Vietnam Travel Dos And Don’ts

Vietnam is a markedly Confucian society and its business practices are often more similar to those of China, Japan and Korea than to those of its Southeast Asian neighbors. The following Vietnam travel tips will help you to avoid some social taboos and make your trip to Vietnam culturally and socially enriching experience.

1. General


  • Pass all items (gifts, plates, food, money) to others using both hands
  • Dress respectfully at all times (shorts below the knees, shoulders covered)
  • Take off your hats in reverence to all elderly or respected members of society, such as monks
  • At a restaurant, wait until you are shown to your seat and only sit when the eldest member of the party has already done.
  • Rest chopsticks on the table or on a plate between mouthfuls
  • Hold your bowl close to your face when eating
  • Try to finish all of your meal – but if you don’t like something, it’s better to leave it untouched than take a small bite and then disregard it.
  • Rest your chopsticks on your rice bowl when finished with a meal
  • While tipping is not mandatory, the increase in tourism has made it more commonplace and it is always hugely appreciated
  • Bargain in markets, but once a price is agreed upon, you must buy


  • Don’t commit public displays of affection, or even touch a person of the opposite sex in public
  • Don’t touch an adult’s head or shoulders (the head is the most symbolic body part in Asian culture)
  • Don’t point with fingers (use your whole hand)
  • Don’t point the soles of your feet towards a person or a sacred object, such as an image of Buddha
  • Don’t stand up chopsticks in your food between mouthfuls or when finished – it resembles incense sticks that are burned in memory of the dead and is seen as very disrespectful
  • Don’t pass any items over the head of someone else
  • Don’t cross your arms in public
  • Don’t stand with hands on hips in public
  • Don’t bargain in restaurants
  • Don’t touch someone's head or pass anything over someone’s head. Don't point or use your index finger to get someone's attention.
  • Don’t point with your finger - use your hand. Don’t stand with your hands on your hips.
  • Don’t cross your arms over your chest.
  • Don’t pat a person's back, especially a senior or someone of higher status, pointing to other people while talking, or putting one's feet on a table or sitting on a desk while talking are all rude and disrespectful.
  • Winking is regarded as indecent, especially when directed at people of the opposite sex.
  • Don’t discuss politics and don’t make jokes about Ho Chi Minh or death.

2. Shopping


  • Haggle – vendors will expect you to haggle a little, but you’ll need to get over the fact that you won’t pay a local’s price. Bargaining over a price should be done with a cheerful attitude and if the vendor won’t budge, either pay or walk away
  • Stay cool, literally! Make sure you’re well fed and hydrated, topped up with sunscreen and a hat, and not in any position where you’re likely to get angrier or more agitated than usual.


  • Do not ever lose your temper in public or when bargaining for a purchase. This is considered a serious loss of face for both parties. Always maintain a cool and happy demeanor and you will be reciprocated with the same
  • Try not to get upset if you meet someone who paid less than you for the same item. Street vendors make a living from selling their wares to tourists, don’t take it personally.

3.Table manners


  • If you are invited into someone’s home, you might like to bring a gift: sweets, flowers, or fruit for example. Gifts should be wrapped in colourful paper
  • Always wait to be shown where to sit
  • Set your chopsticks down to speak and for a rest after every few mouthfuls
  • Hold your bowl of food close to your face – nose to bowl is acceptable!
  • When eating soup, the spoon is held in the left hand
  • When tea is offered, accept it graciously (even if you don’t want tea). Similarly, if you’re offered alcohol, it’s considered polite to at least take a sip – or drink the first cup, if possible. More is better if you can! If you really can’t, just explain to your host and they should understand.
  • Slurp your noodles! Don’t be afraid to express your enjoyment of your food by making a lot of noise


  • Gifts should never be yellow or black or wrapped in either yellow or black paper. These colors are seen as bad omens and will be very offensive if given to your hosts
  • Do not give handkerchiefs as a gift, they are seen as a symbol of a sad parting or a farewell (in fact the idea of handkerchiefs is seen as quite disgusting in the East, so steer clear of them altogether!)
  • Do not sit down until the oldest member has seated themselves
  • Do not leave any food on your plate, this is considered impolite
  • Leaving a pair of chopsticks sitting vertically in a rice bowl looks very much like the incense sticks that are burned for the dead. This is a powerful sign and is not appreciated anywhere in Asia

4. Visiting temples


  • Bow your head to pay respect to the temple and the Buddha statues inside.
  • Wear appropriate clothing – you will need to cover their chest and shoulders. If you are wearing a dress, make sure it hangs lower than your knees. 
  • Pack a light scarf in your bag to cover yourself in case a spontaneous temple visit occurs!
  • Try to keep quiet. It is OK to whisper in parts of the temple but save the talking for outside the temple grounds.


  • Don’t wear skin-tight clothing or shorts (below the knees is a good rule to stick by)
  • Never ever point your bare feet at the monks and statues of Buddha.
  • Try to avoid any public displays of affection when around temples or holy sites, they are considered extremely disrespectful
  • Don’t ever touch the statues or ever touch the head of a monk. In fact, it is best if you don’t touch the monks at all!

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