Are there travel dos and don'ts and myths you should know before travelling to Vietnam?
Vietnam is a land known for its captivating and exotic beauty. Tourists and expats alike can't help but wonder what is it about Vietnam that makes them want to come back and explore its megacities and tribe villages. If you haven't been to Vietnam, then it is time to pack your bags and see Vietnam and its raw beauty. But first, here are some tips for travelling to Vietnam, including what you should know when going there. In this post, we'll outline some of the etiquettes that you should observe while in Vietnam.
Once you get to Vietnam, one thing that you would notice about their cuisine is how heavily influenced it is by its neighbours. So it is not unusual to find dishes that are highly similar to those that you would commonly find in Thailand and China. However, it is not also hard to find an authentic Vietnamese meal, specifically if you allot a time to explore the streets while travelling in Vietnam.
When eating, here are some etiquettes to observe:
You have to remember that the practice of Buddhism is quite prominent in Vietnam. As such, it would be impolite to stick your chopsticks into your food as it is highly similar to an incense burning during rituals for the dead.
While travelling to Vietnam, you would notice that some of their dining practices are similar to those of Thailand, particularly when ordering food. It is pretty standard for them to have food for sharing. However, you should refrain from directly eating from shared dishes. The common practice is to get your share from the plate, place it on your bowl before eating it.
It is perfectly okay if you choose to eat using spoon and fork instead of the chopsticks. They won't judge you if you have poor chopstick skills. In fact, they don't really expect most Western tourists to be proficient in using chopsticks.
Compared to Western countries where meat is ever-present, meat in Vietnam is pretty expensive. So when sharing food with a Vietnamese, be conscious that eating meat is a luxury for them. As much as possible, eat little meat and load up on your vegetables.
When eating in Vietnam, it is not considered rude to rest your elbows on the table. It would be easier for you to eat the Vietnamese way – bringing the rice bowl to your mouth.
Food is sacred in Vietnam. So when passing food to share with others, make sure to do so using both your hands to signify honour for the food.
Compared with China, dining in Vietnam is rarely rushed. As a tourist travelling to Vietnam, slowly eating your food can allow you to savour Vietnamese cuisine in all its glory.
In Vietnam, restaurant staff will not bring you your bill. It is rude to ask them for your bill. When you are done eating, you have to proceed to the counter and ask for your bill and pay there directly.
If there is one thing that you should know when drinking with a Vietnamese is that they love their beer and that they love to drink it with ice. Why? Perhaps it is due to the naturally hot climate of Vietnam. Nevertheless, some restaurants offer cold bottles of beer if you prefer to take it without ice. Here are some dos and don'ts when drinking with a Vietnamese:
Drinking without saying a toast is impolite when you are in Vietnam. They have this concept that once one in the group wants to drink, everybody has to drink as well. Even when taking a sip, it would be best to raise your cup and toast.
Vietnamese people love to drink. You always have to remember that. For them, their masculinity is measured by how much they can drink. If you plan to drink with a Vietnamese, make sure to pace accordingly if you don't want to end up drunk even before you reach the climax of your outing.
If you know that your drinking capacity is so-so, it is okay to drink water. In fact, those who cannot tolerate alcoholic beverages should drink a glass of water for every glass of beer they consume.
Drinking beer on an empty stomach is a big no-no. Going on a drinking spree with an empty stomach can get you wasted easily. Make sure that you eat only enough, though. This way, you would still have some space to try some local delicacies while drinking with your Vietnamese buddies.
When you are not a heavy drinker, it is okay to say no when offered a drink. You can make them understand by saying you don't know how to drink.
One of the best ways of killing a hangover is by sipping a hot bowl of Pho. Other Vietnamese soups that you can try to make you sober are Bun Rieu and Bun Bo Hue.
In Asia, their home is a sacred domain. When you are invited to a Vietnamese home, it means that your relationship with a local is elevated- from mere acquaintances, you become a family friend. As such, there are etiquettes that you should observe when visiting a Vietnamese home. Here are some of them:
Like any country in Asia, outside shoes should not be worn inside the house as it is considered dirty. Take off your footwear and wear indoor slipper that they would commonly offer you.
Time is precious for Vietnamese. They hate to waste their time. So when travelling to Vietnam with the hopes of visiting a friend's home, make sure to arrive on time. If you are running late due to unforeseen circumstances, advice them so they can make necessary arrangements and adjustments.
When visiting a Vietnamese home, you would realize that it is pretty standard for them to have extended families. So make sure to acknowledge their presence by bowing.
When first visiting, be sure to bring a gift to show your goodwill. Often, a basket of fruits or a bouquet would be well-appreciated. Do ask your friend if they have small children that you can bring confectionaries.
Now that you know what are the common dos and don'ts when travelling to Vietnam, here are some myths about this country that you should know about:
The Truth: While it is true that Vietnam used to be a developing country, it is no longer the case now. It had made necessary improvements to rise to the ranks of middle-income countries. Travelling to Vietnam would show you that many of the infrastructures in the country have improved dramatically from transportation to facilities. It is no longer unusual to find luxurious hotels and posh restaurants that can provide you with almost everything that you might need to make your stay comfortable.
The Truth: Vietnamese people are warm and friendly. Once you interact with Vietnamese people, you would realize that they are very respectful of Americans and other nationalities. In fact, the influence of Western nations can be seen in many of Vietnam's lifestyle, particularly in urban cities. You can find Hollywood movies, pop culture, and American technology very much alive in the country. While they may not be familiar or well-versed in the English language, they are very welcoming of foreigners, especially as most of them earn from tourism.
The Truth: The overall risk of visiting Vietnam is relatively low. In fact, many deem it as one of the safest Asian countries for tourists and expats. It is quite rare to hear of any violent crimes in the country that even Business Insider listed Vietnam as the most tourist-friendly and safest country to visit. Of course, petty crimes are pretty common. As such, travelling to Vietnam should include knowing the popular scams in Vietnam to avoid being victimized.
The Truth: No, the people of Vietnam are slowly learning to speak and understand English. So, while it can be pretty challenging to learn Vietnamese, it is not necessary when travelling to Vietnam. However, it might become a necessity if you are planning to stay in Vietnam for a while. Learning a few Vietnamese phrases to help you communicate is very much appreciated.
Now that you have an overview of the dos and don'ts and the common myths about travelling to Vietnam, you can now start packing your bags to enjoy this exotic country. Share your experience in the comment's section, as we'd love to hear from you!