I have lived in Hanoi for many years and have 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 is 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.
Table of Contents
- 9 Differences Between Hanoi and Saigon, Vietnam Explained.
- 1- Hanoi Is North Vietnam, and Saigon Is South Vietnam
- 2 – Hanoi and Saigon Were Once Separate Countries
- 3.- Hanoi and Saigon Have Different Histories
- 4. – The Vietnamese Language in Hanoi and Saigon Is Different
- 5. – The Food In Saigon and Hanoi Is Different
- 6. – Hanoi and Saigon Have Different Weather
- 7. – Hanoi and Saigon Look Different
- 8. – The Vietnamese Feel Hanoi and Saigon Are Different.
- 9. Saigon Has Two Names, and Hanoi Has One
- Related Questions
9 Differences Between Hanoi and Saigon, Vietnam Explained.
Vietnam is a fascinating and complex country with breathtaking landscapes, diverse cultures, and captivating cities. From the sprawling rice paddies in the north to the lush jungles on its central coast, Vietnam has something remarkable to offer to everyone visiting this beautiful destination.
With two major cities located at opposite ends of the nation – Hanoi in the north and Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh City) in Southern Vietnam – visitors will have different experiences depending on the city they decide to stay in.
From our own experience, we will discuss 9 differences between these two vibrant Vietnamese cities so you can make an informed decision about where your next trip should take you!
1- Hanoi Is North Vietnam, and Saigon Is South Vietnam
One of the significant 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 flying from Hanoi to Saigon. Hanoi is far closer 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; there were other times in its history when different powers or people ruled the north and south of Vietnam. Even though Vietnam is 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 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 found that they are very particular about the Vietnamese tones for the language and how they 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 in Hanoi or North Vietnam. China has heavily influenced Hanoi or northern food with a lot of stir-fries 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 uses a lot more sugar and coconut milk; this is similar to countries like Cambodia and Thailand.
6. – Hanoi and Saigon Have Different Weather
The weather in Hanoi and Saigon is 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 be quite cold. To live in Hanoi, you must have winter and summer clothes. The weather in Hanoi would be very similar to that in Hong Kong or Southern China.
The weather is usually quite pleasant in Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City. The winter is not as cold as Hanoi’s winters, and the summer is not as hot as the Hanoi summers. Hanoi and Saigon will have a monsoon season where you can expect 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 from Hanoi. 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.
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:
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 have found the north to be very open and welcoming toward all foreigners. But there are many more government buildings and officials in uniform in Hanoi because this is the center of the government of Vietnam.
9. Saigon Has Two Names, and 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 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 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 have different languages, food, culture, history, and feel.
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