Even if you are coming from an Asian country, your traditions can still possess substantial gaps with the Vietnamese. As a result, no matter what is your nationality, knowing what you should do and what you shouldn’t do before the Vietnam trip is of the utmost importance.
It’s difficult to travel without irritating the local culture. But, if you carefully prepare for the trip and remember critical things, an enjoyable journey to blend in the native community will be no longer impossible. To help you with the preparation, we will reveal some bullet points for the dos and don’ts in Vietnam. Whether you are traveling on your own or you have a tour agent arrange your trip, the following notes will help you avoid troublesome situation during your visit to Vietnam.
What You Should Do
Take Off Your Shoes Before Getting Inside
As a rule of thumb, Vietnamese people always take off their footwear when they come home or enter others’ houses. The origin of this tradition is pretty unknown. But some people think that it came from the fact that Asian houses used to be built above the ground to prevent the cold from getting inside. The threshold is usually lower than the floor, creating a space for shoes, sandals, and so on. The reason for such an arrangement is due to an old conception. The Asian suppose that dirt on the footwear contains bad luck and should stay outside. Bringing shoes into a local house in Vietnam is, therefore, a taboo to some people, just like bringing dirty things, bringing bad luck into the home.
Ask If You Want To Take Pictures Of The Local In Case You Don’t Want To “Take Their Soul Away”
More than just an act of politeness, asking for permission before taking a photo has something to do with the religion. In some ethnic community, they believe that by capturing pictures of someone, you can actually take their soul away. Hence, they are against taking photographs. Though that kind of belief is more popular among the old generation, you should still ask first to know if the locals are comfortable.
In Vietnam, there is no regulation against photo taking in public places and online uploading. Still, many people don’t like their faces showed on the Internet.
“Waste” Your Money On Local Vendors
Street food is a substantial part of Vietnam cuisine. Coming to Vietnam, traditional and authentic taste of the national culinary techniques are always right at the doorstep. Don’t waste your money on luxury restaurants as the soul of the country is on the hand of the street vendors. They have been making world renowned dishes such as Pho, Spring Rolls, Vietnamese Pancakes (banh xeo), Sweet Desserts (che) for generations. Thanks to a secret recipe, local foods usually taste the best on narrow alleys where only locals visit. When enjoying street food, you will dive into the life of the native. It’s an excellent chance to enjoy the bustling daily life, the dynamic atmosphere of a young and promising Vietnam.
Shop At Local Market Instead Of Malls Or Supermarket
The majority of Vietnam people are still shopping in local markets. Though they lack conveniences like air conditioning, elevators, and multi-stories, product quality is still outstanding.
Shopping at the market instead of malls or supermarket also gives you the flexibility to deal with the price or get some bonus gifts from the sellers. By going to local shops, you are giving a hand to promote the Vietnamese economy, leveraging the benefits of tourism.
Bring Some Cash When You Go Out
As much developed as it may seem, most of the stores in Vietnam prefer cash to card. Although ATMs are quite available in big cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Danang, many local restaurants, especially the street vendors, don’t accept cards. This is due to the fee for maintenance card charging devices and other surcharges for the banks. The red tape is another problem that decelerates the development of no cash payment in Vietnam.
Carry Insect Repellent By Your Side
Vietnam features hot tropical weather with a high moisture level. It is an ideal environment for mosquitos and other bugs to produce. That’s why it’s more than comfortable to get a bug bite during your Vietnam expedition. If your skin is super sensitive, the result can get even worse. So, “prevention is better than cure.” Don’t forget to use insect repellent before you go outside.
Get Used To Using Chopsticks
Like many other Asian countries, the Vietnamese use chopsticks for most of the traditional dishes. You can expect spoons for noodles and soups, but knives and forks are rarely available especially in local restaurants. Therefore, try to improve your chopstick skill before going to Vietnam. Or else, you will have trouble enjoying delicious Vietnamese dishes.
