Pagoda Projects Reading List
Love to read? Hoping to get that little bit of business motivation? Want to find out more about our destinations? Check out our list of some of our favourite incredible fiction and non-fiction books!
We hope our reading list will bring you some fantastic recommendations to get stuck into!
by Cal Newport (Goodreads)
Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. It allows you to quickly master complicated information and produce better results in less time. In this book, it shares cultural criticism and actionable advice for anyone seeking focused success in a distracted world.by Graham Allcott (Goodreads)
In the age of information overload, traditional time management techniques simply don’t cut it anymore when it comes to overflowing inboxes, ever-expanding to-do lists and endless, pointless meetings. Thankfully there is a better way, and this is a practical guide to staying calm and collected, getting more done, and learning to love your work again.by Yuval Noah Harari (Goodreads)
100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us – homo sapiens. In his book, Dr Yuval Noah Harari covers the span of human history, drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, palaeontology, and economics to explore how history has shaped human society.by Dale Carnegie (Goodreads)
Since its release in 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People has sold more than 15 million copies. It is a timeless bestseller with enduring principles that will help you achieve your greatest potential in our complex and competitive modern age. by Howard Schultz & Dori Jones Yang (Goodreads)
The success of Starbucks Coffee Company is one of the most amazing business stories in decades. What started as a single store on Seattle’s waterfront has grown into a company with over sixteen hundred stores worldwide. In this book, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz shares the principles and wisdom he has gained from creating this enduring company.by Phil Knight (Goodreads)
This candid and riveting memoir from the founder and CEO of Nike explores the inside story of the company’s early days as a start-up, and its eventual evolution into one of the world’s most iconic shoe brands.by Verne Harnish (Goodreads)
The author shares practical tools and techniques for building a successful business, using approaches that have been honed from over three decades of advising tens of thousands of CEOs and executives. By helping front-line and executive employees navigate the increasing complexities that come with scaling up a venture, this book is written so everyone can align themselves to contribute to a successful business.by David Clark (Goodreads)
Similar to the Tao te Ching, David Clark has collected and interpreted the wonderful words of wisdom from Charlie Munger – Warren Buffet’s longtime business partner, and the Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. Charlie’s investment tips, business philosophy, and rules for living are unique, intelligent, and revolutionary.by Eric Ries (Goodreads)
A startup is defined as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. The Lean Startup approach provides tips to help companies leverage human creativity more effectively, become capital-efficient, shift directions with agility, and test their vision continuously.by W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne (Goodreads)
This international bestseller challenges everything you thought you knew about strategic business success. The authors argue that cutthroat competition does not lead to lasting success, but rather, success comes from creating “blue oceans” of untapped market space ripe for growth. Such strategic “value innovation” moves often render rivals obsolete for more than a decade. This landmark work upends traditional thinking about strategy and charts a bold new path to winning the future.by Simon Sinek (Goodreads)
Why do you do what you do? Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? When leaders start with their WHY, they inspire those around them to achieve remarkable results. People who follow them don’t do so because they have to; they follow because they want to. This book is for anyone who wants to inspire others and find their WHY.by Rutger Bregman (Goodreads)
We can construct a society with visionary ideas that are implementable. The author explores how every major milestone of civilization was once considered a utopian fantasy. Now, new utopian ideas such as universal basic income and a fifteen-hour work week can become reality in our lifetime. This inspirational book explores solutions to how we can achieve these goals as a society.by Angela Duckworth (Goodreads)
Professor and psychologist Angela Duckworth believes the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent, but a focused persistence called grit. Identifying our passions and following through on our commitments is the key to success.
