We've been talking and thinking a lot about how China and Vietnam are different from one another. Here are some (we hope) interesting notes on that:
1. More Vietnamese people speak a little English, so it's easier to get around without knowing the local language
2. In China there are many more signs and menus with English translations
3. The people in both countries are very friendly towards foreigners, but in different ways. For example, in China people came up to us all the time wanting to chat in English. That hasn't happened to us in Vietnam. But the people at our hotel have gone way out of their way to accomodate us and make us feel at home.
4. China seems to have a booming domestic tourism industry, while Vietnam's is not as prominent.
5. Chinese vendors are much more aggressive, whereas Vietnamese vendors will listen to you if you say you're not interested.
6. Almost no one wants our picture in Vietnam dispite the fact that we still stick out here.
7. Fake rip-off products seem to be a bigger industry in Vietnam. We see Vietnamese people wearing rip-off Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana with blatant spelling mistakes.
8. China has indoor shopping malls and a much bigger consumer culture. Most products in Vietnam appear to be sold in small independent stores or stalls.
9. Vietnam has mostly sit-down toilets (with toilet paper included), whereas China has mostly squat-a-pots and you must bring your own paper.
10. Vietnam has many, many mopeds and motorbikes. China has these too, but they are mixed in with a higher number of cars and bicycles.
11. Both China and Vietnam have large populations of rural poor. But, China has a wealthier and more noticeable upper class.
We've only spent 3 weeks in a fraction of the cities in China, and 1 week in only 1 city in Vietnam, so it's quite possible that our observations are inaccurate. We just wanted to comment on what we've noticed, but please don't take it as the absolute truth.