After having spent 6 months in France, I think it’s time for us to tell you what the main differences are between Vietnam and France.
We won’t go too deep into the culture, talk about politics, or even talk about which country is the best. This article’s only goal is to give entertaining information, so let’s say if people from Vietnam come to travel in France, they know what to expect.
By culture, what I truly refer to is an ideal or value system. France is a very pragmatic country that is secular. This means that the state is separated from the church. In France, most people don’t believe in religion.
People from this country tend to be more rational than spiritual. They are more focused on what they think than what they feel. Asian people, on the other hand, tend to have more of a universal value system. What’s right and wrong mostly depends on what it feels like instinctively rather than rationally.
To give you an example, in France, someone who speaks loudly is someone who is confident and therefore most probably competent. In Vietnam and Asia, modesty is a sign of wisdom, and someone who knows when to speak and when to be silent both shows inner control and deep understanding. In other words, the more you are insecure, the more you need to compensate and show off.
Another example is that France’s elite are rather intellectual than wise, and France is the number one country to generate lust and envy through luxury (LVMH). I think it’s perhaps part of their heritage as an ex-monarchy.
2. Most things are more expensive but not everything
As you probably already know, Europe is very expensive when it comes to products. Products in Europe are more expensive than products in America, and since Asia is known to produce most of the goods these days, you would be surprised at the differences in price.
Currency and taxes
In Europe, where the currency is strong, 1 euro equals around 25000 Vietnamese dong these days. The sales taxes here are around 20% for most products.
Finally, the most expensive thing in France is social charges on salary, which can represent a whopping 80% of the cost of the salary for a company. This means that companies have to charge a lot to earn money in the first place, since wages are so expensive.
For example, buying the same fridge built in Asia here can cost up to 50% or 100% more. The price of a restaurant post-inflation is almost 20 euros per person. In Vietnam, 500,000 VND is already a lot, even for two people. On average, you can multiply prices by 3 and up to 5 to get a good idea of how much things cost here.
Weirdly enough, some products are less expensive in France. For example, the price of beef and chicken Since meat here is mass produced and farmers are using tons of antibiotics, chickens are jam packed together to the point of sanity hazards.
Europe used to build things to last, so the quality is often much higher and the safety protocol way more strict. For example, toys for children in France have to pass many tests for being strong enough and not harmful in any way. In Asia, toys are designed to be as inexpensive as possible.
3. It’s way more cold but when it’s not the weather is perfect
The weather is obviously very different. Coming from a tropical climate, coming to France in the winter was quite a shock.
Hanoi is famous for having four seasons, and winters can get very cold too. The cold in France is very different though; it’s very dry, and the temperature goes way lower, sometimes below freezing.
In France, sometimes even in the house, wearing a puffy jacket won’t be enough.
On the other hand, when the weather changes in France, the temperature gets quite perfect. Neither too hot nor too cold makes you want to stay home.
For example, in France in the summer, people go out between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., something that is pretty much not a good idea in Vietnam.
4. People are less friendly on first encounters but more tolerant overall
It’s known that in Europe, especially in big cities, people tend to be a bit busy and cold, especially towards strangers. Paris is no different; in fact, Paris is known to have some of the coldest people and is very shy when it comes to learning a foreign language.
Once you understand the culture and can reciprocate, everything tends to fall into place. French people are very tolerant; they will accept you with your strengths and flaws. French people can also speak about anything, which can be a good or a bad thing.
For example, you can have a very deep conversation while eating; it’s actually part of the culture to drink and speak during a meal. These conversations will keep you entertained and make you grow as well.
Perhaps the only time it can be a bad thing is when there is no restraint towards good or bad topics or behaviors because everything is accepted and nothing is taboo.
5. Work is a priority but pleasure is more important
While France is not necessarily known to be the most workaholic country, especially compared to the USA or Japan, It’s definitely a big part of someone’s identity here. Generally, the first thing people ask is, What do you do for a living?
In Vietnam, it’s common to see people sleeping at work; at the end of the day, it’s a natural thing to sleep or be with your family for dinner. In France, you’ll never see someone sleep at work, and hearing kids while speaking to a customer on the phone may seem unprofessional.
Regular jobs in France only account for 35 hours a week. So French people know that life isn’t about work, but still, when you work, you have to be focused.
Also in France, it’s a stigma not to work and receive help from the state. People who are not contributing to society will have a very low social position.
In Vietnam, everything is centered around the family; workers have a sleep break after lunch, and businesses are conducted in the first floor of each home often.
6. Material possessions are important and culture even more
France is perhaps the number-one country when it comes to luxury goods. In France, most people wear branded clothes, even those with low purchasing power.
Here in France, people don’t go shopping while wearing pajamas, like they would in Vietnam. Obviously, if you are going to go out of your house for 5 minutes, you don’t need to change. Well, in France, most people will look down on you for not dressing up, at least casually.
If you want to go to nice places, you better wear nice clothes; people will treat you with more respect. America is like this as well, but less so when it comes to fashion since the country is purely materialistic.
On the other hand, France favors culture, knowledge, and good taste, whereas in Vietnam, people favor things like altruism. Of course, there is always an elitist part of the population that competes and shows off a lot in any country.
7. The country is cosmopolite but keeps its cultural roots
If you go out in a city like Paris, you’ll most probably meet every possible ethnicities within 10 minutes. Even though the country is rich and is open to new culture, it also has no problem maintaining its own culture.
Perhaps this is where the country is disadvantaged compared to USA, as a new country, a new common culture was founded.
Vietnam is pretty open minded as well. Even if they have strong traditions they are still welcoming foreigners. They even have dedicated spaces for them to live like Tay Ho in Hanoi. What Vietnam is not is cosmopolite and perhaps it’s not a bad thing.
8. Most workers are employed in France
In France, most people work and are employed by large companies. They have a salary and a contract named CDI, which makes it very hard for employers to fire someone and very safe for workers to have a safety net when it comes to incomes.
Whereas in Vietnam, most people are self-employed. Even when working for a company, workers still try to do business on the side. It’s just one of the characteristics of the Vietnamese; they love to be independent.
In France, it’s considered adventurous to try to become an entrepreneur.
9. No one believes in luck in France like Vietnamese do
The French are very rational; they can predict with precision the outcome of any of their actions, and anything else they cannot control is basically too complex to be understood.
Whereas Vietnamese people tend to believe in luck and destiny. Numbers are very important in Vietnam; for example, the date of your birth will determine who you are, who is compatible with you, and if you will be successful in life.
Each year is already sorted out, and people even try to get lucky by picking lucky numbers, for example, immatriculation plates, phone numbers, or lucky money given each year in odd numbers to give fortune to receivers.
That’s the most surprising fact: that even rich and successful people still believe in luck. Perhaps there is really something Asians understand that the West still denies.
10. Food is old but fresh at the same time
By that, I mean that in France, for example, meat is always kept at a cold temperature. This is called the cold chain, and it prevents the apparition of bacteria. That’s why here you can eat raw or pink meat without any issues.
Now unfortunately, if you buy fish, shrimp, or beef, this means that they probably died a long time ago and are not as fresh as you would buy a chicken in a Vietnamese market, for example.