by Peter Hessler (Goodreads)
River Town is an unforgettable portrait of a city that, much like China itself, is seeking to understand both what it was and what it someday will be. Told through the eyes of Peter Hessler, a Peace Corps volunteer who moved to Fuling in 1996 as the first American resident in more than half a century, he offers vivid descriptions of the people he meets, giving voice to their views.by Evan Osnos (Goodreads)
As the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, Evan Osnos was on the ground in China for years, witness to profound political, economic, and cultural upheaval. In Age of Ambition, he describes the greatest collision taking place in that country: the clash between the rise of the individual and the Communist Party’s struggle to retain control.by Kerry Brown (Goodreads)
This book is a must-read for the Western world to understand the hidden story of the rise of Xi Jinping – otherwise known as the “Chinese Godfather.”by Jung Chang (Goodreads)
This bestselling classic has sold more than 10 million copies around the world in 30 different languages. It is the story of three generations in twentieth-century China that blends the intimacy of a memoir and the panoramic scope of eyewitness history.by Peter Hessler (Goodreads)
From the bestselling author of River Town comes this book on the human side of the economic revolution in China. In the summer of 2001, Hessler acquired a Chinese driver’s license and travelled the country by car for the next seven years, tracking how the automobile and improved roads were rapidly transforming China.by Peter Hessler (Goodreads)
The acclaimed author of River Town and Country Driving presents this rare portrait of twenty-first-century China as it opens its doors to the outside world. Hessler illuminates the past and places a human face on the history that he uncovers in a narrative that gracefully moves between the ancient past and the present day.by Leslie T. Chang (Goodreads)
At the time of writing, China had more than 114 million migrant workers – the driving force behind China’s growing economy. However, very little is known about their day-to-day lives or the sociological impact of their massive migration. Chang tells the real story through the eyes of two young women who she follows over the course of three years.by Pearl S. Buck (Goodreads)
This book tells the poignant tale of a Chinese farmer and his family in old agrarian China. He nurtures the land and soil as it nurtures him and his family, whereas the nearby nobles consider themselves above the land and its workers.by Kazuo Ishiguro (Goodreads)
This masterful tale tells the story of an English boy born in early-twentieth-century Shanghai who suddenly becomes an orphan at age nine when his parents mysteriously disappear. He is then sent to live in England and becomes a renowned detective. More than twenty years later, he returns to Shanghai in an attempt to solve his greatest mystery.by Dai Sijie (Goodreads)
This enchanting tale about the magic of reading explores the story of two city boys who are exiled to a remote mountain village for re-education during China’s infamous Cultural Revolution. They discover a hidden stash of Western classic novels translated into Chinese and escape their grim reality through the realm of literature.by J.G. Ballard (Goodreads)
This classic, award-winning novel tells the story of a young boy’s struggle to survive in China during World War II. Separated from his parents, he endures imprisonment in a Japanese concentration camp, starvation, and death marches. This coming-of-age tale of survival highlights a world thrown out of balance.by Madeleine Thien (Goodreads)
Master storyteller Madeleine Thien takes us inside an extended family in China, showing us the lives of two successive generations—those who lived through Mao’s Cultural Revolution and their children, who became the students protesting in Tiananmen Square. At the centre of this epic story are two young women.
by Octavio Paz (Goodreads)
Long acknowledged as Mexico’s foremost writer and critic, Paz has written one of the most enduring and powerful works ever created on Mexico. It is a beautifully written and deeply-felt discourse on Mexico’s quest for identity.by Alfredo Corchado (Goodreads)
Award-winning journalist and immigration expert Alfredo Corchado highlights the sweeping story of the great Mexican migration. His book merges the political and the personal in telling the story through the eyes of four friends at a time when the Mexican population in the United States swelled from 700,000 people during the 1970s to more than 35 million people today. It is essential reading to understand the role of Mexicans in shaping America’s history. by Laura Esquivel (Goodreads)
This number one bestseller is a romantic, charming tale that takes place in turn-of-the-century Mexico. It shares the story of the all-female De La Garza family and a love triangle between sisters.by John Kenneth Turner (Goodreads)
From 1908-1911, author John Kenneth Turner posed as an American investor seeking to buy a tobacco plantation and was involved in the revolutionary movement in Mexico. His book exposes and criticizes the brutal labour system and corruption in Mexico at the time.
by Jeffrey M. Pilcher (Goodreads)
This book asks the question, “What is authentic Mexican food?” Many foods typically associated with Mexico such as burritos and taco shells were actually created in the United States. In fact, Mexican food was the product of globalization from the beginning due to the Spanish conquest. Ultimately, Planet Taco seeks to recover the history of people who have been ignored in the struggle to define authentic Mexican food.by Martha Menchaca (Goodreads)
During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a majority of the Mexican immigrant population in the United States resided in Texas. As a result, this state became the focus of debates over whether to deny naturalization rights. This book provides an in-depth understanding of the realities and rhetoric that have led to present-day immigration controversies.by Mariano Azuela (Goodreads)
Widely regarded as the greatest novel about the Mexican Revolution, The Underdogs tells the story of a poor, illiterate Indian who must join the rebels to save his family. His courage and charisma lead to his generalship in Pancho Villa’s army before discouragement and disillusionment settle in.by Carlos Fuentes (Goodreads)
Described as the authors “most important novel in several decades”, The Years with Laura Diaz chronicles a migration from Veracruz to Mexico City during the Revolution. Told through the eyes of a woman who is also a political artist, wife, mother, and complicated heroine.by Juan Pablo Villalobos (Goodreads)
Tochtli is the child of a drug baron on the verge of taking over a powerful cartel, and what he wants more than anything in the world is a new pet for his private zoo. A pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia, to be exact. This masterful and darkly comic novel has created quite a buzz in the Spanish-speaking world and beyond.by Joe Tuckman (Goodreads)
Jo Tuckman reports on the world of Mexico’s drug wars, government strategy, and the impact of U.S. policies. While Mexico faces complex challenges, Tuckman concludes that the vitality and imagination of many in Mexico inspire hope for a better future.
