Cultural Differences of Vietnamese in Americans

Cultural Differences of Vietnamese in Americans

Vietnam is found in South East Asia and as 2013 study by World Bank indicates the population is approximately 89 million people. This country has 54 different ethnic group each with its own cultural heritage, lifestyle and own language. The largest ethnic group is Kinh (Viet) is 82.6%. Kinh has a population of 65.8 million people and they live in all provinces but are densely populated in the urban centers and in delta areas (World Atlas, 2016). The Kinhs speaks Vietnamese which is the official language in Vietnam.

Space and Time Orientation

According to a popular myth, Kinh originated from the marriage between a fairy heavenly angel and dragon. The couple was blessed with 100 children who reproduced to the current people of Kinh. Kinhs practice ancestor worship together with other East Asians religions as Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism with a small group of Kinh practicing Christianity. The Kinh group lives in patriarchal families. After the end of Vietnam War, many Vietnamese and especially Kinh left their country. Majority resettled to North America, Australia and Western Europe (World Atlas, 2016).

World Atlas (2016) explains that in United States, approximately 1.6 million Vietnamese are living there. California has the largest population of Vietnamese with Texas having the second largest Vietnamese population. This group came to America in three major waves. After the end of 1975 war, military officers and their families came to America. In early 1980s the boat people entered America while in 1990’s; the Communist “re-education” camps prisoners were released to the country. Until date, the immigrants of Vietnamese are still going to the US under family sponsorship. Majority of the Kinh group have made a successful transition in US, but some are still struggling with barriers such as psychological effects of war and displacement, language and cultural differences, and lack of transferable job skills.

Nutritional Patterns

Kinh eats raw fish and meat with their diet consisting of a lot of red meat and fat instead of fruits and vegetables. The reason why majority of Kinh eat raw food is because they lack time to prepare and cook their food. In America, they eat junk and fast food especially the youths and are risking their health with diabetes; sweet foods are popular to the ethnic group. Vietnamese cuisine is common and it uses very many vegetables and very little oil. It is mainly based on Fish sauce, soy sauce and rice. It also has a variety of noodles and noodle soups, mostly eaten during breakfast but also satisfying lunch and light dinner.

Janet Tu (2001) discuses that majority of Kinh are lactose intolerant as adults cannot consume such milk. Their traditional diet is mostly fish, rice, and vegetables, plus chicken and pork when available. The community avoids red meat. The older persons of Kinh living in America still prefer traditional food though there is more readily available than was in Vietnam. The traditional diet of Kinh is healthy. The meals emphasize fish, vegetables and rice and their cooking methods include stir-frying or steaming.

The Kinh adults eat three meals a day which consists of steamed rice with side dishes of fish, meat or vegetables. The most common protein of Kinh is fish which is prepared in a variety of ways sauteed, steamed and fried. However, the Kinh meals lack calcium since sources such as soy products, dairy and milk are not in their diet. The ethnic group is susceptible to diabetes, high cholesterol and weight gain as majority of their dessert use milk and coconut oil which are high in saturated fat (Janet Tu, 2001).

Communication Style

Pharm (2014) states that the communication style in kinh is beating about the bush together with their learning interest about communication objects and they have a habit of greeting each other with a question.  The Kinh people prefer harmony, consideration and delicacy. Their habits are shaped by the delicate way of communicating like speaking their mind, never talking directly or beating about the bush. According to their tradition, communication always starts with a question about work, home or others. This type of communication makes the Kinh to hesitate or think before speaking.

Due to the intimate nature of the Kinh community, every individual in the community is considered a family or relative. They address each other depending on social status, space, age or time.  The way they address each other also shows a hierarchy of communication. The Kinh community refers themselves as humble and addresses each other with respect.

