Comparative study : Traditional markets, Local residents and their daily life in Vietnam and in France

14 Mar 2022 Alexandre Germouty Dossier thématique




If there is one country in Southeast Asia that everyone is familiar with long before they visit, it is Vietnam. Of course, such notoriety was not always for the right reasons, but that is history. 


Vietnam appeared to have been abandoned to the darkness of history after 30 years of fighting for reunification (1975). It is a country that has recovered from adversity. It, like the legendary Phoenix, has risen from the ashes. 


With the end of the Cold War and the Soviet Union's demise in 1991, Vietnam and Western nations sought reconciliation. Foreign investment and membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEA) arrived in the 1990s. The United States established diplomatic relations with Vietnam in 1995, and Bill Clinton was the first US president to visit north Vietnam in 2000. In 2006, George W. Bush followed suit, and Vietnam was admitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2007. 


The Vietnamese are battle-hardened, proud, and nationalist, having earned their stripes in battles with the world's mightiest powers. But this is the older generation, who remembers every inch of the territory for which they fought. For the new generation, Vietnam is a place to succeed, a place to ignore the communists' immutable structures, and a place to go out and have some fun. Life revolves around the family, as it does in other parts of Asia, with several generations often living under one roof. Poverty, as well as the transition from a predominantly agricultural society to a more industrialized one, drives many people to seek their fortune in the larger cities, altering the structure of the modern family unit. Women make up 52% of the workforce but are underrepresented in positions of power. 


Vietnam's population is made up of 84 percent ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) and 2 percent ethnic Chinese; the rest are Khmers, Chams, and members of more than 50 ethnolinguistic Montagnard groups. 


Vietnam is a country, a culture, and a history; it is not a conflict. Today, we have a magnificent country whose geographical silhouette resembles a dragon, a Far Eastern symbol of strength and goodness. There is nothing but sun-drenched rice fields, bamboo hedges, and conical hats, images of an eternal Asia, miraculously preserved, vibrant, and authentic. It is an exciting discovery from Ha Long Bay to the Mekong Delta, from Hanoi, the capital with its preserved colonial architecture, to Ho Chi Minh City, the great city of the South. 


This is the new Vietnam, and it's one of the most enticing places on the planet. It's a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors and subtle tones, exotic sights and strange sounds, compelling history and contrasting culture. 


Nature has bestowed a bountiful harvest on Vietnam. Vietnam is breathtaking, from its soaring mountains in the far north to the carpet of emerald-green rice paddies in the deep south of the Mekong Delta, and is defined by its curvaceous coastline. In the interior, peasant women in conical hats still tend their fields, children ride buffalo, and minority people make a living from impossible gradients. 


If Vietnam has a soundtrack, it must be the buzz of a million motorbikes, the cries of street hawkers selling their wares, and the tinkle of pagodas calling the faithful to prayer. The modern and medieval collide here. Vietnam is a culinary treasure trove with over 500 different dishes for culinary crusaders. It's a fantastic world of pungent herbs and hidden spices. 


'Nam to a generation, the agony of war weighs heavily on the minds of all who can remember it, and the Vietnam ide of the story is told at poignant locations across the country. The Vietnamese, fiercely protective of their independence and sovereignty, are graciously welcoming of foreigners who come as guests, not conquerors. 


The Vietnamese are as alive as the traffic on the street, and the country is in high gear. For the time being, it remains one of the most enriching, energizing, and enticing countries on the planet. 


The purpose of this study is to contrast the daily lives of local residents in Vietnam with those of French citizens. This essay will then compare Vietnamese marketplaces to those in France.


​​​​​​​I. Urban daily life


​​​​​​​A. Daily life in Vietnamese cities


As a developed country, daily life in Vietnam is quite frantic and hurried. Everything begins at 5 a.m., and in certain cases, at 3 a.m. At 5 a.m., street sellers began preparing their products, which included purchasing ingredients, boiling soup, and cutting veggies. Around 6 a.m., everyone awoke, and the street is densely packed with motorbikes and cars honking. 


Vietnamese believe that going to the market early in the morning will provide them with fresh fruits and meats. They will then pick up their children, drop them off at school, and head to work. 


Work begins at 7:00 a.m., but many people begin their day earlier, and the streets are bustling with bicycles, motorcycles, trucks, buses, and vehicles, as well as people buying and selling food. The majority of offices close around 4 p.m., however some shops remain open longer. The majority of households eat about 6 or 7 p.m. Many people then move on to another employment or enroll in adult education or training sessions. 


