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.
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
- 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.
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