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Vietnam Travel Guide

Written by Keith Hancock
Western Culture: The Younger The Better
Vietnamese Culture: The Older The Better
In the west, we’re proud of our young people. And although we respect our elders – the powers of youth get away with murder. They run wild in shops, sit at the head of the dinner table and have a rather large say in what happens on a day-to-day basis.
Occasionally, and totally innocuously – our worlds revolve around them.
However in Vietnam, the opposite is true.
The Vietnamese culture is totally hinged on respect (which we’ll come to later), and age is powerful presence in both ranking and seniority. It doesn’t matter who you are, who your family is or how wealthy you are – the older person outranks you and deserves your respect.
Adhere to this principle whilst travelling and you’ll go pretty far.
Western Culture: It’s About Being Polite
Vietnamese Culture: It’s About Respect
We just touched on the fact that Vietnamese culture is heavily reliant on respect. It’s a rich, intertwined part of their culture that has existed for generations.
In the west, respect can be shown in a few ways: being polite, asking questions and letting them lead the way, to name but a few.
Yet, in Vietnam – a lot of the signs we consider respectful and polite can be counted as disrespectful, even when you can’t fathom why.
But in order to be safe and save confusion I want to focus on two words – Yes and No.
To Westerners, they’re polite and normal words to use in every day language. But to the Vietnamese, especially if you’re talking to someone older (and therefore more senior), speaking this abruptly can be considered a sign of disrespect.
Instead, elaborate on what it is you’re saying.
If someone was to offer you food, instead of saying Yes and No, you’d explain:
• Sorry, I just ate and I’m really full
• Yes please, I haven’t eaten in hours and I’m starving
This way, you avoid offence – and can respectfully get your point across.
Western Culture: Using Someone’s Name Is Respectful
Vietnamese Culture: Someone’s Name Can Be Disrespectful
In western society it’s normal to be estranged from people. To not be aware of who the people in your apartment block are, or who the neighbour across the road is.
We live in a fast paced society, where all of these things are considered normal.
If you are using someone’s name, it either means you know them or are including them. It’s polite, respectful and part of our culture.
But in Vietnam – that can be considered quite disrespectful, especially when addressing someone who is more senior than you.
In this culture, everyone is a part of a close-knit bond and they are all aware of each other. Unless absolutely necessary their names are not used and are replaced with other colloquialisms, unless talking about someone junior to them in status.
Try to avoid using names altogether unless you have an excellent grasp of the language.
Western Culture: It’s Hot? I’m Wearing Shorts
Vietnamese Culture: It’s Hot? Still Got To Keep My Legs Covered
When travelling to Vietnam I want you to keep one thing in mind at all times, ‘dress modestly’.
Like a lot of Eastern Cultures, if you’re not in densely populated or tourist places like the beach, wearing highly revealing clothes isn’t well accepted.
Instead it’s highly frowned upon and can sometimes create cause for concern for westerners in more rural areas.
When packing, opt for more conservative clothes like linen pants, hiking pants or breathable t-shirts.
Bikini’s and Board Shorts are a no-no.
Western Culture: Public Display Of Affection
Vietnamese Culture: Offensive Rude Display
If you were strolling through downtown in any western environment, nobody would take a second glance at you holding your partners hand, having a quick kiss or stroking each other’s hair.
But, if you were to try it in Vietnam – it could cause a lot of offence to anybody around you.
The society is respectful and conservative, where any and all affection is displayed only in the confines of your own home.
For you travelers, try and keep it to the hostel or the hotel room – and off the streets.


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Giấy chứng nhận đăng ký kinh doanh số: 0104731205 do Sở kế hoạch và đầu tư TP Hà Nội cấp ngày 03/06/2010
Giấy phép lữ hành Quốc Tế số: 01-687/2014/TCDL-GP LHQT

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