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1.3 Do's, Don'ts & Etiquette


Do's, Don'ts


  • carry water and drink enough. It can get hot and you should stay hydrated while walking around the whole day
  • have a map
  • dress appropriate. Vietnamese only wear shorts to the beach. Even though, they are used to foreigners wearing shorts, it’s not very polite. 
  • know the exchange rates to make shopping and bargaining easier for you.
  • keep your valuables out of sight. Especially in the busy cities, it’s often happens that people get robbed. 
  • ask for a price first before you get into a taxi/bus/train or car


  • offer money to beggars
  • show too much intimacy in public
  • don’t drink water out off a bottle that wasn’t sealed. A lot of locals collect empty bottles, fill it up with tap water and then sell it. 
  • lose your temper. If you do, locals won’t respect or talk to you the way you wish
  • rush people. Vietnamese take their time and don’t like to be rushed.  


Going to Vietnam. That means another country than yours with a different culture. What are their norms and values? It’s always good to know before you go to a country so there won’t be any misunderstandings.  

Public etiquette


  • always remove shoes when entering someone’s house, 
  • dress conservatively and don’t give to much skin. Cover your shoulders and knees, 
  • use Xin chao (seen chow) to greet strangers. Means hello, 
  • say hi with shaking both hands and bend your head a little. This is to show respect for eachother. Most of the time, woman only bow. 
  • use both hands when passing an object to another person,
  • always address the oldest person first to show respect,
  • shorts are only common to wear at the beach. Vietnamese got used to the fact that travellers wear shorts when it’s warm, but they don’t. 
  • lose your temper in public or when bargaining. This will be seen as a serious loss of face for both,
  • don’t get mad if someone else paid less than you for an item. Understand that vendors need to make a living from selling, 


  • ever touch someone’s head/shoulder or pass items over someone’s head. The head is the symbolic highest point in Asia, so it will be seen as incredibly offensive. 
  • point your feet towards anything sacred, such as a Buddha,
  • point with your finger. Point with your hand, 
  • show affection with your partner in public, but it’s accepted to hold hands with the same gender,
  • cross your arms or put your hands on your hips. This shows aggression and anger,
  • flaunt wealth in public,  

Dining and table manners


  • wait until shown where to sit,
  • after a few bites, set your chopsticks down to speak or to take a break,
  • pass dishes with both hands,
  • hold the bowl close to your face,
  • held the spoon in your left hand when you eat soup, 
  • slurp your noodles, it helps to cool down the food and to give your food more taste, 
  • accept tea or alcohol when someone offers it to you. It is polite to take a sip at least,
  • it’s nice to bring a gift when you are invited into someone’s house. Think about flowers, some fruit or sweets. Wrap the gift in colorful paper, but don’t use the color black or yellow. These are seen as bad omens and offensive,
  • it’s very common that the oldest person in the group pays for everyone’s meal. Accept it and maybe offer once to pay to be polite,
  • cover your mouth when using a toothpick,


  • sit down before the oldest member has seated themselves,
  • leave food on your plate. It can be seen as impolite, so try to eat as much as you can,
  • leave your sticks vertically in a bowl. It looks like the sticks that are burned for the dead,
  • give handkerchiefs, anything black/yellow or chrysanthemums