Vietnam is a country with a diverse culture. Apparently, there are a lot of differences between Vietnamese custom and other countries’ custom. Therefore, to avoid culture shock, it is very necessary for foreign travellers to learn about Vietnamese traditions before visiting the country.
1. Attitude of Vietnamese people towards foreigners
Actually, not all foreigners have the same feeling about the Vietnamese people’s attitude towards them because each person has different experience. This is mainly due to the differences in the places they visit and the period of time when they come to Vietnam.
In the time when Vietnam’s tourism was not so developed, it was hard to find a foreign visitor on the streets. As a result, local people often have curious eyes with the foreigners which could make them feel uncomfortable. It might lead to a bad image of Vietnamese traditions. However, at the present time, it is very normal if there are some foreign tourists walking on the streets in big cities. In fact, foreigners sometimes may face strange eyes of local people in the countryside. The best way is to ignore and to smile with them because they are actually very hospitable and friendly.
2. Language barrier
First, the proportion of the Vietnamese who speak English, in fact, is not so high. Therefore, foreign travellers may have difficulties if they cannot find someone to ask directions or to buy something.
Second, there are a lot of differences between English and Vietnamese which foreigners may feel weird.
Let’s take an example of one of Vietnamese traditions which is greeting culture. To say hello, Vietnamese people do not say “Good morning/afternoon/evening”. They often say hello by asking some questions such as “Where are you going?”, “What are you doing” or by saying “Hello Mrs/Mr…”
To avoid this problem, foreign visitors should prepare by learning some basic Vietnamese phrases.
Traffic in Vietnam is not so good in general, especially in big cities and in the peak hour. The roads are almost full of vehicles all the time. According to many visitors, crossing the road is one of their most frightening experiences in Vietnam.
However, it is important for tourists to learn how to cross the road in Vietnam. The best way is to cross slowly and do not need to try avoiding vehicles because it is the drives’ job.
4. Family ties
The strong family connection of Vietnamese people can make some foreigners surprised. Actually, it is usual that Vietnamese young people live with their family even when they are over 18 years old. The biggest son usually lives with parents all his life because taking care of parents is his duty. This can be considered one of the most unique Vietnamese traditions.
5. Family values
In Vietnam, the family values are highly appreciated. For example, if you are a foreigner and you are working in Vietnam, your colleagues may invite you to go to their hometowns for their relatives’ wedding or death anniversary. It is absolutely normal when you have a close relationship with them.
6. Cuisine – one of the most attractive Vietnamese traditions
Undoubtedly, Vietnam is an ideal destination for travellers who love exploring cuisine. Vietnamese cuisine is really unique. However, because of its variety, foreigners can easily face culture shock in terms of food when coming to Vietnam. For example, dog meat or “thịt chó” is one of the most popular foods in Vietnam but it can be a bad dish for foreigners. Some famous magazines even noted that “Vietnamese people eat all moving things”. Thus, foreign visitors should not judge Vietnamese people when they eat some “strange” thing.
7. Some other important Vietnamese traditions with regards to showing respect
First, Buddhism is the most popular religion in Vietnam. Thus, there are a lot of pagodas and temples all over the country. When visiting pagodas and temples, foreign visitors must take off their shoes and wear appropriate clothes.
Second, when shaking hand with the old, Vietnamese people always use both two hands to show respect. When the old give you something, you have to receive it by two hands and vice versa. This is due to respecting the old is one of the most important Vietnamese traditions.
Third, Vietnamese people have customary practices even at home. Guests should take off their shoes when entering a Vietnamese house. Nonetheless, when the hosts say that the guests do not have to take off their shoes, it is fine to wear them.
Fourth, the gesture of crossing the middle and index finger does not mean good luck in Vietnam. In contrast, it is very offensive to Vietnamese people. Thus, foreigners must not make this gesture at any circumstances.
Fifth, Vietnamese people often ask some personal questions which are related to your age, marital status, job, income and so on. Normally, for foreign people, these questions are sensitive and impolite but it is different in Vietnam. If you do not want to answer, you can avoid answering in a polite way.
Last but not least, the Vietnamese really do not like people who are formal or ceremonious in behavior, especially between people who have close relationship. For example, when you are invited to have meal in one local Vietnamese family, the hosts always say “Make yourself at home!”; another example is that in Vietnam, close friends do not say “Thank you” with each other all the time.