Death and Dying

They sense death as finality, and they thus plan their funerals well. Depending on the family belief, the funerals follow many steps and takes place three days after a person dies. The first step is that they keep they body at home for prayer and worship. They then bury it and the last step is after the third day after the person’s death, they open the grave for worship. After they finalize with the funeral, for 49 days, friends and relatives brings rice to the family. The mourning or crying time ends after 100 days, and after they end their mourning festival, they commemorate the first anniversary of the death. During funerals, they wear white bands which are restricted for this function only (Pharm, 2014).

Family Patterns

According to Pharm (2014), the Kinh families are patriarchal with the man always heading the family. Although they have legalized divorce, it is not yet common in that society as the wife is expected to live in unhappy marriage sacrificing herself for her children rather than divorcing. They consider parental leadership as a rule. Their children are expected to obey their parents and those who are older than them and physical punishment is allowed. They also do not allow unmarried girls and boys to date whoever they wish to date.

However, the role of the wife is changing where she can work from outside, more independent and equal to their husband although they are still the leaders of the family. They are beginning to accept divorce although it is still rare. They are allowing their children to speak out their minds as they have reduced physical punishment. They are continuing to encourage health interaction between unmarried boys and girls.

Health Beliefs and Practices

Pharm (2014) explains that the priority health concerns of Kinh are access to health, tobacco use, nutrition and cancer. The tradition of this group holds that sharing tobacco is a sign of hospitality. They view it as a depression solution. Many traditions affect their health practices like they think that cancer is caused by bad Karma and is incurable. Some are also unfamiliar with western medicine and they think that a spirit doctor can heal the condition. A study has it that some of the Kinh groups have low information about health and the health care system.

Childbirth and Perinatal Care

According to White (2002), pregnant Kinh women follow dietary restrictions to avoid big fetus which may cause difficult labor. They remain physically active during their pregnancy while avoiding strenuous exercise. During pregnancy, many avoid sexual intercourse due to the fear that it may cause fetal abnormalities. The culture does not allow the father’s presence in the labor ward. Traditionally, the community did not prefer Cs due to fear of blood loss. After birth, the women undergo traditional post-partum practices including keeping warm and strict bed rest to avoid potential cold. They also follow traditional dietary restrictions such as avoiding beef, green vegetables and cold drinks. Fatness in a child is considered healthy.

Spirituality, Religion, and Faith (include holy days)

The predominant religion in Kinh is Buddhism with 85% followers. Christianity is 8%; Cao Dai is 3% while the others are minority religions. The Buddhist teaching have eight ways of living virtuously; right effort, right mindfulness, right livelihood, right views, right thought, right conduct, right speech and right meditation. They also worship their ancestors. Taosism teaches its followers that for them to have harmony, they must observe self-contentment, patience and simplicity (Pharm, 2014). They have commemorations and ancestors ceremonies throughout the year. The Christians celebrate Christmas following the western calendar.

Prayer and Meditation

Vietnamese Buddhism is an eclectic tapestry of beliefs, customs and schools. Meditative practices and Lotus Sutra are taught in their schools together with pure land customs are aimed at insight and calm. They attend on morning alms rounds and adhere to a single religion. In Buddhist they pray using the sacred prayer beads.

Pain Response

Majority of the Kinh accepts pain as part of life and attempts to use self-control as a means of relieving pain. This deep restraint against showing weakness or pain is limiting the use of pain medication. However, the ethnic group allows the sick person to receive and depend on family for care and attention. During times of loss and distress, the Kinh complains about physical discomfort like insomnia, backaches and headaches.

New Ideas of the Ethnic Group

The community does not summon another person with a hand and a finger in the upright position which is reserved for animals and inferior people. Another interesting thing about the community is that everything that they do on News Year Day determines a person’s luck for the next twelve months.


Janet Tu,. (2001). Nutrition and Fasting in Vietnamese Culture. Ethnomed. Retrieved from

Pharm, D. (2014). Understanding Vietnamese Culture (1st ed.). Retrieved from

White, P.M. 2002. Crossing the river: Khmer women’s perceptions of pregnancy and postpartum. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 47(4), 239-246.

World Atlas,. (2016). Largest Ethnic Groups In Vietnam. World Atlas. Retrieved from

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