Vietnamese customs, cultures and quirks

The greatest highlight of Vietnam is its people. Vietnamese are universally renowned for being kind, friendly, helpful and very respectful. But there are many other wonderful things about Vietnamese people that can only be uncovered by living and working amongst them.

Everyone is family

Preparing dinnerVietnamese people address others as if they are part of their family. For example “anh” means older brother, “chi” older sister and “bac” means uncle. You often hear Vietnamese on the streets shouting “Anh oi! Anh oi!” at people passing by. While it sounds rude to tourists, this is a very respectful way for Vietnamese to call attention. In addition, people address others as if they are older than them as a sign of respect.

Have lunch then shop!

Curious passengerYou should only ever go shopping from lunchtime onwards. The reason for this is because Vietnamese people believe the first sale of the day determines their luck for the rest of the day. Good luck is created when zodiac animal signs align between the consumer and the owner, which means tourists usually generate bad luck. If you enter a shop in the morning, you are likely to receive an angry reception from the owner.

Holding hands

Best friendsIt is not uncommon for women and men to hold hands. I recently went for a walk with my new friend, Thu, and was surprised when she grabbed my hand and continued to hold it for the journey around Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi. It was very sweet.

Getting personal

Hand gestureIt is normal for Vietnamese people to ask very personal questions during first encounters. For example, I have been asked my age, hometown, marital status, the reason I am in Vietnam, salary and religion. The reason people ask such personal questions is to determine how others should be addressed (anh, chi, bac, etc.) and to learn enough about people to introduce them well to others. Introductions are big in Vietnam.

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