There’s nothing more exciting than crossing off a new country from your travel #BookItList or #WanderList! Whether you’re on a birthday trip, a family vacation, or traveling with a partner, the thrill of expanding your horizons is unbeatable.
Here are a few helpful travel tips to use during your trip to Vietnam to connect better with the local culture.
Smile, wave, and say xin chao (hello)!
Greet people by pressing your palms together and bowing slightly
Use both hands to pass things
Dress conservatively, even in warm weather
Remove footwear when entering homes and religious sites
Ask before taking anyone’s photo
Say cam on (thanks)!
Touching anyone on the head
Pointing your feet toward an altar
Refusing an offer of tea at a reception or meeting
Public displays of affection
Losing your temper in public
Talking about the Vietnam War or politics in general
Flaunting your wealth in public
Eating in Vietnam
Vietnamese cuisine is among some of the best in the world. Eating is a social event in the country and it is fairly uncommon to eat alone. In traditional restaurants, groups are seated at a table with dishes placed in the center. The food in the middle of the table belongs to everyone, and you serve yourself what you feel like you need.
When it’s time to serve yourself, use the serving spoon! It’s considered very rude to poke utensils that have been in your mouth into the communal bowl (pretty gross everywhere, if we’re being honest), and you’ll probably be quietly judged. Don’t jam your chopsticks upright into your food, either, as it’s reminiscent of the two burning joss sticks used for funerals and considered unlucky. Just place them down. Be sure to also finish all the food you take.
Fun fact about eating in Vietnam: slurping and smacking your noodles is perfectly acceptable! It means you’re loving every delicious bite!
Giving Face in Vietnam
In Vietnam, the concept of giving face is nuanced but basically is described as a quality that reflects a person’s reputation, dignity, and prestige. It is possible to save face, lose face, or give face to another person. This concept is highly valued and extremely important to the Vietnamese. It is crucial to be aware of your words and actions so you don’t unintentionally cause a loss of face during your trip. Understanding how face is lost, saved, or built is paramount
To build face:
Be quick to lavish your host/guide/chef with sincere compliments when they are due
Politely deflect compliments and turn them around to pass on to others
Express interest in the local culture and listen carefully to tour guides and presenters
Laugh at yourself when you make mistakes and don’t make a big deal of it if something embarrassing or upsetting happens
If you notice something embarrassing has happened or is about to happen to someone else, do something to distract from it to prevent them from losing face
To keep someone from losing face:
Mind your manners
Don’t point out someone else’s mistake
When you give anything – gifts, tips, even money to beggars, be as discreet as possible
Don’t shout unless physical harm is imminent
Pay attention to social cues. If you pick up on a lot of nervous giggling, reluctance, or discomfort, stop whatever you’re doing right away. Note: This includes asking pointed questions, aggressive bargaining at the markets, and staring.
Another occasion when it is quite important to be aware of yourself is while you are at a temple or other holy site. For those who have never been, it may not be obvious that there are certain rules and practices to follow while you’re there. Here are some good rules to abide by during your visit.
Touching the statues or the monks
Pointing your feet at the statues or the monks
Indulging in public displays of affection while in or near a temple or any holy sites
Wearing revealing or skin-tight clothing. Also avoid shorts, as these are all considered disrespectful.
Bow your head to pay respect to the temple and the statues inside
Try to save the chit-chat until you’ve left the temple. Whispering is ok in some areas of the temple, but you certainly would not want to ruin the experience for everyone else who has traveled thousands of miles to be there, too
Be sure your shoulders, chest, and knees are covered
Feel free to wear sandals for easy shoe removal upon entering the temple
Travel with Where2Next? Travel, LLC on your custom, bespoke itinerary to Vietnam. Are you ready?
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