The Influence of French colonization on Vietnam
Vietnam was under the French influence from the mid-19th to mid-20th century. The Vietnamese did not want to obey the representatives of another state and eventually obtained their independence. However, the French period had its advantages, because the French brought to the country a piece of their culture and made Vietnam even more interesting and rich, and a little more understandable to us, representatives of European civilization.
Writing originally came to Vietnam from China. And probably hieroglyphs would be used to this day, if the French hadn’t intervened. The Portuguese missionaries were the ones who started writing Vietnamese words with Latin letters in 16th century. The modern Vietnamese alphabet based on the Latin one was created by the French missionary Alexandre de Rhodes, who lived in Vietnam in the first half of the 17th century. Hieroglyphs were used by the Vietnamese until the early 20th century, when the French colonial government began to actively spread the Latin alphabet.
The reform of writing is of great positive importance. Now it is much easier for foreigners to learn Vietnamese, and just to read the names of streets and places in general. On the other hand, some researchers believe that by planting the Latin alphabet, the French cut off the Vietnamese from ancient literature and traditions.
Nowadays, the hieroglyphs are used mainly on decorations for the Vietnamese New Year Tet.
The first missionaries to preach the Catholic religion in Vietnam came from Portugal. Their activities caused dissatisfaction among the conservative citizens of Vietnam and Buddhists. However, under the auspices of the French colonial authorities, Catholicism began to be planted more actively, and by 1890 there were already 708 thousand Catholics in Vietnam.
Currently, there are representatives of different religions, as well as atheists, in Vietnam. However, the Catholicism continues to play an important role. The Vietnamese celebrate Catholic Christmas on a large scale, there are many active Catholic cathedrals, which are never empty.
Many buildings built by the French have preserved in the center of Hanoi: the residence of the Governor-General (now the Presidential Palace), the Banque de l’Indochine (now the State Bank of Vietnam), the courthouse and others.
French influence can be seen in the Central part of Ho Chi Minh City, where the main post Office and the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Saigon are located.
In the mountain town of Dalat many villas built for the French have preserved.
The French left behind their famous baguettes. However, in Vietnam, they somewhat transformed and decreased in size. Vietnamese fill small baguettes with meat, processed cheese, eggs, vegetables and greens. It is a very popular street food called “bahn mi”. There are long baguettes too. They are sold in bakeries and supermarkets.
In the mid-20th century, the French brought coffee to Vietnam and taught the locals how to grow it. It’s hard to beleive that the tradition of drinking coffee came to Vietnam so recently. The Vietnamese like to stay for hours in coffee shops, enjoying their coffee. However, they prefer to the hot coffee drink the one with ice and condensed milk. The latter tradition came from Russian sailors who visited Vietnam in the Soviet era.
The French also introduced the Vietnamese to beer, which has become no less popular than coffee, as well as to wine and ice cream. The most popular Beers in Vietnam are Saigon, 333 and Thai beer Tiger, as well as a huge number of unnamed beer drinks made of corn and rice, which are sold in local cafes on tap.
Today on Vietnamese streets you can see women in cloths that look like pajamas. Most likely, this “fashion” also came to Vietnam from the French. The wives of the colonizers went out fr breakfast in their pyjamas, as they did not consider it necessary to dress up. The Vietnamese ladies started copying the French, and still you can see middle-aged and elderly women (and sometimes young girls) wearing this type of cloths on the streets.