Vietnamese and our culture – Tips for first-time visitors to Vietnam
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Visiting a new country should be going to be fun and exciting, but sometimes, it is also going to be an adjustment or stress. You might find yourself asking “What does this phrase mean?” or “Why do Vietnamese do that?” in response to some Vietnamese habits. When people talk about Vietnamese culture, what exactly are you referring to? We will share some of the most common things to keep in mind about Vietnamese and our unique culture to understand the locals before you go on a Vietnam culture tour.
Bargaining is culture
Bargain is culture
It is not common to bargain while shopping in Western countries, but in Vietnam, it is part of Vietnamese culture. Vietnamese people believe that people can communicate with others, create, and build up the relationship through bargaining and they also appreciate the efforts of foreigners when they try to put the price down. For many people, shopping in Vietnam is often a battle of subtleties and strategy. The easy rule to remember when bargaining in Vietnam: even when a price is posted, it is generally open for negotiation. Always negotiate the transaction – a fare before you get into a taxi, a kilo of fruits at a market, etc.
Tipping is not necessary
Tipping is not necessary in Vietnam
Unlike America or European countries where tipping is routine, Vietnam does not have tipping culture. In spite of the generally good service provided at restaurants (and everywhere, really), tipping of any sort is not required or expected. If you feel the service has gone above and beyond, feel free to leave a little extra and the amount is entirely up to you – just adjust to the level you feel comfortable with. However, if you do decide to tip, be discrete so as not to make a person feel like they are losing face – like they are begging. Instead of giving cash directly to the waiters, hide it under a plate or behind the bill is a better choice. Good guides, cab drivers, porters, housekeepers, and bellboys are certainly grateful for tips, but the culture is simply not customary and practiced among Vietnamese people.
Rice is served for almost every meal
Chopstick etiquette in Vietnam
Like the Laotians, Japanese, and Koreans, Vietnamese have rice for almost every meal. Like rivers, rice paddies, great mountains, and deep blue seas, rice are deeply ingrained in our culture that one of their most common greetings is “Ăn cơm chưa?” or “Have you eaten rice?” Unlike the Koreans, who usually eat their rice with a spoon or Laotians, who enjoy rice by hands, Vietnamese eat rice with chopsticks. When you are dining in Vietnam, chopsticks must never be left sticking out of your rice bowl, as this resembles the way incense is offered. If you need to put chopsticks down, put on the table or horizontally on the bowl. But actually, the Vietnamese are often forgiving when it comes to chopstick etiquette.
Vietnamese cuisine is diverse
Vietnamese cuisine is diverse
Like other aspects of Vietnamese life, our unique cuisine is heavily influenced by geography and ethnic diversity. There are also styles of cooking and types of foods that are specific to a region. Northern-style cooking, especially Hanoian-style cooking is often called “the most typical of Northern Vietnam culinary elite ” and includes dishes such as phở (Vietnamese national staple), bún chả, bánh mì, bún thang (vermicelli and chicken soup), etc. Dishes from central Vietnam are spicier, the people from here think of themselves as hardened, tough enough for hot chili. While in Southern Vietnam, such ingredients as sugar, sugarcane, and coconut water are popularly used.
Vietnamese are indirect
Are you surprised to know that the concept of losing face, or being embarrassed, is a very important concept in Vietnam? While in some cultures, it is important to offer an honest opinion and to communicate your point directly and openly, in Vietnam, people will avoid telling you exactly what they think in order to “save face”. It is likely to avoid offending someone. Are you from a country where people around you do not make an effort to “tone down” their feedback? If so, try not to do anything that will embarrass or diminish a person in public.
A new country means new customs and cultures – exactly what most of us are looking for. While Vietnam is a vibrant, modern, and quite modernized country in many ways, there are some eccentricities to expect during your travel to Vietnam. If you really want to dig into Vietnamese culture you need to go on a cultural tour in Vietnam. If you know and respect Vietnamese culture, you will get much more out of your time in this beautiful S-shaped land.