Many people, men and women alike, are forced to work two jobs to support their families. Grandparents typically look after youngsters while their parents work, but if not, childcare centers are available. Children are expected to be respectful to their elders and to assist their parents around the house.


​​​​​​​B. Daily life in French cities 


France has become increasingly urbanized during the last decade, according to INSEE. Cities now account for three-quarters of the population. This evolution is characterized by urban sprawl and the agglomeration of communes. 


A typical urban day in France can be summarized by the phrase "métro - boulot - dodo," which can be translated as subway, work, and sleep. 


The majority of individuals work during the week and then unwind on the weekends. The typical workweek in France is limited to 35 hours. Additionally, there are numerous vacation days to enjoy. Thus, France's work-life balance provides several options for recreation and personal development. 


Adults and school-aged children often rise at 7:00 a.m., allowing for the start of the work and school day at 8:30 a.m. 


The majority of French people enjoy their coffee before going to work, either at home or on the terrace of a bar. They then travel to their business through public transit, such as the bus or metro. The normal workday begins at 9:00 a.m. 


However, in France, the lunch break might run up to two hours. As a result, many French businesses will be closed from 12:30 to 2:00 pm. This does entail, however, that the French typically complete their task later as well. A typical day concludes at approximately 6 or 7 p.m. The metropolitan French are typically pressed for time with all daily duties and dislike wasting time. They are often unpleasant and avoid socializing with strangers. They typically live and breathe their profession and devote a large portion of their time to it. 


The nighttime hours of the week are spent resting at home, completing homework, watching television, or reading literature. Dinner is typically served at 8 p.m., when the entire family is present. 


In comparison, the weekend is devoted entirely to family time. In France, you can spend your weekends seeing friends, engaging in activities, or simply relaxing. This is because of a law known as the "right to be disconnected." This law prohibits employees from reading work-related emails. Thus, the French work-life balance is safeguarded.


​​​​​​​II. Rural daily life


​​​​​​​A. Country life in Vietnam


Approximately three-quarters of the Vietnamese population lives in rural areas, villages, or small towns. Whether individuals reside in cities or rural areas, family is at the heart of Vietnamese life. Three generations living in the same house is not uncommon. Respect is critical in the family, and the leader of the household receives the most. Each member of the family works diligently. While parents work, the elderly members of the family assist with kid care. 


In the north, farming villages are composed of a cluster of cottages connected by a temple or other structure that serves as a community center and meeting place. In the south, villages are frequently grouped around a single road, and many are built on stilts to avoid flooding. Certain farms are collectives, in which family groupings share equipment such as tractors, as well as labor and income. Farming families labor in teams; men plough, dig canals, and perform other hard labor, while women work around the house and do the weeding. Younger members of the community deliver water to the employees and assist in the vegetable garden. Everybody pitches in during rice seedling transplantation and harvesting. The elderly tends to take care of the fruit trees and fish pond.


Rural locations have a wide array of home types and materials. Houses are frequently constructed using locally available materials, such as bamboo or mud, and more recently, cement or other materials. While some country buildings have tile or tin roofs, others have thatch roofing, which is composed of thick straw or palm leaves. The majority of village dwellings are rectangular in shape, with the door centered on one long side. It is flanked by the family altar. On the side, there is a kitchen. Lowland communities have some form of sacred space, such as shrines or temples, one of which is dedicated to the village's guardian spirit. 


Mountain settlements are primarily composed of ethnic minority populations and frequently consist of stilted thatched dwellings. Numerous households have designated sections for each age group or gender, in accordance with their ancient practices. Along rivers and canals, there are fishing settlements built on stilts. Halong Bay and the Mekong Delta both have floating settlements. Often, these are both fish farms and fishing communities. Historically, farmers used the time following harvest to create handicrafts for their personal use. They were deft and made exquisite goods. Within the village, the techniques were shared but kept hidden from outsiders. As a result, several villages developed a reputation for particular handcrafts or arts.


​​​​​​​B. Country life in France


The French countryside is stunning, from the hedgerows of Normandy farmland to the rugged Alsace and gently rolling mountains of Champagne. France, Europe's third largest country after Russia and Ukraine, boasts a diverse range of landscapes within its 644,000 square kilometers. With a population of 67 million, the country has a population density of only 111 inhabitants per square kilometer. 


