There are things in Vietnam that are polite and not polite, that are specific to the culture. Also, it is good to know what should or should not be done in some situations. And learning a few words in Vietnamese will open a lot of doors for you. Here we go, let me explain.
- Patting or touching someones head is not as serious for the younger generation, but do not do it. It is rude.
- Do not point the soles of your feet towards any shrine inside or outside the house. ( Buddhist or otherwise) Also do not point them at a person. Once aagain the younger generation do not care so much, but please be polite.
- When you want someone to come to you and you are using your hand, keep your fingers down. Like you are digging in sand.
- Do NOT put toilet paper in the toilet. You will find a basket or bin (Yucky) next to the toilet, put it there. Even after a wipe. The pipes in Vietnam are not big enough for paper.There is normally a water gun ( bidet , foreigners call it a bum gun ) next to the toilet, do NOT drink the water. This is to wash your bottom and other parts.
- Do not drink the tap water, you will get sick.
- Do not put boiling or very hot water down the kitchen sink. Most houses have thin plastic pipes that will disolve and there will be water all over the floor. Then you have to go to the hardware store and buy more. They will not speak English.I Know from experience..
- Take your shoes off before entering a house. Sometimes you will be offered house shoes.
- Cover your tattoos, especially if you are a teacher. Tattoos here still have meanings. Mostly negative involving killing, murder, rape etc.
- Kissing in public is becoming more acceptable. But try to refrain. Vietnamese consider this is for the bedroom. 8-).
- Drinking beer is a BIG part of Vietnamese culture and is used to relax after work. Quite often you will see the workers out having a good time, and where are the wives?. But please do not vomit or fall asleep at the table, that is what the toilet is for. Also be pepared to have ice in your beer, it keeps it cold and waters it down. A good idea if you drink 15 beers. You may get asked, “how many beer can you drink”. LIE, say only 2 or 3, it could be a challenge.
- Vietnamese do not like to lose face. If they do not know something they MIGHT make it up. Check everything.
- When signing contracts. OMG why do I have to say this. Please read it first and negotiate. If you do not like it, say why and ask for it to be changed. So many jobs.
- Money talks volumes in Vietnam. Police, hospitals, government departments, motor bike licence, everything. But try to get a Vietnamese person to “give the gift”.
- Vietnamese think all foreigners are rich. If visiting someone take a small gift ( Food or alcohol, not flowers). It will mean a lot.
- Get your drivers license if you stay. Avoid paying weekly bribes to the local traffic mafia, i.e. police. And do not drink and drive. Vietnamese are born on motorbikes and a damn sight better than you and although it is common to drink and drive the death rate on the roads is terrible. We should be educating.
- Smell nice. Because we eat so much meat and shitty food we smell different and a bit “off” to the Vietnamese.Use a cologne or at least a spray, please. Once you are here for a couple of years you will change your smell. This was the first thing I noticed in Vietnam when I got off the plane.
- Don’t be mean. It is OK to bargain, but when I see foreigners quibbling over $1.00 it makes me angry. That is their profit and it is normally done by those who think they understand Vietnam.
- Be polite. Do not get angry. Sometimes not easy but if you get angry……you lost.
- Be warned. If you are with a large group of Vietnamese out drinking and eating and the end of the night is rolling around. Suddenly, a lot of people are taking out there phones and talking and walking. Do the same, the bill is coming.
- If you invite someone for coffee or lunch, dinner etc you pay. Even if they bring their friend or family. You invited , you pay.
- If you invite your GF out, guess what, you pay. Even if she brings her friends or family. It also happens for the Vietnamese so not just trying to get money for nothing. If a Vietnamese person invites someone out they pay, even if that person brings a friend or several.
- Learn some Vietnamese before you come. A little bit of language will open so many doors for you. The most basic phrases you should learn are…..Thank you, What’s your name, How old are you, What’s your job, I want to buy beer, I want to buy food, How much money, Be quiet, and numbers for counting money.
The best app for learning Vietnamese is Mondly. Link provided. I do make a bit of money but use it to help others. I have tried Duolingo and Memrise, but all that is left on my phone is Mondly.
Here is the link. Hover and click. Mondly.
Please remember this is not the USA or Australia or England, we are guests. If you can get your head around that you will have a ball. Looking forward to seeing you in Vietnam.
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4 thoughts on “Etiquette in Vietnam – Be Nice”
this is a great guide that you have written here in your article. I think that it can be very important when travelling to unfamiliar countries, especially those which have different religous and Cultural traditions to our own, to aquaint ourselves with the local customs and etiquette. So great work!
Thankyou for your kind comments. I agree that we need to understand others customs and cultures. Thanks.
Hi Steve, I am in Australia atm, looking to move to Binh Duong or HCM to work in an English centre or school. Thanks
Hi Mike, I will send you an email with my contact details. I know a school looking for teachers there and will send information for you.