by Geoffrey C. Ward & Ken Burns (Goodreads)
Drawing on dozens of interviews in America and Vietnam, this book aims to highlight the perspectives of all those who were involved in the Vietnam War. From U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers and their families to high-level officials, antiwar protestors, POW’s, and many more. This book plunges the reader into the chaos and intensity of combat without taking sides, but rather seeking to understand why the war happened the way it did.by Graham Greene (Goodreads)
This novel takes place in Vietnam in 1955 during the French-Indochina War. The narrator, a cynical British journalist, is living an idyllic life with his Vietnamese mistress until he meets the naive, anti-communist, and quiet American Alden Pyle. The two become friends, however, a complicated love triangle soon forms between them and the mistress.by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai (Goodreads)
Originally written in Vietnamese by a famous poet, this novel is a sweeping multigenerational story of Tran Dieu Lan and her family from the 1920s to the present day. During the communist land reforms, Tran’s family was forced to migrate from the North to Hanoi. “Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Viet Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope.”by Andrew X. Pham (Goodreads)
Catfish and Mandala is the story of a young Vietnamese-American man who went on a solo bicycle journey in pursuit of greater understanding and connection to both his adopted homeland and his forsaken fatherland. A vibrant memoir that is an unforgettable tale of one man’s search for cultural identity and belonging.by Graham Holliday (Goodreads)
This offbeat travel memoir takes readers on a colourful and spicy gastronomic tour through Vietnam, with a foreword by Anthony Bourdain. Journalist and blogger Graham Holliday grew up in a small town in northern England and eventually moved to Vietnam after seeing a picture of Hanoi in his early twenties that sparked his curiosity. This memoir will inspire armchair travellers, those with curious palates, and anyone who is itching for a taste of adventure.by Duong Van Mai Elliott (Goodreads)
A Pulitzer Prize finalist, this novel illuminates recent Vietnamese history by weaving together the stories of the lives of four generations of the author’s family. Based on family papers, dozens of interviews, and a wealth of other research, this is not only a memorable family saga but a record of how the Vietnamese themselves have experienced their recent history.by Camilla Gibb (Goodreads)
The Beauty of Humanity Movement is a keenly observed and skillfully wrought novel about the reverberation of conflict through generations, the enduring legacy of art, and the redemption, and renewal, of long-lost love.
Pagoda Projects Watchlist
Are you getting everything ready for your Pagoda Projects programme and counting down the days until you jump on the plane? Are your friends and family asking you loads of questions about your upcoming experience and even you aren’t sure what to expect?
We hope that our watchlist will get you excited to explore the sights and sounds of what is going to be your new home for a months. Why not download a couple of our suggestions to pass the time on your flight out…
Netflix // IMDb
A 10-part documentary series chronicling the Vietnam war featuring the soldiers, protesters, politicians and families who lived it.Amazon Prime // IMDb
An in-depth documentary about on refugee family’s attempts to face its divided past and heal the motional wounds of the Vietnam War.IMDb
Separated at the end of the Vietnam war, an “Americanized” woman and her Vietnamese mother are reunited after 22 years.Amazon Prime // IMDb
Anthony returns to one of his favourite places on Earth, journeying to the centre of the country, near the coast and to a city he has never been to, Hue.Netflix // IMDb
Snail and broken rice are staples of Ho Chi Minh City’s Outdoorsy street food culture which has been shaped by both history and family memory.YouTube // IMDb
Luke Nguyen, acclaimed owner and chef of the Sydney restaurant ‘The Red Lantern’, returns to the country of his heritage to take a culinary journey through the northern regions of Vietnam.Amazon Prime // IMDb
An old British reporter vies with a young U.S. doctor for the affections of a beautiful Vietnamese woman.IMDb
Two plain clothed U.S. military policemen on duty in war-time Saigon investigating serial killings when their job becomes even harder.Amazon Prime // IMDb
In the mid 1960s, President Lyndon B. Johnson and his foreign-policy team debate the decision to withdraw from or escalate the war in Vietnam.BBC // IMDb
Sue Perkins embarks on a life-changing, 3,000-mile journey up the Mekong, South East Asia’s greatest river, exploring lives and landscapes on the point of dramatic change.Amazon Prime // IMDb
A vicarious thrill ride as Tony discovers Vietnam from the buzzing streets of Hanoi to the rural beauty of the Montagnards, and the mysterious Island of Mr. Sang. This episode shows exactly why Tony has been completely seduced by Vietnam and its people.