There are numerous villages in France, but they are sparsely populated. Rural French residents seek the tranquility that the French countryside provides. In general, French villages feature authentic architecture and a plethora of historical monuments. 


Rural French people, on average, have a more fulfilling social life than city dwellers. Indeed, because villages are small, it is common for villagers to converse extensively while at the market, café, post office, or bakery. Villagers spend significantly more time communicating with their neighbors, whereas city dwellers are generally too rushed to converse. 


The rural French work fewer hours and stores frequently close earlier than in larger cities. Indeed, villagers prefer to develop their social lives over maximizing their financial gain. The French villagers have a strong sense of community. Numerous events are organized, which contributes to the preservation of the numerous traditions found throughout France. 


Hunting is a big deal in rural France: over a million people participate in the season, which begins in September and lasts until the following spring. Although the towns are generally small, they all have at least one school that provides a basic education to children. 


However, rural life in France has some disadvantages: communities are generally homogeneous, leaving little room for ethnic diversity. Young people have a limited amount of social space. Finally, there are few opportunities for employment. As a result, villagers frequently spend their days traveling long distances to work in larger cities.


​​​​​​​III. Traditional markets


​​​​​​​A. Vietnamese Markets


Markets and bazaars abound throughout Vietnam, as does the tradition of itinerant stores. Traditional markets are an integral part of Vietnamese culture; they serve as a place for people to socialize and share knowledge, personal experiences, and baking tips. Vietnamese people typically prepare fresh food daily rather than storing it in the refrigerator for a week. The Vietnamese have a saying that nhat can thi, nhi can giang (it is best to live near a market, secondly, it is best to live near a river), indicating that it is convenient to obtain food and to travel. Vietnamese markets are a treasure trove of information about the lifestyles, cultures, and customs of the people who live there. 


Vietnam has three distinct market types:


  • Market in the Countryside: Numerous communes in rural Vietnam have rural markets (cho que). There are two types of rural markets: fairs and evening markets. Fairs are held on a regular basis. For instance, it may be held on days beginning with the numbers three and eight, implying fairs on the third, eighth, thirteenth, eighteenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, twenty-third, and twenty-fourth days of each lunar month. Major markets attract large crowds. Apart from indigenous products, visitors can find industrial and high-priced goods manufactured in other locales. Naturally, essentials such as fruit, oil, salt, and vegetables are always on hand. 


  • Highland Markets: Markets in highland areas populated by ethnic minorities are not only commercial establishments, but also cultural festivals. Individuals dress in their finest attire and spend several days at the market. They can play their pan-flutes, dance, and sing, as well as make new friends. As a result, markets in mountainous areas are also referred to as Love Markets (Cho Tinh).


  • Floating Markets: The Mekong River Delta is home to an unusual type of market. Thousands of boats congregate to form an economic hub. While trading occurs throughout the day, the most exciting time is in the morning, when boats loaded with agricultural products arrive. All commercial activities take place on boats at a cho noi (floating market). The majority of agricultural products sold in cho noi are intended for wholesalers who resell them to food processing factories or ship them to the north.


​​​​​​​B. French markets 


Markets are an intrinsic aspect of the French way of life and a significant part of the country's illustrious historical legacy. In France, there are two distinct types of markets: Sunday markets and flea markets, colloquially referred to as "vide greniers". 


  • Sunday markets are hosted in almost every town and village in France on Sunday mornings. It is a farmer's market where fresh produce such as cheese, fruits & vegetables, and meat may be found. 


  • Vides - Greniers : Throughout the summer, numerous small towns and villages host garage sales. They are typically comprised of a mix of local residents clearing out their attics or barns and professional secondhand traders. It's easy to distinguish one from the other: secondhand sellers typically have large vans, reconditioned furniture, higher-quality things, and prime locations. Oftentimes, families would make children sell their toys and parents will sell almost everything. Everything is available here, including goods you were unaware existed. Antiques and art deco, tin signs and breakfast bowls, porcelain and vintage books, jewelry and glassware are all available at the booths. 


Certain niche marketplaces enjoy not only a national but also a global reputation... Among the most famous French markets are: 

- Bordeaux's wine market

- Provence's wonderful olive markets. 

- Strasbourg's Christmas market. 

- Nice's flower market. 

- Paris's famed Porte de Clignancourt flea market. 

- The fish market that surrounds Marseille's historic port. 