Give Exotic Foods A Chance
Vietnam is a cuisine paradise. Some world-famous dishes such as Pho, Banh xeo are a must-try, but other less well-known plates, for example, quail eggs, baluts, insects are worth trying too. Many foreigners report that they used to be afraid of baluts until they gave them a try. Then, you know what? Most of them become a big fan of such exotic food. So, step out of your comfort zone and try some less popular dishes to gain a comprehensive view of Vietnamese cuisine.
Show Proper Respect To Your Senior
The Vietnamese highly value the social hierarchy. The older, the more respectful. Therefore, remember to address the eldest in a group first. When having meals with a Vietnamese family, it’s also very polite if you wait until the older members start eating, then start your meal.
What You Should Never Do In Vietnam
Don’t Hesitate To Bargain For What You Love
It will take you a while to know how to reduce the price properly. But it is definitely worth to try. Most of the Vietnamese merchants raise the price for international visitors. It’s a common thing in tourism, but the Vietnamese are very nice. So, if you politely ask for a reduction, the chances are that they will do it. However, remember to bargain for the item you will 100% buy it only. No one wants to waste time dealing with the price, then get nothing in return.
Don’t Ever Get In A Random Taxi
At the airport, there are a lot of deceptive taxis. You should book a taxi to the hotel to avoid being charged too expensive. Or else, you can try several apps similar to Uber, namely Grab, Be, Fastgo, to control the price before getting on the cab. You also don’t have to pay tolls, so if a driver asks you to pay, then refuse.
Never Drink The Tap Water
Unlike the U.S. and the European countries, the tap water in Vietnam is undrinkable. It is basically the water from rivers, running through several filters with chemicals. So, to drink it, you have to boil it first. Drinking tap water can lead to many diseases because micro bacteria are not eliminated. So be careful with your health.
You Shouldn’t Give Money To The Beggars
In popular tourist attractions, you can meet a wide range of beggars, the disabled, the seemingly homeless children, the indigent elderly. They all look miserable. But you shouldn’t give them money because many of them just dress like that. It’s hard to identify who is really in need and who is a scammer. If you want to help the poor, find a trustworthy organization to donate your money.
No Hugging Or Cheek Kissing To Greet The Vietnamese
To be honest, Vietnam is a pretty reserved country although the young generation nowadays is more open to Western culture. As a saying goes: When in Rome, do as the Romans do, you should adopt the Vietnamese salutation to greet the locals. Vietnamese people generally greet each other by joining hands and bowing slightly to each other. Hugging is reserved for relatives only. When greeting the senior, you should bow slightly to show respect.
“Touch” Others’ Head
The head is considered a high register part of the body. That’s why you shouldn’t touch or rub someone’s head especially when they are older than you. It’s acceptable to do so with small kids, but you are not knowing them well, human touch should be retained. Passing anything over someone’s head is impolite too.
Expose Your Feet In Public Places
Opposite to the head, legs are regarded as a part of low profile. It means when you are traveling in Vietnam, you should keep your legs down to the ground. In restaurants or public places, never place the lower parts of your body on furniture. If you point your foot to a local’s head, it would make great trouble.
Be Noisy On The Road
The Vietnamese are pretty friendly and live in harmony with each other and with nature. Therefore, you hardly see the locals arguing or shouting on the street. Even in local markets, you won’t find plenty of big months. So, if you are speaking at a high pitch, adjust your volume when traveling in Vietnam. Or else, the local people will pin your face on their blacklist.
Wear A White Head Band
When you are putting on a white headband, the local residents will assume that someone in your family has passed away. It’s because that’s how they dress in case of funerals. So, to avoid embarrassing moments for both sides, you should never wear a white turban. Wearing dark shades like all black also implies that you are in a bad mood especially to the older generation. Therefore, pick colorful clothes while traveling in Vietnam to show that you are really enjoying your time.
Insist On Separating The Bill
When you are invited on an outing with the locals, it’s certain that they really like you and appreciate your relationship. Those offers the invitation usually offers to pay to the bill also. At that point, you shouldn’t try to go dutch with a Vietnamese. They will deem that you don’t pay respect to them. The best way is let them pay the whole bill and invite your local friends for another meal when you will pay.