Amazon Prime // IMDb
An American finds refuge during the 1937 Japanese invasion of Nanking in a church with a group of women. Posing as a priest, he attempts to lead the women to safety.Netflix // IMDb
A boy and his mother move to California for a new job. He struggles to fit in, as a group of karate students starts to bully him for dating a rich girl from their clique. It’s up to the Japanese landlord, Miyagi, to teach him karate.Netflix // IMDb
Renowned warrior Yu Shu-Lien comes out of retirement to keep the legendary Green Destiny sword away from villainous warlord Hades DaiAmazon Prime // IMDb
Anthony travels to Shanghai. Forget all the antiquated views your might hold about a communist-run, creativity-devoid bunch of state-controlled androids. The modern China is a vibrant, dynamic monument to capitalism. And nowhere is that more glaringly obvious than in Shanghai, a city housing 116,000 billionaires and multimillionaires who modestly call themselves the ‘bao fa hu’ or ‘explosive rich’.Netflix // IMDb
Tofu pudding. Fish head soup. Goat stew. The family-owned street stalls of Chiayi are bastions of Taiwan’s culinary traditions.Amazon Prime // IMDb
Pull up a stool and get your chopsticks ready – A Bite of China is the quintessential TV series on all things Chinese cuisine – from its rich history to the rarest dishes and wildest ingredients. Shot in more than 60 locations and featuring top chefs of the culinary world – it will surprise even the most jaded foodies around.Amazon Prime // IMDb
A couple embarks on a journey home for Chinese new year along with 130 million other migrant workers, to reunite with their children and struggle for a future. Their unseen story plays out as China soars towards being a world superpower.BBC // IMDb
Dan Snow, Anita Rani and Ade Adepitan go behind the scenes to reveal the hidden systems and armies of people running some of the greatest cities on earth.Channel 4
With unique access to the Forbidden City, this documentary reveals the spectacular history of the world’s largest palace, and the secrets of its astonishing design.Amazon Prime // IMDb
A Chinese family discovers their grandmother has only a short while left to live and decide to keep her in the dark, scheduling a wedding to gather before she dies.Amazon Prime // IMDb
The story of two men, who met as apprentices in the Peking Opera, and stayed friends for over 50 years.Amazon Prime // IMDb
This Oscar-winning biopic traces the life of Pu Yi, the last of the great emperors of China, from his ascent to the throne at the age of three, in 1908, to the time he was imprisoned in the Forbidden City, witnessing decased of cultural and political upheaval.Amazon Prime // IMDb
True story of Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian mountain climber who became friends with the Dalai Lama at the time of China’s takeover of Tibet.YouTube
Reggie discovers contemporary China, diving deep into four megacities in search of the new generations transforming their future.BBC // IMDb
A cookery show focusing on Chinese food, with demonstrations of how to make various Chinese dishes.Channel 4 // IMDb
Guy martin’s love of industry and endeavour leads him to china, where he reveals the unseen side of its innovation, technological development and gigantic manufacturing.Netflix // IMDb
In post-industrial Ohio, a Chinese billionaire opens a factory in an abandoned General Motors plant, hiring two thousand Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America.
Netflix // IMDb
At the forefront of transforming Mexican cuisine, Enrique Olvera champions traditional ingredients under a haute perspective as he delves into the roots of Mexico to create award-winning dishes at his restaurant, Pujol.Netflix // IMDb
A look at the life of notorious drug kingpin, El Chapo, from his early days in the 1980s working for the Guadalajara Cartel, to his rise to power of during the ’90s and his ultimate downfall in 2016.Amazon Prime // IMDb
A horrific car accident connects three stories, each involving characters dealing with loss, regret, and life’s harsh realities, all in the name of love.Amazon Prime // IMDb
Bourdain travels to Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Cuernavaca to commune with local residents who express their passion through food, art, and the struggle for an improved quality of life. Bourdain talks with journalist Anabel Hernández on the impact of the area’s drug trade-related violence and how it affects local quality of life.Amazon Prime // IMDb
A documentary on some of contemporary Mexico’s most iconic artists and performers.IMDb
A documentary feature about the life of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.Amazon Prime // IMDb
Tomas is too much for his lone mother so she sends him to live with his older brother Federico, aka Sombra, in Mexico City.BBC // IMDb
Dan Snow, Anita Rani and Ade Adepitan go behind the scenes to reveal the hidden systems and armies of people running some of the greatest cities on earth.Netflix // IMDb
A journey through the colorful and varied world of Tacos.BBC // IMDb
In 1968 the young Rick travelled down the Pacific Coast Highway to the Mexican border and beyond. 50 years later he retraces his steps from San Francisco to Mexico enjoying unique dishes and meeting chefs. Amazon Prime // IMDb
Tony heads to Mexico with Carlos,who took over Tony’s old job.IMDb
Two young Mexican attorneys attempt to exonerate a wrongly convicted man by making a documentary. In the process, they expose the contradictions of a judicial system that presumes suspects guilty until proven innocent.
Surrounded by Masks
Surrounded by Masks: An update of what it feels like to live in Vietnam during the Corona Virus
The beginning of the new decade 2020 is off to a bumpy start, Australia is on fire, NBA legends have passed, the USA is in progress of a re-election, Hong Kong is demonstrating and the outbreak of a new deadly virus has taken over the media worldwide.
The Corona Virus (COVID-19) which originated in the city Wuhan, China is causing panic amongst nations around the world. The WHO expressed their concerns and advised people to take precautious measures like avoiding big gatherings, washing your hands and wearing a mask.