​​​​​​​IV. Important keywords of the daily life


​​​​​​​A. Youth


1. In Vietnam

Vietnam's 96 million inhabitants, more than half of whom are under the age of 30, are led by the 8X generation, those born in the 1980s and after. These urban youth have embraced Western culture's codes and a consumer society from which they do not wish to be excluded. They are digital natives who take pride in their appearance and frequent trendy bars and cafés. They are uninterested in the war, the old world, or the party's ideology. This generation is completely out of step with those who live in more rural areas, particularly in the countryside.


2. In France 

In France, there are 11.7 million young people aged 15 to 29, accounting for 17.4 percent of the total population. The first victims of unemployment in France are young people. Recent unemployment statistics in France demonstrate the extremely precarious situation that young people face in the country. Indeed, the unemployment rate for those under the age of 25 increased by 29.4 percent in 2021. One-quarter of 18-24-year-olds struggle to pay their bills. They are 30% more likely to forego or delay health care. Even more difficult, one young person in every two confides that they have cut back on their food expenses and even skipped a meal. According to INSEE, half of France's poor are under the age of 30. Their personal projects, travels, and meetings are harmed as a result of the Covid-19 epidemic. Anxiety, laziness, isolation, and depression are all on the rise among young French people.



​​​​​​​B. Education


1. In Vietnam

Education is fundamental in Confucianism. The educational system has remained largely unchanged over time. Is rote learning, which is ingrained in its teaching methods, the reason for its eighth-place ranking in the PISA rankings, while France is ranked twenty-sixth?


Education continues to be a priority for the government: elementary school is free and compulsory. There are three types of schools: public schools, which are state-funded; community schools, which are run by local governments; and private schools. School vacations are held in conjunction with the Tet festival and during the summer months of mid-June to mid-August.


2. In France 

From the age of three to sixteen, education is compulsory and free; it consists of three years of pre-school (kindergarten), five years of primary education (elementary school), and five years of secondary education: four years of junior high school (lower secondary education), and one year of high school (upper secondary education). 


Following that, students may continue their studies until the end of their senior year of high school and then enter the cycle of higher education. Admission to higher education is contingent upon passing a state examination leading to the award of a national diploma known as the baccalaureate. 


There are over 65,000 schools, the majority of which are under the Ministry of Education's jurisdiction, although approximately 15% (primary) to 20% (secondary) of students attend private schools. The total number of pupils and students exceeds 15 million, implying that a quarter of the population is enrolled in some form of education. It is estimated that 70% of the French population holds a baccalaureate degree.



​​​​​​​C. Leisure


1 In Vietnam :

Vietnamese  are eagerly awaiting the weekend. Because the Vietnamese have a limited number of vacation days. Leisure is synonymous with simple pleasures for them. They spend the majority of their time shopping, having coffee or a beer with friends. They enjoy dining out, going to karaoke bars, or simply staying in and watching television. Similarly, exercise and games continue to be critical components of their lives. Amusement parks, as well as theaters and cinemas, are becoming increasingly popular.


2. In France :

Leisure in France plays a significant role in the French week. Indeed, it is estimated that nearly 12 hours of leisure time are spent each week. The French enjoy meeting up with friends to drink in a bar, going to the movies, going on cultural outings, listening to music, playing sports, but most importantly, surfing the Internet and... sleeping.



​​​​​​​D. Marriages


1. In Vietnam 

Although "organized" weddings are a thing of the past, weddings continue to be the most important social event in a Vietnamese family; they bring relatives, friends, and neighbors together. To ensure a lavish celebration, parents are not afraid to incur debt. Even if this moment is brief, this ceremony maintains its rituals. Everything takes place outside, in front of the bride's parents' house, in villages and on the countryside. In the street, decorated tents are erected. However, families are increasingly privatizing hotel rooms in cities and among the middle classes.


2. In France

Marriage was a religious sacrament prior to the French Revolution. And in order to undo what God had joined, one had to approach a religious court. However, marriage has evolved at a breakneck pace. It is now very common to marry, but also very common to divorce; one couple in every two divorces today. Marriage has lost its religious connotation; additionally, since the May 17, 2013 law, it is possible for a homosexual couple to marry. Marriages are conducted in front of a mayor who formally recognizes the union. Marriage in France has largely lost its cultural and familial significance; it has devolved into a banal act.



​​​​​​​E. Family


1. In Vietnam 

The Vietnamese people, shaped by Confucianism and despite the perils of their history, remain devoted to the family. At the polar opposites of Western individualism, multiple generations coexist under one roof. Regardless of the evolution of the younger generations, familial interference continues to prevail. If the bonds of brotherhood and the mother's role are strong, the family faces the challenges of modernity, and we are seeing an increase in divorces.


