What Are Some Differences Between Hanoi And Saigon? 9 Differences

Two Dragons in a water with sun rising

I have lived in Hanoi for many years, and I have also spent some time living in Saigon, Vietnam. Even though they are both in Vietnam, there are some distinct differences between Hanoi and Saigon.

Hanoi and Saigon may both be in Vietnam, but they also have quite a few differences from the food and language to both cities’ daily lives. The weather and climate between both Hanoi and Saigon are also different. Hanoi is in the northern part of Vietnam, and Saigon in the southern part.

Through all my years of living and working in Vietnam, here are some of the differences that I have seen between life in Hanoi and life in Saigon, Vietnam.

9 Differences Between Hanoi and Saigon, Vietnam.

1- Hanoi Is North Vietnam and Saigon Is South Vietnam

One of the major differences between Hanoi and Saigon is that Hanoi is in north Vietnam, and Saigon is in the southern part of Vietnam. This means that the two cities are in completely different locations.

For example, it takes me less time to fly to Hong Kong, Guangzhou, or Shenzhen, China, than it does for me to fly from Hanoi to Saigon. Hanoi is a much closer distance to Hong Kong and China than Saigon or south Vietnam.

2 – Hanoi and Saigon Were Once Separate Countries

Hanoi and Saigon were once separate countries. Of course, during the famous Vietnam war or the war between America and Vietnam, Vietnam was split between South and North Vietnam. Hanoi was the capital of North Vietnam, and Saigon was the capital of South Vietnam.

But this was not the first time the country was split, but they were also other times within its history when different powers or different people ruled the north and south of Vietnam. Even though Vietnam is presently one country, the history of north and south Vietnam is not the same.

3.- Hanoi and Saigon Have Different HIstories

Because north and south Vietnam have separate countries, they also have separate histories. The French ruled their Indochine empire from Hanoi. Southern Vietnam produced a lot of rubber.

Throughout the history of Vietnam, north and south Vietnam did not always share the same history, rulers, or even culture. To discover more about the history of Vietnam, you can read the blog A Brief History of Vietnam, What You Should Know Before You Go by clicking here. To learn more about life in Vietnam after the Vietnam War, you can read Vietnam After the War, What You Need to Know by clicking here.

4. – The Vietnamese Language in Hanoi and Saigon Is Different

The Vietnamese language dialect is not the same between north and south Vietnam. It is actually quite easy for north and south Vietnamese to understand each other, but some of the words they use and how they pronounce them are different.

I have personally found that they are very particular about the Vietnamese tones for the language and how the tones are used in the north. I have not found this to be the same case in southern Vietnam.

5. – The Food In Saigon and Hanoi Is Different

The food in Hanoi and Saigon is not the same. Both Hanoi and Saigon have different traditional foods.

The Vietnamese food in Saigon is sweeter than the food in Hanoi or North Vietnam. China has heavily influenced Hanoi or northern food with a lot of stirfries and noodle dishes. In Hanoi, they will also use soya sauce and eat a lot of sticky rice.

In Saigon or south Vietnam, the food is sweeter and has more spicy flavors. In Saigon, Vietnamese food will use a lot more sugar and coconut milk; this is similar to countries like Cambodia and Thailand.

To learn more about Vietnamese food and the spices they use, you can read The Philosophy of Vietnamese Cuisine by clicking here.

6. – Hanoi and Saigon Have Different Weather

The weather in Hanoi and Saigon are different. The north can best be described as having four seasons winter, spring, summer, and fall. Most people may not realize that the summer in Hanoi is usually hotter than the summer months in Saigon.

The summer in Hanoi can be sweltering, and the winter can actually be quite cold. To live in Hanoi, you need to have both winter and summer clothes. In fact, the weather in Hanoi would be very similar to the weather in Hong Kong or Southern China.

Whereas in Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City, the weather is usually quite pleasant. The winter is not as cold as Hanoi’s winters, and summer not as hot as the Hanoi summers. Both Hanoi and Saigon will have a monsoon season where you can expect to have days of hefty rainfalls.

7. – Hanoi and Saigon Look Different

The other day when we were traveling outside Saigon, I remarked how different southern Vietnam looked to Hanoi. In fact, the part outside Saigon that we were at, Binh Duong province, some of the roads we were traveling on reminded me of places I had been in Cambodia; Saigon is quite close to Cambodia.

I have always found that the look of the south and the north is very different. The Vietnamese will even tell you that Saigon and Hanoi look different and are not the same. As you get out in the countryside in both places, you can see how different both cities are by their houses. Many of the houses in the north have a more French feel with old french shutters and doors, and the south seems to have a more tropical or warmer climate feel to them.

8. – The Vietnamese Feel Hanoi and Saigon Are Different.

The Vietnamese will even tell you that the north and south are different. The Vietnamese understand there is a different feel between Hanoi and Saigon. I like how the Los Angeles times said this about Hanoi and Saigon:

“Northerners tend to think of themselves as more cultured, and view Hanoi as Vietnam’s capital of art, literature and scholarship. Some see Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) as a place of glitz and fun, but a bit shallow.

Southerners consider themselves more dynamic and tend to see Hanoi as a quaint, sleepy town. They have been more exposed to Western ways, whereas the north is more influenced by neighboring China and by communist central planning.”

Los Angeles times

Many Vietnamese will say that one of the main differences between north and south Vietnam is that Hanoi or North Vietnam is more traditional and has more government control. Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City is seen as more open and relaxed.

I will be honest I have not really seen that myself. I have found the north to be very open and welcoming towards all foreigners. But there are many more government buildings and government officials in uniform in Hanoi because this is the center of the government of Vietnam.

9. Saigon Has Two Names, Hanoi Has One

Most people know Saigon by its other name Ho Chi Minh City. Ho Chi Minh City is the official name of Saigon, but today many people use both Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City interchangeably. People coming from overseas usually understand that Saigon and Ho Chi Minh City are the same places.

On the other hand, Hanoi only has one name that is used, and that is Hanoi. The former name of Hanoi is Thang Long, which means rising dragon, but most people from outside Vietnam do not know or use the name Thang Long.

So even though Saigon and Hanoi are both in Vietnam, there are some very distinct differences between both places. Saigon and Hanoi are in Vietnam, but they also have different languages, food, culture, history, and feel.

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You can discover more by reading Is Vietnam Safe For Tourists? Tips To Stay Safe In Vietnam by clicking here.

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Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

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9 Differences Between Saigon and Hanoi, Vietnam