Within Vietnamese culture, large social gatherings, other than on family occasions, are virtually non-existent.

Women meet each other frequently during the day in the market. Traditionally, a common form of entertainment for women is playing cards or doing embroidery with other family members, neighbours and friends. Often, they drop by each other's homes to chat.

Men and women often relax after work by going to a café for companionship. Older men may play chess or mahjongg. A good mahjongg player combines the strategic sense of a chess master with the gambling skills of a poker player. Men also enjoy playing tam cúc, a card game that uses a deck of 36 long cards, each with a Chinese word and a picture of a military figure or animal.

Soccer is the most popular game in Vietnam; other popular sports include cycling, badminton, table tennis, volleyball and martial arts. All of these are inexpensive and can be played almost anywhere. On the whole, however, except for jogging, most Vietnamese do not pursue recreational exercise; both recreation centres and sport facilities are uncommon.

At sunrise, many older people can be seen practising tai chi on the quiet morning streets. For centuries the Vietnamese have also practised thái cuc quyên, a kind of slow-motion shadow boxing that is related to kung fu, though not performed for self-defence. Most popular with older people and women, the movements in thái cuc quyên improve fitness, breathing and digestion.

Toys are not common in Vietnam. As a result, children play creatively with everyday objects such as coins or rope, a quality that Vietnamese identify as typical of their culture-the ability to be innovative and resourceful.

In cities, karaoke singing, martial arts movies and video games are popular. In the countryside, however, television is still considered special, and families who own sets may invite neighbours to watch for a small price.

  Did you know?
At the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Hieu Ngan Tran became the first Vietnamese to win an Olympic medal. She took a silver in the women's competition for the martial art tae kwon do.