Vietnamese people are, generally speaking, extremely forgiving. They’ve seen strangers do some fairly idiotic stuff, so whatever errant errors you end up making, they won’t really bother them all that much. A smile and an apology, however, are universal. Here are 11 things you can stop doing in Vietnam to prevent you from getting flak from locals.
In temples and pagodas, don skimpy garments
Vietnamese appear to be conservatively dressed. While some of it stems from their old-fashioned belief that only peasants have tans, they still claim that respectable individuals should not wear sexual clothing openly. If you’re in the tourist areas, but not in the temples and pagodas, they’ll give you a break. No shoulders, cleavage or short skirts.
With big notes, paying
It will also spew out 500,000 notes when you use an ATM in Vietnam. This is their weekly wage for the average Vietnamese working at street food stands and in small shops. So when you want to pay with a 500,000 note for your 10,000 snack, there is a fair risk that they will not have enough cash for you. For them, this is humiliating and it causes them to lose face. At convenience stores or bigger shops, try breaking those notices.
When you’re the first client, not buying something
Vietnam is a country that is rather superstitious. There are so many peculiar customs and traditions here that their society is deeply rooted. You get, for the most part, a free pass. But if you shop and happen to be the first customer in a store, if you leave without buying anything, be prepared for plenty of snarled lips and harsh Vietnamese. For the day’s sales, this is considered a poor omen.
Wrongfully accusing others of having shortchanged you
Until paying, count your money carefully, since certain individuals will try to pull a money swapping trick on you where they take your big notes and swap them for small notes quickly. They put on a huge act then, as if you were trying to rip them off. Fortunately, this doesn’t occur all that much. But if you believe that someone gave you the wrong shift, you’d better be pretty darn sure.Even if it’s an honest error, Vietnamese count their money really carefully and don’t take kindly to foreigners who they think are trying to pull a fast one on them.
Demonstrating respect for China
China is despised by the Vietnamese. Although it may seem to you, an outsider, that maybe they should hate the Americans. It’s because they’ve been fighting against their Chinese neighbors for even longer than they’ve been fighting against America. Their lack of faith in the Chinese goes back many generations.
Throwing money around like that doesn’t mean anything to you.
If you can afford to travel to Vietnam from the other side of the world, then you’re lucky. Everyone already knows this. It’s not important to flaunt your money. Arrogant foreigners often throw around cash as if it meant nothing to them, which is really disrespectful for Vietnamese employees who put their salaries into long hours. It’s no shame to be rich, just try to have a little human dignity.
Making public shows of affection
Very seldom can you ever see in public a Vietnamese couple making out. Holding hands is alright, but in this conservative culture, kissing and hugs are too much for many. You may not draw any outright animosity, but a few contemptuous looks will definitely be on the receiving end. Get a room in a hotel. They’re inexpensive.
To lose your temper
This one is mostly about road rage, but it also applies to everything in Vietnam that you do. Vietnamese people are, as a rule, non-confrontative. They don’t freak out and start crying except when they’re abused, which happens every three seconds when driving. It’s got to do with face saving. A sure way to lose face is to lose your temper, and the person you snap at also loses face.This easily makes things escalate. After they lost their patience in the traffic, several foreigners got into fist fights. At home, leave your bloated ego and go with the flow.
When you go inside, hold your shoes on
This one won’t get you fined and flagged publicly, but it’s just rude. The streets in Vietnam are sometimes flooded because of all the rain. After the water is gone, this leaves some very unhygienic materials on the ground. You’re essentially telling them you think the ground outside is safer than their house by trampling into somebody’s house with your shoes on.
Asking all of you to hurry up
Thailand is popular for Thai Time, where nobody is ever in a hurry and it takes five minutes to do anything. Ok, Vietnam is more or less the same. The key difference is that when you try to hurry them, while you get smiles and shrugs from Thai citizens, Vietnamese get angrier with every prod.
Talking smack about Ho ‘s Uncle
Although he is undoubtedly a contentious figure for many, in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh is a deified figure. It is inseparable from national unity and freedom that his life and image are. So keep to yourself your thoughts. If you begin to talk ill of their respected Uncle Ho, you’ll find yourself unwanted in many places in Vietnam.
SVFF is a group of Vietnamese Language Teachers, all of which have at least 2 years of teaching, a BA in Language Teaching. We are motivated and ambitious. We are passionate about helping Vietnamese learners to be able to communicate well in Vietnamese and understand people culture.