You know that Autumn has finally arrived when you see cốm for sale on the streets of Hanoi’s old quarter. Cốm is young rice, harvested early, pounded within an inch of its life, and served in a lotus leaf. Much tastier, sweeter and chewier than conventional rice, cốm is best eaten slowly and, believe it or not, tastes great when eaten with ripe bananas.
1. After having a baby, many Vietnamese women will not bathe their own bodies or even wash their hair for the first month. There is a belief that contact with water could endanger the mother’s health, and this could result in the baby’s death.
2. As in western culture the number 13 is unlucky in Vietnam, and is called a ‘dead number’. Business people in particular will not buy a house bearing the street number 13. If they have no other choice, the house will be renamed 12A or 14A. You can see this practice on many streets in Hanoi.
3. While we’re on the topic of business, people in trade must Thắp Hương or light incense and pray in front of an altar twice every month. If they don’t, the three gods on the altar will feel neglected and will punish them by reducing sales.
4. Marriage during the Year of the Dog (the current lunar year) should not be arranged between people born in the Year of the Buffalo, Goat or Dog. If people decide to ignore this superstition, they will be cursed with poverty and an unhappy relationship with their spouse.
5. If you’re the first customer of the day in a Vietnamese shop, there’s a good chance you can successfully bargain with the shop owner. Many traders believe that the first customer to cross the threshold of their shop each morning sets the tone for the day, so they really want you to make a purchase. You can turn this into an opportunity to settle on a nice price!
Have you ever wondered why, when you see a funeral procession, some of the attendees throw money and tiny red paper boxes onto the road? It’s about dead souls. When a person dies, no matter where they are, their soul leaves the body and returns to their earthly home, where the soul gravitates towards his/her old bedroom. Surviving relatives don’t want the soul to remain in the home because there’s a chance that the soul of the deceased person could lure the soul of a living person onto “the other side”, so the money is scattered from the funeral procession to motivate the dead soul to follow the family to the cemetery, where the soul can relocate to a tomb.
With the vast majority of Vietnamese women preferring white skin, there’s an entire industry built on producing clothes that completely block out the sun. A woman fully dressed in such protective garb is called a “ninja”. As you can see from the photos, there’s quite a range of garments on offer, including accessories that can be fitted onto bike helmets and hijab-style head covers
One of Vietnam’s most famous contemporary artists, Tiffany Chung was born in Da Nang, Central Vietnam, and completed her tertiary education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. While she majored in photography, Chung is best known for her cartographic-style ‘psychogeographies’ – a fusion of mapping skills, art and social anthropology. Her work attempts to chart urban change and upheaval due to factors such as natural disasters, industrialization and migration.
During the sweltering summer months in Hanoi, it’s very common to see men posing with their t-shirts or singlets rolled up, more often than not to reveal quite a bulging stomach. In China, it’s called a Beijing Bikini. We’re not sure if it has a name in Vietnam. Let us know if you’ve heard one.
So why don’t these guys simply take off their shirts? Because walking or lounging around in public without a shirt is considered uncouth or “nhà quê” (a Vietnamese word that means rural and uncivilized – use it carefully, because it is usually an insult to tack this adjective onto a sentence!)