Vietnamese people are very friendly, polite and generous in general and will make every effort to have foreign guests feel comfortable, but knowing a bit more about Vietnamese people and their cultures before your tour will enrich your experience.
- Try to learn about the culture before you travel and be willing to try alternative options.
- Learn some of the local language, even the basics such as ‘hello’, ‘good bye’ and ‘thank you’. All attempts will be appreciated!
- Respect the cultural differences and do not look down on, or try to change them.
- Be careful when showing affection in public, it is best to limit affection to holding hands- especially in the rural areas.
- Avoid patting or touching people on their heads, it is the symbolic high point in Asia.
- Be aware of the importance of the ancestral shrine in Vietnam. Avoid backing up to, pointing your feet at or changing your clothes in front of it.
- To be sure you are not causing offense, it is best to respect local dress standards and dress modestly, especially in the countryside.
- In Vietnam, there are no areas where nude or topless swimming or sunbathing is appropriate.
- Women should try to avoid wearing low – cut or tight sleeveless tops and brief, clinging shorts.
- At religious sites, do not wear shorts or sleeveless tops, and remember to remove your shoes.
- Don’t be offended by the very Vietnamese fascination with your personal details; How old are you? Are you married? Do you have children? How much money do you make? etc. – questions that you may consider private. You may find the answer ‘not yet’ (chua) to the question of marriage or children a useful one.
- Don’t be taken aback if people are intrigued by your size, especially if you are tall, well built, or husky. The Vietnamese are a small, slight race and may openly display their amazement at Western bulk. Remember this when selecting your clothing!
- Talk to the locals and make friends. The people of Vietnam are friendly and hospitable. They love it when they hear a foreigner try to speak their language.
- Vietnam is a photographer’s dream, so remember to ask permission before taking photographs and respect a refusal.
- Don’t hound men and women in traditional ethnic dress for the ‘perfect shot’ if they appear shy or avoid your camera, and remember that videos are even more intrusive.
- Try not to get into the situation of paying for the right to take photos, as it encourages a begging mentality.
- If you promise to send back a photo, make sure you are sincere in your offer.
- Be aware that in some communities it may be taboo to conduct an intimate relationship with a local.
- Don’t assume that what is acceptable at home is acceptable everywhere. Vietnam is still a largely traditional society, and getting involved with a local may cause offense.
- Remember also that the recipient of a foreigner’s attentions can be seriously affected within their local communities in terms of their wellbeing, social standing and reputation.