Remember the proverb 'When in Rome...' Every culture has its unwritten rules. As you discover Vietnam , you'll find that, behind the lovely Vietnamese smile, there are specific customs or habits that us travellers need to understand and apply. By watching and following suit, you'll pick up the norms of Vietnamese culture; you'll understand how to communicate and appreciate that in Vietnamese society, politeness and respect rule.
- Stroke a child's head/ruffle their hair etc. In Vietnamese culture, this means you are stealing the child's soul.
-Make a Vietnamese lose face. There's nothing worse for a Vietnamese than to be denigrated in front of others. If you have to contradict a Vietnamese, you'll need to find a way of doing so without them feeling at all put down.
- Don't get angry or raise your voice - the Vietnamese are calm, level-headed people.
- Don't smooch in public, particularly during the day! Kissing in public is not on and even during a romantic night out, please be very discreet. The Vietnamese are often shocked by how much tourists openly show affection, so keep a check on the PDAs! The Vietnamese are not demonstrative so no kissing on the cheek/hugs/backslapping when you say hello.
- Low cut tops on women You'll never see a Vietnamese woman show off her cleavage!
- Don't give sweeties or pencils etc. to kids you come across whilst touring. Give any treats to their accompanying adults. Or, during your trip to Vietnam, you can make donations to schools, families, humanitarian projects, and orphanages knowing that those in charge will distribute these gifts. Tourists handing out money or gifts willy-nilly is frowned upon.
- No bikinis (or two-pieces) on the beach! Most Vietnamese wear tanktops and shorts when swimming.
When you enter into someone's house, please take off your shoes. You'll usually walk around barefoot or you may be given some plastic tongs. Don't offer to clear the table after a meal nor do the washing up - it's considered impolite.
If you offer your host a gift, don't be surprised if it remains unwrapped - it's a cultural thing! It will be opened later, when the recipient is on their own.
When invited to eat, you need to help yourself! Eating lots and having second (or more ) helpings will please your hosts.