The Vietnamese are a proud race of people and are extremely welcoming and tolerant to foreign visitors. That said, their cultural identity and traditions are complex and the casual visitor will find the following forms of etiquette will evoke respect and admiration from the local inhabitants:
- Respect your elders and address the eldest in a group first. Elderly people always have the right of way in Vietnamese society and should be treated with great respect.
- When giving or receiving business cards do so by holding it with both hands.
- Start with small talk and enquire about their families and personal life before discussing any business matter. The Vietnamese need to know more about you, in a casual way, before they discuss business.
- When dining with a Vietnamese family wait for head or the eldest to start eating first before you do. Vietnamese often serve you food into your rice bowl. This is an act of hospitality.
- Always take your shoes off when entering a Vietnamese home.
- Never, ever, show your anger. This causes astute embarrassment to yourself and your Vietnamese friends. Saving face is extremely important in Vietnamese society. If you are not happy with something discuss the issue in a calm and respectful manner. Showing anger or shouting will have the opposite effect to what you wish to achieve and will only reflect poorly upon you.
- Despite more modern times Vietnamese society, on the whole, is still quite reserved when it comes to showing affection for the opposite sex. Amorous liaisons in public are generally frowned upon and whilst a kiss or a hug with your partner is considered acceptable in the main cities of Hanoi and Saigon it is a social taboo elsewhere. When meeting with Vietnamese of the opposite sex a handshake is considered the standard greeting. A kiss on the cheek is not recommended practice and will only cause embarrassment.
- Tipping for service is not expected in Vietnam but is most certainly appreciated. A tip of one or two dollars for a meal or $1 to a cyclo driver can be a substantial bonus in a country where the annual average income is only $US500! You should tip at your own discretion however we recommend you allow $5 per day for your driver and guide.