No one knows exactly when market was formed, how many markets are there and how many different types of markets or a number of markets in Vietnam. However, one thing we strongly assure that market not only purely belongs to the economical category but also presents Vietnamese cultures in a bold way.
Types of markets and its roles
In Vietnam, going to market, apart from satisfying shopping interests, is also a social time when people exchange stories or news and people form new connections, as well as to learn about the cultural identities of each region, where its own market holds exclusive value via local produce, whether in the past or in the present, in the countryside or crowded urban areas.
Roaming around this S-shaped country, from north to south, you will be amazed to find out that Vietnam is very diverse in types of markets regardless of its geographical features or purposes. In busy cities, market opens until late at night. In the deltas, the countryside market or the coastal market is sometimes a short trading session at dawn or dusk, often called “chợ mai” (morning market) or “chợ chiều” (afternoon market), which can be held next to an eatery, a bridge or under a shady banyan tree with luxuriant foliage. Villagers bring endless daily stuff to the market, usually vegetables in the home garden or free range chickens or ducks, some selling farm tools, other places selling snacks such as sticky rice, tea, grilled corns or simple and affordable homemade dishes, whoever wants just buy it as a gift, or just sit down and eat comfortably. Then the distinct “Chợ nổi” (floating market) in Mekong Delta which is held on the river between a vast stretch of water with hundreds of boats, canoes of Southwest people who gather to do business. Last but not least, the unique “chợ phiên” (the market in the mountains only meets once in a while) or “chợ tình” (the love market that boys and girls consider it as a once-for-a-time meeting and choosing future partners) on North-West part where ethnic groups have to wait to go to there like going to a festival. Shoppers who wear the most beautiful clothes must climb the hill or wade across the stream all day, sometimes for days. To them, market is no longer for trading but to drink, to play, to cheer, to date and to exchange love. Adults meet old friends. Boys and girls have chance to talk to and make friends with each other. They come to the market from the night before to play wind instruments, flute or singing and dancing, even overnight.
Market culture – past and present
To old folks like my granny, in her memories, markets in the old days was not so different from today. If there was, then it was probably behavioral culture of buyers and sellers, which was clearly expressed in an intimate manner, because the people went to the market were mostly from the same village or commune that more or less, they had known each other. And because of that, the sellers only set price just high a bit, while the consumers bargained a little lower as well, so both sides were satisfied and happy, which lead to the relationship between them was quite close. Gradually, it formed a lovely market culture that, sadly, we hardly feel nowadays.
We must admit that due to the development of modern society, the emergence of shopping malls and supermarkets make people no longer have strong attachment to the market like they used to be, especially the younger Vietnamese consumers. The concept of shopping and going to the market now are very practical. They go to the market just to buy what they need, or even no need to go to market, just stay home and do shopping online or call quick delivery.
It’s undeniable that the fastest way to learn about culture and customs of a region, a village is visit local markets as it’s the most complete presentation of the economic, social and cultural life of a locality. We do believe that markets is yet an intimate, familiar and indispensable part of Vietnamese daily life. Who would bargain in shopping malls? Who would sit on a stool and eat balluts in a supermarket? There must be something that will never be replaced, like the market culture is always the core, deep and decisive factor to its existence.