2. In France

The family's role in contemporary French society has evolved. It is no longer an intangible foundation for all French people, but rather a passing phase without the establishment of genuine family values. Sometimes the environment is more significant and has a greater influence on the child. Family becomes less necessary. Additionally, individualism has become well-established, and the solitary way of life has become significant, as one in every eight people is now single.


​​​​​​​F. Family name


1. In Vietnam

The family name Nguyen is widely used in Vietnam, accounting for nearly 40% of the population. This is for a variety of reasons, the primary one being loyalty. Indeed, the populace adopted the name of the ruling dynasty out of loyalty. In the early nineteenth century, the Nguyen (1802-1945) were the last family to ascend to the imperial throne. It was granted its name as a result of its contribution to the country's unification prior to French colonization and the establishment of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Members of previous dynasties, such as the Ly or the Mac, changed their names deliberately to avoid repercussions. 


As a result, unlike in the West, Vietnam has a dearth of surnames. Other family names, such as Tran, Dang, Vo, Ngo, and Pham, refer to former imperial families that predated the Nguyen. It should be noted that there are frequently no familial ties between families sharing the same surname. This is why each Vietnamese must have two first names, the first of which serves as a sort of patronymic preceding their given name, allowing them to be distinguished from others who share the same family name.


2. In France

Each person baptized in the Middle Ages was required to take a single name, either biblical (Marie, Jean, Pierre…) or Germanic (Thibaut, Astrid, Bernard…). In the 12th century, as a result of the population explosion, each person acquired a second name, frequently that of the family head. Family names can refer to an origin (Lebreton, Lallemand, Lenormand), a geographical element near the place of residence (Dupont, Lagrange, Duchêne), physical characteristics (Leroux, Gros, Petit), or morals (Courtois, Gaillard). Additionally, one may be designated according to one's trade (Meunier, Boulanger, Tisserand). 


The law of 04/03/2002 modifies family name transmission by incorporating the possibility of transmitting the mother's name.


​​​​​​​Conclusion :


Vietnam is an enticing country with an extensive cultural heritage. I was immediately struck by the contrasts between this country and mine upon my arrival. I had the opportunity to travel just prior to the escalation of Vietnam's health crisis. I was able to visit Phu Quoc and its magnificent white sand beaches where the waves of a sublime turquoise sea crash against the shore. I also had the opportunity to visit Mui Ne and walk along the town's massive street. I was then able to meet and converse with locals about their daily routines and cultures. Indeed, I was virtually the only foreigner, given that tourism has ceased due to the health crisis. I then took a scooter to Dalat. I was taken aback by its microclimate and had to rush to Dalat's night market to purchase a coat and warm pants. The torrential rains were frequent, but this added to the region's charm. I enjoyed traversing the mountains and visiting the numerous waterfalls hidden among the hills. Then I hopped back on my scooter and drove to Phan Rang, where I was pleasantly surprised by the city's modernity and ample pedestrian space. It was a pleasure to stroll around. The city air was extremely breathable and relatively clean. In the surrounding area, I visited a village known for its pottery, where I was able to observe the locals at work with their incredible talents. I also went to explore the region's temple, which was deserted, allowing me to take my time admiring every inch of it. To conclude this road trip, I traveled to Nha Trang, where I stayed in a local home and shared numerous stories. The city was deserted, and there was no nightlife, which was quite sad. Nonetheless, I went to unwind following several hours of driving in the traditional mud baths that revitalized me. Regrettably, the escalation of the health crisis forced the end of my exciting journey. I was compelled to return to Ho Chi Minh, where I spent three weeks alone. On my way home, I came across a small stray kitten that was extremely thin, had been abandoned by its mother, and was dying alone on the road. I took him to the vet with me and he received all necessary care. Today, he is in excellent condition; he is my companion during confinement; he enables me to maintain my mental and emotional stability during this rather trying time. To conclude this report, I'd like to state that the brief glimpses I had of Vietnam were sufficient for me to fall in love with the country.  I am really thankful that I received the chance to spend three years in the country. Studying my Masters here will allow me to continue exploring a stunning country with a sublime culture and an unbelievably kind and welcoming people. I'm excited to continue my journey and learn more about Vietnam.


Alexandre GERMOUTY

President of the AJAI from 2021 to 2022

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