Vietnam is a country known for keeping its rich culture and traditions. The people of Vietnam are instilled with a deep respect for the environment and their ancestors. Having been colonized by France and occupied by the Japanese, their history have strengthened their nationalistic ideologies and fought hard to emancipate themselves from foreign hold. Vietnam has a single-party socialist republic government and have mainly kept to itself but times are changing, and so is the country. Slowly, tourists are coming to the country and is becoming a popular destination among backpackers.
As visitors, it is important to know the Vietnamese culture to avoid messy situations. Here are some things you should know before touring the country:
People don’t want to be humiliated
If you come from a country with a liberal and outgoing personality, you might be surprised at how quite and passive people can be in Vietnam. Don’t take it as being rude; they are actually talkative people once you get their trust. They also don’t like to be humiliated in public so you should avoid arguing or bartering too aggressively that the locals might feel diminished or belittled. They are non-confrontational people.
Education is top priority
If you get a chance to speak to students in Vietnam, you will learn how strict their routine is. With a booming economy such as Vietnam, the environment can be a little competitive. For students, getting at the top of their class is a must if they want to secure a decent job after graduation.
Respect the elders
Vietnam is built on Confucian beliefs where respect for one’s parents, elders, and ancestors is a virtue. That means, don’t bring up any inappropriate topics such as death or sex when you are with them. Their advice is also greatly valued as they account old age as being wiser and more experienced. It can be a little bit frustrating when an older person speaks down to you, especially in an office setting, but respect their views and be patient with them.
War history is an important and sacred topic
Don’t ever besmirch their war veterans or speak ill of anything related to the war for that matter. It is a sensitive topic for them so unless you have something important to say, don’t include it in the conversation. Also, turning it into a joke doesn’t give you a pass. It is a very serious issue for them and again, they are a group of nationalistic people so their history is an essential part of their being.
Learn how to negotiate
Shopping in Vietnam is fun, especially when you understand the art of negotiation. As a foreigner, expect that the local vendors will charge you more for their products. It is their initial feeling of having all the cards against you. This is where you have to stand your ground and be wise about transactions. Negotiate the prices down up to the lowest they can offer and then, walk away. They will come back at you and give you their best reasonable price.
Tipping is not customary
Vietnamese people rarely tip in restaurants or bar. If you feel that a staff’s service was excellent, it is okay to tip but be very discreet. It is definitely not expected so do it at your discretion. However, tips are usual on salons and spas.
Food is a part of Vietnamese culture
If you are visiting as a guest, especially in someone’s home, you can expect that they will prepare and cook for you. No matter how full you are, never say no to a food being offered as they can take it as being rude. But don’t take more than you can eat! They respect the land and the food that is created from it; daily sustenance is a blessing for them. Obviously they are going to hate it if you waste food.