Vietnamese are very polite to tourists and are usually more than willing to lend a helping hand. If you’re not wearing what they’re accustomed to wearing they understand. They also know that you might not act or behave the same that their culture does. To get along with the locals just try to be polite and smile.
One thing you’ll want to avoid doing is to tell how to run their country. Vietnamese people aren’t very political, but they do have pride in their country. They don’t want you to act like their country runs everything backwards and isn’t competent. Vietnam operates under communist laws and there is no point in making a big deal out of it while you’re visiting.
Another tip for getting along with our culture is to dress respectfully. Women should avoid wearing short skirts and others clothing. Revealing bathing suits are not appropriate to wear in public and you may attract the attention from the wrong crowd. We ask that you use your best judgment when packing your clothes.
Also remember that our culture will naturally act differently than yours and we may do things that you’re not used to seeing. In fact, our behavior may come across as rude or unfriendly, but we don’t mean to be. One example is personal space. Contact with other people happens a lot in Vietnam – especially around trains and other areas of transportation. If you find yourself in a situation where there is a lot of pushing to get from one place to the next, don’t overreact. It’s just the way we move about.
Our older population may avoid making eye contact with you and it’s important that you do not think they are being disrespectful. In Vietnam one way to show respect is to look downward.
Please be Reasonable
When shopping at the local markets you might think some prices are quite high but this is normal because bargaining is expected and part of your shopping experience. It is fine to ask for a cheaper price, but asking for too little is considered offensive. A lot of the vendors at local markets are poor so keep that in mind when shopping. You’re expected to pay a fair price but you may be viewed as a bad shopper if you over pay for your items.
Don’t Get Angry
If you lose your cool and become upset in Vietnam you’ll lose respect. Regardless of how frustrated you become, do everything you can to turn the cheek and walk the other way. Vietnamese people do not feel the customer is always right so don’t act like you are. Anger and frustration goes nowhere in Vietnam and you’ll learn the hard way if you overreact.
Be Careful What You Complain About
If a Vietnamese employee makes a mistake, such as delivering the wrong meal, complaining about might cost them money. You might think the business loses because it made a mistake, but the money lost often comes straight from the person that made the mistake. Vietnamese people do not make much money and a simply mistake could cost them a lot in wages.
Use your manners when you’re traveling in Vietnam. If you’re eating and sticking your fingers in your mouth to pick out food, some people might find that offensive. The younger population won’t mind as much, but in Vietnam respecting your elders is a high priority.
Visitors need to especially be careful about the gestures they make. For example, crossing your fingers may be a sign of good luck for you, but in Vietnam it refers to the female genitalia. This is considered a very obscene gesture and it is best to avoid doing it anywhere. Also be careful when you ask someone to come over. Whenever possible do it with your palm facing downward and only to children or animals. Avoid doing it to older people altogether.
Making body contact in Vietnam is only acceptable with people of the same gender. A public display of affection is not recommended when visiting, but people here in Vietnam understand that tourists may behave differently. If you choose to hold hands or hug that’s probably fine, but avoid kissing and related behavior when in public. People will be offended and you certainly don’t want to lose their respect.
The Most Important Rule of All
When you’re traveling through Vietnam the best thing you can do is laugh and smile. We like to laugh and have a good time in Vietnam and we want to see that you’re having a good time in our country as well. There is a good chance that if you find yourself in a bad situation but decide to smile anyways, Vietnam people will be much more forgiving.