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Custom and Etiquette in Viet Nam

Custom And Etiquette In Viet Nam

Understanding the core values that Vietnamese people believe in can be a great way for you to adapt to Vietnamese culture. Vietnamese culture share several similarities with other Asian countries in terms of family values as well as some hierachial structures.

1. The Family

Vietnamese life revolves around the family.

  • The Vietnamese family consists of the nuclear as well as the extended family.
  • It is not uncommon for three generations to be living together under one roof.
  • In Confucian tradition, the father is the head of the family and it is his responsibility to provide food, clothing and shelter and make important decisions.
  • Within the same tradition it is believed that after someone dies their spirit lives on. Descendents will "worship" their ancestors to ensure their good favour. On the anniversary of a person's death, ceremonies are held in their memory. They are also remembered during certain lunar festivals and souls are consulted prior to important decisions or occasions such as a birth or a wedding.

2. Face

As with many other Asian nations, the concept of face is extremely important to the Vietnamese.

  • Face is a tricky concept to explain but can be roughly described a quality that reflects a person's reputation, dignity, and prestige.
  • It is possible to lose face, save face or give face to another person.
  • Companies as well as individuals can have face or lose face.
  • For foreigners it is important to be aware that you may unintentionally cause a loss of face so it is important to be aware of your words and actions. Understanding how face is lost, saved or given is critical.
  • Someone can be given face by complimenting them for their hospitality or business acumen. Accusing someone of poor performance or reprimanding them publicly will lead to a loss of face

3. Hierarchy

  • As with most group-orientated societies there are also hierarchical structures.
  • In Vietnam these are very much based upon age and status.
  • This derives from Confucianism, which emphasizes social order. Everyone is seen as having a distinct place and role within the hierarchical structure, be it the family or workplace.
  • An obvious example is seen in social situations where the oldest person in a group is greeted or served first.
  • Within the family the head would be responsible for making decisions and approving marriages.

Some more guidelines that helps you be more engaged with local people

  • Dress modestly and remove hats when going into religious and other culturally, historically important places.
  • Do not wear shoes inside the house
  • Be humble and respectful. Avoid showing blatant criticism, but rather, show your curiosity and provide constructive questions and comments. Always ask if you do not understand certain behaviours/ food etc. rather than shutting it down completely. On the other hand, if you are invited to try local food that you are allergic to or not comfortable with, you can refuse nicely.
  • Community is a central value. This translates to paying respect to elder people, parents, older siblings and ancestors; and priority to family. It is also common for more than 2 generations, for example grandparents, parents and grandchildren to live together. Other tips include: When eating, wait for other people to start and observe. Keep a low profile by dressing modestly.
  • Don’t be too defensive if Vietnamese people ask about your age, marriage status and income. This is normal social questions even for the first time meeting. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to and explain nicely why.
  • Show strong affection in public. PDA is especially frowned upon by older generation - kissing is a no-no! Away from the major urban centres it is also more traditional. However it is also quite common to see friends of the same sex holding hands - sometimes it just means they are good friends!
  • When a Vietnamese make a mistake and he/she is told you will often see them smile. Don’t be angry when you complain to a Vietnamese and receive a smiling face with an apology. They might smile because they feel embarrassed or they are not sure how to respond, the smile is meant to soften the situation but does not mean their apologies are not genuine.
  • If you are invited to a Vietnamse family, when you arrive the families might ask you to go for a face wash or a shower. This doesn’t mean that they think you are smelly or dirty but this is their way of showing hospitality, or “Make yourself at home”.
  • In reality there are a lot of grey areas to navigate in cross-cultural communication. It is challenging for sure, but also interesting and self-growing. On your first few days here we will have some more orientation on this, as well as Q&A.
  • It is still not enough though, and you will learn and grow a lot from experiencing it in reality in the coming weeks. When in doubt, please be open and share with our program coordinator for support.
There are few words that could describe my time here this summer. The time I have spent here has been priceless and life changing, even more than I thought it could be. I learned so much from my nursing internship in Vietnam that will help me very much in my future. However, the life experience I’ve learned, through adapting to another culture, traveling alone to beautiful places and having a sense of home here is something I’ll never forget. The people here have touched my heart, and I’ll have these memories forever. This country, these places and people are beautiful, and I am so happy I came here. It’s inspired me to always follow my dreams, no matter how big they are, and that I can do anything.

ELISE WYNNE DURKIN

Nursing Internship ,Colorado State University, U.S.A

I was very appreciated and valued at the host school, they were extremely welcoming and friendly. The teachers provided me with plenty of opportunities to interact with different year levels and observe classes. In addition, even though it is not their responsibility to, they were also very keen on showing me Vietnam and making me comfortable, I got to go on a trip to pagodas in Ho Chi Minh where I got to wear ao dai and get to know more about another aspect of Vietnamese life. One inconvenience I had would be that my accommodation was quite far from the school and I was by myself. But overall, this can be improved on and I would recommend the internship program to anyone interested.

