Vietnam Etiquette

Polite behavior is highly valued. One of the most important dimensions of politeness is for the young to show respect to their elders. In everyday life, younger people show this respect by using hierarchical terms of address when interacting with their seniors and parents regularly instruct their children on their proper usage.

VNetique1Younger people should also be the first to issue the common salutation chao when meeting someone older, should always invite their seniors to begin eating before they do, ask for permission to leave the house, announce their arrival when they return, and not dominate conversations or speak in a confrontational manner with their seniors. Prerevolutionary practices demanded that juniors bow or kowtow to their seniors, but the revolution has largely eliminated such practices. Many elders today feel that the revolution produced a general decline in politeness.
People of the same gender often maintain close proximity in social contexts. Both males and females will hold hands or sit very close together. People of different genders, however, especially if they are not married or related, should not have physical contact. In general women are expected to maintain greater decorum than men by avoiding alcohol and tobacco, speaking quietly, and dressing modestly. In many public spaces, however, people often avoid standing in queues, resulting in a chaotic environment where people touch or press up against one another as they go about their business.

In short, Vietnamese society has a fair amount of public etiquette. Some common points you need to take notes

. Avoid public displays of affection with a member of the opposite sex.
. Do not touch someone’s head.
. Pass items with both hands.
. Do not point with your finger – use your hand.
. Do not stand with your hands on your hips.
. Do not cross your arms on your chest.
. Do not pass anything over someone’s head.
. Do not touch anyone on the shoulder.
. Do not touch a member of the opposite sex.
. Shorts should only be worn at the beach.

If invited to a Vietnamese home, you can

. Bring fruit, sweets, flowers, fruit, or incense.
. Gifts should be wrapped in colourful paper.
.Do not give handkerchiefs, anything black, yellow flowers or chrysanthemums.

Table Manners

VNetique2. Wait to be shown where to sit.
. The oldest person should sit first.
. Pass dishes with both hands.
. The most common utensils are chopsticks and a flat spoon.
. Chopsticks should be placed on the table or a chopstick rest after every few mouthfuls or when breaking to drink or speak.
. People hold bowls close to their faces.
. Hold the spoon in your left hand while eating soup.
. Meals are typically served family-style.
. Try to finish everything on your plate.
. When you are finished eating, rest your chopsticks on top of your rice bowl.
. Cover your mouth when using a toothpick.

Discover more about Viet Nam mealtime custom