The virus has spread to most countries in the world by now and led to a movie-like display of people covering their faces, racist backlashes and an exaggeration my media outlets. In Vietnam 16 cases were reported of which zero have died and 100% have been cured successfully and released from quarantine. Nevertheless, schools have remained closed weeks after their official TED holiday during Chinese New Years. Even though it is a weird feeling to see so many people wearing masks around you the atmosphere in Saigon appears rather unaffected by the outbreak.
Many people have expressed their concerns in regards to travel to Vietnam as it is a labouring country to China but the world health organization has praised Vietnam for their successful measures and dealing with the situation. Officially there is no travel ban towards Vietnam and considering my experience on place that is justified. As of now, Vietnam has fewer cases than, Italy, Germany, Australia, Austria, Canada and most other affected countries. Although the virus is not to be taken too lightly it most likely won’t be affecting your travels in this wonderful country with all the beauty it has to offer.
Get in touch:
Looking for something to do in Ho Chi Minh City? Well, you’ll find it pretty easy! It’s a city of contrasts, with the old mixing with the new in this wonderful melting pot of a place. It offers visitors a plethora of things to do; from its coffee shops, markets, cheap food and drink to its buzzing atmosphere – alive with the sounds of motorbikes (there are around 10 million in the city!) However, we’ve put together a list of the 10 best places to visit in HCMC to help you out!
War Remnants Museum
Displays the brutal results of war on its civilian, including well publicized atrocities, that many westerners rarely hear about. The displays feature victims telling their stories of US military action. Many of the information about these atrocities are from US sources, including the infamous My Lai Massacre. This is a very important site to visit in HCMC if you wish to understand its history and how it came to be the place it is today.
Giac Lam Pagoda
The Buddhist temples has aspects of both Taoism and Confucianism in its design and Gives a great insight into Chinese influence on religion in Vietnam.
A window into the 1960s this historic government building has a solemn atmosphere as you walk around its quiet halls. Once home to the offices of the president of South Vietnam during the Vietnam war, it was designed by architect Ngô Viết Thụ and has some very interesting Architectural features.
Jade Emperor Pagoda
This Taoist pagoda was built by Vietnam’s Chinese community in 1909. It is also known as ‘Fuhai Temple’ – Sea of Luck Temple. This is a spectacular temple full of with beautiful statues depicting the gods and heroes of Taoist belief.
Fine Arts Museum
Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts covers three buildings featuring Vietnamese silk paintings, sculptures and lacquer painting, as well as traditional woodcut paintings. It used to be the Villa home of the ‘Hua’ family but became a museum in 1987.
This street is just a short walk from the Fine Arts Museum. The art and antiques stores along this street are full of fun curios, but beware of fakes!
Phuoc An Hoi Quan Pagoda
The built in 1902 the temple is dedicated to Quan Cong as well as several other guardians to happiness and wealth. The temple is full of beautiful features including brass lanterns and coiled incense hanging from the roof beams as well as fine woodcarvings.
Built in 1926 museum home to a collection of artefacts from across Vietnams history, from the Dong son civilisation to the modern Vietnam. For those interested in Vietnamese history the museum is definitely worth a visit.
Binh Tay Market
Binh Tay is the main market in the Cho Lon district of HCMC. This area is part of HCMC’s China town, which covers almost half of an entire district of the city. The market is a bustling lively place and expect to have a warm welcome when You got eat at one of the markets many street food vendors! It is also home to a fantastic outdoor Wet Market where you can buy fresh local seafood.
Notre- Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon
Completed in 1883, Notre Dame Cathedral lies right in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City’s government quarter. It still contains some of its original stained glass and with its 40m-high square towers the cathedral is a striking contrast to other styles you will see in HCMC.
Curious to know more about Vietnam’s population? It is a relatively young country, which has undergone incredible growth over the past 70 years and thus has seen some fascinating changing to its demographics. Here are some facts to help you get to grips with the country!
Vietnam is the 14th most populated country on the planet with a population of close to 100 million in 2018. It has seen a huge population increase over the last 68 years with estimated population in 1950 being just 28 million. The means the population has more than tripled since the 1950s – an impressive population increase considering Vietnam is a relatively small country.
The country’s life expectancy is continuing to grow and currently averages at 73.
Vietnam’s age structure further emphasizes the country’s population growth with the majority of Its population consisting of 18-64 year olds, who make up close to 70% of the population. Children make up almost a quarter of the population whereas the older generation is just 6%!
In terms of ethnicity, Vietnam’s population is made up of majority Kinh, who represent 85% of the population. However Vietnam has a very large number of ethnic groups, with 54 recognised by the government.
Gender is very well balanced in Vietnam with almost exactly the same number of men as women for under 65 year olds. However, Vietnam’s population demographics also reveal historical conflicts, such as the Vietnam war, which have meant the older population has far fewer men than women, with a ratio of 0.6 men for every women.
