái Bắc
- Clare Arthurs (December 31, 2001). "Vietnam's dog meat tradition". BBC News. Retrieved 2007-05-10.
- AP (JULY 05, 2013). "Vietnam gang stole 4000 cats for meat". The Australian. Retrieved 8 December 2013.
- Masis, Julie (July 22, 2010). "Why do Vietnamese keep cats on a leash? (Hint: What's for dinner?)". CS Monitor. Retrieved 8 December 2013.
- :Lowest temperature recorded in Hanoi
- North Vietnam
- South Vietnam
- vi:Bắc Bộ Việt Nam (Vietnamese Wikipedia article about historical administrative region of northern Vietnam)
- vi:Nam Bộ Việt Nam (Vietnamese Wikipedia article about historical administrative region of southern Vietnam)
- vi:Miền Bắc Việt Nam (Vietnamese Wikipedia article about general region of northern Vietnam)
- vi:Miền Trung Việt Nam (Vietnamese Wikipedia article about general region of central Vietnam)
- vi:Miền Nam Việt Nam (Vietnamese Wikipedia article about general region of southern Vietnam)
- Provinces of Vietnam
- Partition of Vietnam
- Southern and Northern Dynasties of Vietnam
- Trịnh–Nguyễn War
- Northern and Southern China