ALEXANDRA BAULCH

Monash University ,Education Internship

My internship in Vietnam with ABROADER was a life changing experience. I was a marketing intern at a travel company in Hanoi and now work for the same company as a full time employee. Being in Vietnam has taught me so much about different people and cultures, as there are many other foreigners working here as well from all over the world. My internship coordinator at ABROADER was so helpful, and was a huge support for me whenever I needed it. I would definitely recommend ABROADER if you are looking to do an internship here. They really cater to your needs and care about what you want and are looking for.

LILLIAN SARAH GRANT

Marketing & Communication Specialist Intern ,University of Massachusetts Amherst, U.S.A

The three weeks that I spent in Vietnam gave me a unique insight and greater appreciation into the world around me. Going to Vietnam has made me value the things I take for granted in Australia, such as just being able to drink clean water from the tap. I discovered that the people of Vietnam are so generous and forgiving. I made many new friends during the study tour and learned a course all whilst touring a great country. The study tour was very enjoyable and I had lots of fun along the way with the activities planned by the local buddies. The course itself was interesting and I genuinely enjoyed the content, despite it being so condensed into a few weeks. My advice for students wanting to go on ABROADER study tour would be to just enjoy the trip while it lasts and take as many photos as possible, because the time goes so quick. A huge thank you to all the organisers of the trip and to the local buddies for making this trip possible and the best it could have been.

DANTE STANEKE

Engineering Faculty-Led Program ,University of Newcastle, Australia

I enjoyed my time and the program greatly in Vietnam. It seemed as if the program tried its best to guide all interns in the right direction and was helpful when needed. The thing I will remember most about the internship will be the people I met, specifically the other interns and the patients I worked with. The various interns I met throughout the hospital taught me how to think in a different mindset in order to problem solve and treat a patient. As for the patients, they taught me their culture, and to always shave a positive attitude and outlook on things. Each of the patients had suffered an accident that had effected their capability to live their lives, and yet each patient had such a positive attitude.

Rylie Dunn

Medical Intern ,IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY

I feel satisfied about the services provided by ABROADER Vietnam while I was here; almost everything was sorted out before arrival so there was definitely no messing around with organizing things. The accommodation they provided me was good but I personally prefer one that is closer to my place of work. Before starting my internship in Vietnam, I was informed of the work that I will be doing and the skills involved, therefore there was time allowed for me to learn certain CAD programs to help my work. As for the workplace environment, the company where I got an engineering internship in Vietnam was a company that is in the Aerospace Engineering field, all the employees here helped me settle in by talking to me at work and sitting with me at lunch times. I got on well with my co-workers and my supervisor and they were there to help during my internship. Regarding my responsibilities in the company, I felt like even though it was not the most critical work, it sure was of great use to the company. If there is one thing I would recommend them do for the new interns the next time was to have them go on a welcoming tour to show off the office facilities e.g toilet, kitchen appliances available etc which makes it easier for them to navigate around the office. Beside this, I think I am overall very satisfied with my internship placement and the services provided by ABROADER Vietnam and I would highly recommend it.

Jake Thompson

Engineering Internship ,University of Exeter, England

I have always been an extremely shy person, when I was small, my face would turn red and I even cried in front of people. Now that I’m a grown up, I want to become more confident, make friends and talk with them like other people do after one-month internship here in Vietnam.

MIHO MATSUI

Education Internship ,Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Japan

Before, I didn’t really like my personality as I was a timid girl and afraid to speak up for myself. I am also a perfectionist and would like to spend as much time for preparation as possible before I do something. However, the internship in Vietnam changed that for me. Through interacting with my students and fellow interns I opened up a lot and become more outgoing. In my work, after going through some troubles with cultural difference, I realize one thing for myself that is: Preparation is not always good and if you don’t prepare you are given the chance to do things more freely and more out of the box, so next time even if you’re asked to do something when you’re not prepared “Just Do It

NANA MIHARA

Education Internship ,Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Japan

I had an amazing experience with ABROADER Vietnam. They organized me a great internship placement and took very well care of me. I am so happy I chose this organization for my internship abroad. I loved the feeling of having people around that support me and that they were checking in regularly on me, organizing events, etc. It felt a little like family with which you can share every little problem, your experiences, etc. and I think that is the strongest and best part about ABROADER. Overall, I had a great experience with ABROADER Vietnam and I can only recommend it to others!

SELDA NUR

Water Pollution Internship ,University of Zurich, Switzerland

At first, I was quite nervous about going somewhere overseas alone to do internship but it was definitely worth it. I not only got work experience but learnt about the culture in Vietnam which I would never had a chance to do if I hadn’t come. Overall, I think I had a really fun time and enjoyed the many different kind of activities.

ELENA TOKUKATSU

Marketing Intern ,Keio University, Japan