Vietnamese is the county’s official language however, some minority groups also speak Chinese, French and Khmer. English is also taught widely in schools.
You may have some superstitions or taboos yourself, such as not walking under a ladder, not crossing paths on the stairs or stepping on a triple drain! However, these differ country-to-country, culture-to-culture. Check out some taboos in Vietnam below.
Some Vietnamese Taboos
In Vietnam, it is considered bad luck to travel on certain days of the lunar month. These days are the 5th, 14th, and 23rd of the lunar month. Many Vietnamese will not travel on these days!
It is considered taboo to have the headboard of your bed face the road. This is due to the head of coffins facing the road during funeral ceremonies (usually held in homes.)
Another interesting taboo is for individuals to marry within a year of the passing of their mother or father. It is the case that many will change the arranged marriage date to outside a year of the date of the relative passing.
It is also important in Vietnamese culture to not face anyone with the soles of your feet. Whilst this may seem a fairly simple one to avoid watch out when you’re sat on a couch with your feet up!
Whilst these taboos may seem strange and unusual our taboo’s in the west probably seem peculiar to those in Vietnam. Throwing yourself into another culture is all about experiencing new things. The culture, the food, the history. Vietnam is a great place to submerge yourself in a different culture and learn about these new, obscure taboos!
Inspired by experiencing Vietnamese culture for yourself? Apply Now!
Imagine yourself walking through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City in the south of Vietnam and a wave of people with food in their hands comes towards you. Suddenly you are surrounded by all sorts of smells and flavors! Just the thought of that makes you hungry, right? So let’s explore the wonders of Vietnamese food together.
Some might say that Vietnamese food is like any other in Southeast Asia, nothing special. What they don’t know is how wrong they really are! Vietnamese food is neither bland nor boring.
The combination of fresh herbs and spices makes the food not only colourful, but also full of flavor. Although it might differ from region to region, there is always something that makes Vietnamese cuisine unique. The aroma, the taste of sweet and sour, and the hint of fish sauce are all combined and perfectly balanced. It is all about yin and yang, in every meal providing beneficial input to your body!
China influences heavily the food in the north. That means a lot of stir-fries and noodle-based soups. Then towards the southern part the flavors become more and more tropical, almost blending with Thai cuisine. But it is hard not to talk about the French influence in Vietnam cuisine.
One example would be the bánh mì which is basically a crispy/fluffy baguette filled with seasoned pork and vegetables like cucumbers, cilantro and pickled carrots. Some say you can find the best bánh mì in the streets of Ho Chi Minh City.
When you walk through the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, you are definitely going to find Phở. Pho is made of a smooth broth with vermicelli rice noodles and meat, topped with the freshest herbs you can find. It is a very popular street food in Vietnam and probably the most known Vietnamese food in the world. Surprisingly, is usually eaten as a breakfast!
If you are a pork fan, then bún mọc is for you. In it you can find pork sausage, fried pork meatballs, pork ribs and pork belly with a light mushroom broth and garnish with fresh herbs. That is a lot of pork and all in one bowl!
If you have more of an adventurous side, you can try the coconut worms in fish sauce and chili slices, usually eaten alive while drinking! One bite of these fellas pops salty and spicy flavors into your mouth. But be careful with their mandibles because these little worms may bite while you are trying to eat them!
Another daring option would be the balut, a fertilized bird embryo, usually duck. The Vietnamese believe that the balut is very nutritious and restorative for pregnant women.
But enough about meat!
Don’t be afraid to visit Vietnam if you are vegetarian. Vegetarian restaurants are really common in Vietnam, as there is a large Buddhist population. It means that being a vegetarian is not a big deal. And even if the restaurant is not specifically vegetarian, you can still find or ask for vegetarian options.
It is important to know the Vietnamese word for vegetarian (chay) and that would get you through. You can make any Vietnamese dish into a vegetarian dish like phở chay, bánh xèo chay, hủ tiếu chay, cà ri chay, and so on. Or say “Tôi ăn chay”, which means “I’m vegetarian”. Another option is to say that you don’t eat pork “Tôi không ăn thịt heo” or beef “Tôi không ăn thịt bò“.
There are a variety of vegetarian dishes you can get, like sticky rice (xôi). Most of the xoi are vegetarian and found in the food stands on the streets. Đậu sốt cà chua is a fried yellow tofu with tomato paste and onions. You can accompany your dậu sốt cà chua with some fried water spinach and garlic (rau muống xào tỏi) or some bok choy with shitake mushrooms (cải xào nấm).
Drinks are on me! A common drink is the Vietnamese iced coffee or cà phê đá made with freshly brewed dark roast Vietnamese-grown coffee and condensed milk. But if you go to Hanoi, you might come across the egg coffee (cà phê trứng) which includes egg yolk. Sugarcane (nước mía or mía đá) is a really popular drink during the hot summers. Kumquat juice is often added to the sugarcane to balance the sweetness.
