Vietnam's rich culture is most evident and visible in people's theatrical skills. Five basic forms have been developed over centuries combining theatrical performance with musical skills: recitation, declamation, dance, mime and songs. Yet for the tourist, it's hard to penetrate these art forms, due to the lack of language skills.
So let's concentrate on the most eye-catching cultural aspects: the traditional attire, the food, the customs and festivals and the architecture.
Thinking about Vietnam will inevitably recall one scene: a conical hat worn by a person bending over a light green rice paddy. This hat made out of dried palm leaves has almost become the symbol of Vietnam! It is worn by men and women, young and old and its main purpose is a practical one: to protect the person from rain or hot sunshine. Men also like to wear a green army helmet, that seems to be multifunctional: it even serves as helmet on a motorbike. The Ladies' slim appearance is further enhanced by wearing the traditional light coloured tunic, the Ao Dai.
"Traditional" Vietnamese food is either closely related to Chinese food … or to French cooking. Chose, what you like most: warm croissants or hot chicken soup!
Customs and festivals are rooted in Buddhist religion: the most important festival season is "Tet", the lunar new year between January and February. Vietnamese are generally friendly, helpful, gentle and open to foreigners: It speaks for their openness, that they seem to like Americans, French and Europeans alike … despite their recent history!
See the newly renovated Opera House in Hanoi, visit the Post Office in Ho Chi Minh City, admire the pagodas and the citadel in Hue to comprehend the rich past … even from the architectural point of view.