Even if you are coming from an Asian country, your traditions can still possess substantial gaps with the Vietnamese. Therefore, knowing about “dos and don’ts in Vietnam” before travel is very important. It helps you to have a wonderful trip.
But, if you prepare carefully for the trip and remember critical things, an enjoyable trip will be no longer impossible. To help you with the preparation, we will reveal some key points for the dos and don’ts in Vietnam. Whether you travel on your own or on a tour, the following notes will help you avoid some troubles during your trip to Vietnam.
What You Should Do in Vietnam
Take Off Your Shoes Before Getting Inside
The first thing about dos and don’ts in Vietnam is taking off your shoes before getting inside houses. As a tradition, Vietnamese people always take off their footwear when they enter the houses, especially by visiting temple or pagoda. The origin of this tradition is pretty unknown. But some people think that it came from the fact that Asian houses are usually built higher than 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 Asians suppose that dirt on the footwear contains bad luck and should stay outside. Bringing shoes into a local house in Vietnam is, therefore, just like bringing dirty things, bringing bad luck into the home.
Ask If You Want To Take Pictures Of The Locals
The most important thing among dos and don’ts in Vietnam is that you should ask for permission before taking photo of someone. More than just an act of politeness, this has something to do with the religion. To some ethnic communities, they believe that by capturing pictures of someone, you can take their soul away. Hence, they don’t like to take photographs. Young people maybe get used to it but the elderly people may feel uncomfortable if you don’t ask for your permission.
In Vietnam, there is no regulation against taking photo in public places and post in social media. Still, many people don’t like their faces showed on the internet.
At Least Try Street Food One Time
Street food is a signature of Vietnam cuisine. 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. These are truly authentic vietnamese food.
When enjoying street food, you will dive into the life of vietnamese people. 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
Most of vietnamese 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 is one of dos and don’ts in Vietnam that you should know. It will give 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.
Bring Some Cash When You Go Out
Athough nowadays card payment is very popular, most of the stores in Vietnam prefer cash to card. Many local restaurants, especially the street vendors, don’t have a POS machine to settle card payment. This is due to the fee for maintenance card charging device and other surcharges for the banks. Moreover, card can be error sometime. So remember to bring some cash when you go shopping in Vietnam. ATMs are quite available in big cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, Danang and you can withdraw money anytime.
Carry Insect Repellent By Your Side
Vietnam has a tropical climate with a high moisture level. It is an ideal environment for mosquitos and other bugs to produce. That’s why it’s easy to get a bug bite during your Vietnam expedition. If your skin is super sensitive, the consequence 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 to eat. 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. Otherwise, you will have trouble enjoying delicious Vietnamese dishes.
Give Exotic Foods A Chance
Vietnam is a food 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 safe zone and try some less popular dishes to gain a comprehensive view of Vietnamese cuisine.
Show Proper Respect To Your Senior
Hierarchy and seniority have always been present in Vietnam’s society. The older you are, the more respect you get. Therefore, remember to think about 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 merchants say higher prices to foreigners. It’s a common thing when you travel as tourist. But in Vietnam it is possible to bargain with sellers. Vietnamese are totally open for 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.
- Know some basic Vietnamese words about shopping such as “Bao nhieu?” (How much?), “Dat qua!” (It’s too expensive!), “Ben kia ban re hon!” (That shopkeeper sells cheaper than you!).
- Go shopping with local people, who know where to buy cheap and nice things and they won’t be overcharged by the sellers.In case you don't have anyone to go with, try to observe the local buyers around, how much they pay and how they bargain with the sellers. Talk to The Youngsters In Case You Need Any Help.
- Compare the prices with other stores. Know The Market Price. The same product, however, prices at many stores may be very different depend on the owner. Choose the store that gives you the lowest price with the quality of the product is acceptable.
- Offer 1/2 of The Initial Price. If they don’t agree, gradually start to raise the price up until your resistance point.
- Do not express interest in the stuff you want to buy. The merchants could see that and offer much higher price.
- Turning away when it is necessary. When the seller offers a too high price and does not accept the bargain, you can go to another shop but keep a friendly attitude. Maybe then, the seller will run to you and offers a more sensible price that you can accept.
- In any case, be pleasant, confident, patient and try to keep a friendly attitude to the seller with a smile.
Don’t Get In A Taxi without a meter clock
Taxi rates are very reasonable in Vietnam, as long as you get a reputable taxi company and the meter is used. To avoid taxi scrams you need to pay attention to meter clock. Don’t get in a taxi if driver don’t turn meter clock. Or you can try several apps similar to Uber, namely Grab, Be… to book a.
Never Drink The Tap Water
Among dos and don’ts in Vietnam the most important thing is that you never drink the tap water. Unlike the U.S. and the European countries, the tap water in Vietnam is undrinkable. Because this water comes 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 conservative 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 greet people in local way. Vietnamese generally greet each other by joining hands and bowing slightly to each other. Hugging is for relatives or very closed friends 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.