Vietnam has its own brewery called Sabeco, which is Vietnam’s leading beer producer. They produce not only the classic Saigon Beer, but also Vietnam’s favorite 333. Bia hơi is a draft beer popular among the locals. It can be found in small bars and on street corners. It’s brewed daily and each bar gets a fresh batch delivered everyday! Going to the stronger liquor is the rượu đế, rice wine, made out of cooked glutinous rice.
Enjoy these delicacies and join us!
As can be expected when travelling to the other side of the world, many things will be different. From eating and drinking, to socialising and relationships, expect a lot of cultural differences!
In the West, if you make much noise when eating it may be considered rude and bad manners. However, in Vietnam the more noise the better! When eating a particularly delicious bowl of noodles, locals can be heard slurping.
Whilst your birthday may be considered the most important celebration in the West, in Vietnam it is peoples death day when celebrations take place. During this time they will worship ancestors, prepare a big meal and get all the family and relatives together.
In the West we have no particular routine of introduction, aside from maybe a formal handshake or an embrace with a close friend. In Vietnam however, shaking hands is less common, especially with the opposite sex. When introducing yourself, it is important to greet the elders first before then the younger individuals.
As I’m sure you are aware knives and forks become a rare sight once you enter the Eastern world. You can expect to eat all your meals with a spoon and chopsticks! This may take some getting used to at the start but after a few meals no doubt you will be a pro!
In Vietnam, you will rarely see husband and wife, or boyfriend and girlfriend showing affection in public. This is considered inappropriate and should be kept to private areas. Very different to the West where you can see a whole variety of PDA!
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When we talk about the cultural differences between Vietnam and England culture, we can think of many things; namely Literature, Style of Music, Arts, Religion, Language… and I will tell you some dissimilarities of the two cultures. This blog will describe some of the likenesses and contrasts between the UK and Vietnam!
Many Vietnamese traditions are beautiful to witness and you will really enjoy gaining a better understanding of life here.
For example, in Vietnam, children are the most important members and the centre of a family. The other members (parent, grandparents, uncles, aunt) pay special attention to them. The central role of elderly people in the family is to raise their grandchildren. It is a lovely tradition that gives the adults more time to themselves, seemingly keeps gramps feeling young and develops respectful community for, and connected to the elderly. It is not uncommon to see elderly people taking their younger relatives to school on the bus, or playing with them outside, which always makes you smile on your way to work.
There is a lot of cheap, cold, draft beers, in Vietnam and many people sitting on a plastic stool on the side of the road. That pretty much sums up the bia hoi experience. Bia Hoi is a draft beer, made with no preservatives. You will see lots of people sitting around, drinking, talking, eating, and people watching. One thing to avoid is to drink without eating, at least a little something – generally sliced cucumbers served with salt, chilis, and lime, or fried battered corns. Have you ever heard of the Snake Wine? It is quite popular in Vietnam. They put the whole snake (or scorpion) into the bottle and then pour the rice wine into it!
Nevertheless, a few cultural differences I have noticed are a little bit harder to get used to, and you’ll just have to learn to live with them when living in Vietnam.
Cultural difference Number 1: Munching and belching is normal in Vietnam!
The first cultural difference I discovered was on a business trip on the second day of my internship. For lunch, we stopped at a restaurant by a river, and quickly I noticed the loud eating going on in the room.
Loud eating is considered rude in most countries in the world. But not in Vietnam. You may also see people dropping litter or food scraps, on the ground as they eat, but again this is completely normal. You will find used napkins, food scraps and cigarette butts on the floor of lots of traditional Vietnamese restaurants.
But reassure yourself, not everyone eats loudly though, and not every restaurant is dirty!
So, here is your challenge; be prepared to eat loudly as well! It is widely accepted and interpreted as you are enjoying your meal.
Cultural difference 2: Wild driving
One of my favorite things about living in Vietnam is the madness that runs wild on the roads. I’m talking about scooters, motorbikes, motorcycles,electric bikes… tonnes of fun!
In fact, because of all the unpredictable swerving, it seems drivers are more observant, with quicker reactions than most in the UK. Not to mention they get you from A to B super quick and so cheaply! Upon that realisation, and having taken many more taxi journeys, I have become increasingly trusting of the local drivers. However, I will welcome the orderly and comparatively peaceful roads with open arms when I return home.
On the other hand, driving in Vietnam is sometimes quite frustrating. There seems to be a lack of rules, or a lack of enforcement of rules. If you ask a Vietnamese person what the rules of driving are, they will look at you like you are coming from another planet.
Cultural difference Number 3: Non-existent queuing
Being British, I have had queuing drilled into me at an early age and can’t help but be overwhelmed with annoyance if someone queue jumps. In Vietnam, however, queuing seems to be more along the lines of a polite suggestion rather than a strict social norm.
