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Carleton College

Publication Date

Fall 2013

Program Name

Vietnam: Culture, Social Change, and Development


One consequence of Vietnam’s rapid economic development in recent decades is the booming luxury market in Hanoi. Although few Vietnamese consumers can afford luxury goods, luxury consumption is highly visible in Hanoi. Luxury shopping centers continue to open throughout the city, and fancy cars are a common sight on city streets. Luxury consumers often influence trends in the wider marketplace, but luxury good consumption can also be a divisive issue. In addition, luxury consumers in developing countries, even more so than those in developed countries, are often believed to be motivated by status concerns. Thus, the phenomenon economists call conspicuous consumption (the consumption of certain goods to communicate status) can be prevalent in developing countries like Vietnam. In this study, I hoped to explore perceptions of the Vietnamese luxury market among middle- to high-income Hanoi residents. Through a series of in-depth interviews and a survey, I sought to answer the following questions: 1) What does it mean to be high status in Hanoi, and how does luxury consumption relate to consumers’ desires for status? 2) How do outsiders feel about people who purchase luxury goods, and how do their feelings relate to what they perceive as the motivations for luxury consumption? 3) How has the luxury market evolved in recent decades, and how has this evolution impacted the consumer class’s consumption preferences? The interviews revealed a multifaceted definition of status, including money and power, but not necessarily respectability. Contradictory attitudes toward luxury consumers were exposed, with a common theme of disapproval of conspicuous consumption despite professed lack of opinion on other people’s consumption. Through both interviews and survey, I found a strong preference for foreign brand names among the Vietnamese consumer class. Ultimately, this study revealed complex and multifaceted attitudes among Vietnamese consumers regarding luxury consumption.


Civic and Community Engagement | Family, Life Course, and Society | Growth and Development | Inequality and Stratification | Politics and Social Change | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Sociology of Culture


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