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General survey of the culture of Vietnam With nearly 80 million people Vietnam is the second most populous country in Southeast Asia and the 14th most populous in the world Vietnam has fifty-six different ethnic groups with the ethnic Vietnamese called viet or kinh comprising roughly 87 percent of the total population Even within the diverse group of countries that comprise Southeast Asia Vietnam can undoubtedly be considered unique Culturally the overriding influence of china has strongly shaped social and political values Four great philosophies and religions have shaped the spiritual life of the Vietnamese people Confucianism Taoism Buddhism and Christianity Vietnam has two regions Northern and southern People in south are generally more open to new ideas and foreign practices and willing to take risks Of course this tendency can be traced to the capitalist roots of the south and the strong influence of the united states prior to 1975 The typical southerner didnt experience the war directly and yet experienced the re-education process more directly Northerners suffered years of bombing while south did not The south is richer yet the north is more educated The south is entrepreneurial where as the north is more governmental Southerners are friendlier Northerners are far more supportive or tolerant of the communist party than those in the south Vietnamese kinh is the official language of the country although there are dialectic differences across Vietnam There are dozens of different languages spoken by various ethnic minorities and Khmer and Laotian are spoken in some parts The most widely spoken foreign languages in Vietnam are Chinese Cantonese and Mandarin English French and Russian more or less in that order Meanwhile 80 percent of young people in the country are learning to speak English English is fast becoming the lingua franca of business in the country Unfortunately that day is not quite here yet and in the mean time people from other countries will have to speak with Vietnamese
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