Many times I have been queuing for the cash desk in a supermarket and, as it reaches my turn, someone walks in front of me and places their items on the desk. You soon learn to become more pushy and assertive, as well as perhaps a little more impatient. Although it can become a bit of fun, I still can’t quite overwrite my innate desire to respect a queue.
Cultural difference Number 4: The nap after lunch
The Spanish cannot beat the Vietnamese when it comes to napping! Napping in Vietnam is an art and the people here are professional nappers.
Vietnamese people can take a siesta almost everywhere from hammocks made of rope mesh and suspended by cords at the ends to under the trees and in the bus next to strangers, pavements, right on the concrete floors, pavements or motorbikes. At elementary schools, taking a nap is mandatory, little students have to listen to their teachers, transforming desks made with two wood panels into beds to sleep after lunchtime.
Nap-time is when you can observe the very slow pace of life by strolling through the streets in light volume traffic, feeling the chilling breezes going through your hair, and seeing an idyllic Vietnam in the midday.
Cultural difference Number 5: Loudspeakers everywhere !
Vietnam has about 10,000 loudspeakers. Loudspeakers are a throwback to the 1960s- 70s war years between North Vietnam and South Vietnam, when they delivered news and warned people to get into a bomb shelter for protection against attack from the air.
Nowadays, these loudspeakers still exist, with announcements covering a range of topics like residential clusters meetings, avian flu prevention, healthcare information and sanitation reminders all over Vietnam through the daily 6:30 AM and 5:30 PM broadcasts in a male or female voice. They begin and end with some beautiful music sort of patriotic rhythms.
If you stay in Vietnam, I am 100-percent sure the loudspeakers will wake you up in time.
As a conclusion…
Throughout my time in Vietnam, I have attempted to fully immerse myself in the Vietnamese culture and have really enjoyed my time here because of it. Even these cultural differences that may be a little out of my comfort zone made my experience more enriched and interesting and, aside from maybe number 1, I wouldn’t want them to change.
Want to learn more about our destinations? Check the five majors cultural differences between the UK and China!
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In this blog, we will look at some general tips on how to work a room at a general networking event and how to make some new business acquaintances.
Some of these points are obvious but worth mentioning because of their importance!
- Make sure you have easy access to your business cards… nothing more embarrassing than fumbling around trying to prize one out of your battered wallet!
Best practice would be to keep a stack in your breast pocket positioned so that when you produce one, it will be face up and writing towards the receiver. Slick.
- Usually these events have nice spreads of food but limited tables… don’t be tempted to pile up a plate of sushi in the one hand and a big glass wine in the other… Why? Because you won’t have any hands free to shake or take business cards! AND because you’ll have to nuzzle your food off your plate using just your mouth. I know its free but have some dignity!
Best practice would be to eat a huge dinner before you go. Problem solved.
- Body language: NEVER cross your arms, try to maintain good amounts of eye contact, nod at what people say (a good bit of head tilting never goes amiss either.) Don’t forget your feet either… the feet always subconsciously point where we want to go so plant them firmly facing your new friend. When you want to end the conversation, ‘open up’ the chat by placing a leg facing out, this will invite others to join in.
Best practice would be to give them your full attention, don’t be peeking over their shoulder to scout the room! When you want to leave, have a good excuse… my favourite is to suggest going to get food, then they always ‘get lost’ at the buffet.
- Have a pen handy, it’s always useful in case you need to jot down a number or some information. Best practice is to jot down a couple of quick notes about the person you just met on the back of their card so that you know who’s who when you come to write to them in the future!
- Follow up! It’s said that you have a 72 hour window from when you meet a person until they forget about you. So in this time you need to send them a quick follow up email just saying it was nice to meet them and how you’re looking forward to meeting them again etc.
- Target loners… most people go to networking events alone and most of them are just like you.. craving to chat to someone! Find someone on their own (even if they are ‘texting’ on their phone) and talk to them. They will be grateful and will open up to you for noticing them.
Best practice is not to leave them on their own when you want to move on, make sure someone else has joined the conversation first then slip away.
- If you would like to join a group of people, DON’T just jump in.. hover nearby and make eye contact with everyone in the group first, then wait for the group to open by reading their body language.
You CAN join two people who are talking but you need to wait for them to ‘invite’ you in first. If they are facing each other (feet too!) with lots of animated chatter then move along.
- Ask questions! Only talk about yourself if someone asks. People love to chat about themselves, they will purr if you ask them questions. Try to steer clear of the clichés for the opening questions though, be original! (Not ‘So, what do you do?)
+ What brings you here?
+ Do you know many people here?
+ How is the food?
+ Tell them you’re new then they may give you a breakdown of the people in the room and tell you the local weirdos to avoid!
Best practice, don’t try to sell anything or yourself to the other person. You’re only making a connection today, business can come later!
I hope this guide helps you! Networking is nothing to be scared of, everyone is in the same awkward boat.. just some people have been floating around longer!
The only way to get better at networking is to follow this guide and practice, practice and… don’t get drunk off the free alcohol!
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