Proper Vietnamese Etiquette for Travelers

Vietnam is a country rich in history, culture, and tradition. When visiting Vietnam, it is important to respect the local customs, their traditions and etiquette to ensure a pleasant and meaningful experience.

You have to remember that you are a visitor and things may be different in Vietnam then in your home country, so knowing proper Vietnamese etiquette is a must. Here are some tips on proper Vietnamese etiquette for travelers to show respect when travelling in Vietnam

  1. Greeting People in Vietnam

In Vietnam, greeting someone is an important aspect of social etiquette. When meeting someone for the first time, it is customary to bow slightly and say “xin chao” (pronounced “sin chow”), which means hello. It is also common to shake hands, but handshakes should be light and not too firm.

When addressing someone older or in a position of authority, it is important to show respect by using the appropriate title. For example, “anh” and “chi” are used for older brothers and sisters, while “ba” and “ong” are used for older women and men.

In addition, learning some basic Vietnamese phrases shows that you are making an effort to communicate with the locals, which they will appreciate. Even if you cannot speak Vietnamese fluently, a few simple phrases such as “hello”, “thank you” and “goodbye” can go a long way.

  1. Dress code in Vietnam

Vietnamese culture values modesty and conservativeness, and visitors should dress appropriately when visiting public places. Shorts, tank tops, and revealing clothing should be avoided, especially when visiting temples or other sacred sites and this is considered disrespectful.

It is also important to remove shoes when entering someone’s home or a temple. In some places, you may be required to wear long pants and cover your shoulders. This is a sign of respect for the owner’s property and the sacred space you are entering. Again, remember things may be different from your own country, but learn and be respectful to local customs. 

  1. Table manners in Vietnam

Vietnamese cuisine is famous for its delicious flavors and fresh ingredients. When dining in Vietnam, it is important to observe proper table manners. Chopsticks are the utensils of choice, and it is considered rude to point with them or leave them sticking upright in a bowl of rice. You should also hold the bowl close to your mouth when eating rice or soup

When eating with others, it is polite to wait until the host invites you to start eating and everyone is served before starting to eat. It is also customary to take small portions of food and to compliment the host on the meal. Leaving some food on your plate is a sign of courtesy since it shows that you have had enough to eat.

  1. Gift giving in Vietnam

Gift giving is an important aspect of Vietnamese culture, and it is customary to bring a small gift when visiting someone’s home. It is an important cultural practice that signifies respect gratitude and the strengthening of personal relationships. 

Choose a meaningful gift that have significance and reflects your interest on the occasion. Avoid overly expensive gifts and respect cultural symbols. you could think of  common gifts that include fruit, flowers, or a small souvenir from your home country.

When giving a gift, it is important to use both hands and present it with a bow. The gift should be wrapped properly in colorful paper, but not white, which is associated with funerals.

  1. Respect for elders in Vietnam

In Vietnam, respecting elders is an important cultural value deeply ingrained in society. As a traveler, it is crucial to show respect to the older generation as a sign of appreciation for their wisdom, experience, and contributions to society. This can be done through various gestures such as greeting them first, using appropriate titles such as “uncle” or “auntie,” and using respectful language.

When in the presence of an elder, it is important to avoid behaviours that may be considered rude or disrespectful, such as crossing your legs or feet towards them, speaking loudly or interrupting them, or showing physical affection that may be inappropriate. It is also essential to observe social norms such as removing your shoes before entering their home or place of worship and dressing modestly.

When speaking to someone older, it is important to use the appropriate title and to speak in a respectful tone. It is also customary to offer the elderly person the first serving of food or to let them enter a room first.

Overall, showing respect towards elders in Vietnam is a fundamental aspect of their culture and can help foster positive relationships with locals during your travels. By demonstrating respect towards older individuals, you will not only show appreciation for their contributions but also gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for Vietnamese culture.

  1. Public behavior in Vietnam

Vietnamese culture values modesty and reserve, and it is considered impolite to draw attention to oneself in public. Loud or boisterous behavior, especially in places like temples or museums, should be avoided. Be mindful of your surroundings. Showing respect towards the people and their culture will make your trip more enjoyable and memorable.

It is also important to be aware of local customs when using public transportation. For example, it is customary to give up your seat to someone older or pregnant.

  1. Bargaining in Vietnam

Bargaining is a common practice in Vietnam, especially in markets or street vendors. However, it is important to do so with respect and without being too aggressive. When bargaining, start with a lower price than what is offered and work your way up from there. Remember to be respectful and courteous throughout the negotiation process.

  1. Tipping in Vietnam

Tipping is not a common practice in Vietnam, but it is becoming more common in tourist areas. In restaurants, it is customary to round up the bill or leave a small amount as a gesture of appreciation for good service. Tipping is not expected, but it is appreciated if you want to give for expcellent service. 

In conclusion, proper Vietnamese etiquette is an important aspect of any visit to this beautiful country. By observing the customs and traditions of the Vietnamese people, visitors can ensure a pleasant and respectful experience that is both meaningful and memorable.