Etiquette in Vietnam: Public and Business

Vietnamese society has a fair amount of public etiquette.

To help you ensure that you’re following the correct etiquette in Vietnam, we’ve compiled a list of all the rules to follow.

Etiquette in Vietnam

The following are some of the more common points

  • Avoid public displays of affection with a member of the opposite sex.
  • Do not touch someone’s head.
  • Pass items with both hands.
  • Do not point with your finger – use your hand.
  • Do not stand with your hands on your hips.
  • Do not cross your arms on your chest.
  • Do not pass anything over someone’s head.
  • Do not touch anyone on the shoulder.
  • Do not touch a member of the opposite sex.
  • Shorts should only be worn at the beach.

Dining Etiquette in Vietnam

If invited to a Vietnamese home:

  • Bring fruit, sweets, flowers, fruit, or incense.
  • Gifts should be wrapped in colourful paper.
  • Do not give handkerchiefs, anything black, yellow flowers or chrysanthemums.

Table Manners in Vietnam

  • Wait to be shown where to sit.
  • The oldest person should sit first.
  • Pass dishes with both hands.
  • The most common utensils are chopsticks and a flat spoon.
  • Chopsticks should be placed on the table or a chopstick rest after every few mouthfuls or when breaking to drink or speak.
  • People hold bowls close to their faces.
  • Hold the spoon in your left hand while eating soup.
  • Meals are typically served family-style.
  • Try to finish everything on your plate.
  • When you are finished eating, rest your chopsticks on top of your rice bowl.
  • Cover your mouth when using a toothpick.

Business Etiquette in Vietnam

Business Etiquette in Vietnam includes:

  • Appointments are required and should be made several weeks in advance.
  • The best means of doing so is through a local representative who can act as a reference and also translator/interpreter.
  • The Vietnamese are punctual and expect others to be so to.
  • Dress conservatively.
  • Handshakes are used upon meeting and departing. Handshakes only usually take place between members of the same sex.
  • Some Vietnamese use a two-handed shake, with the left hand on top of the right wrist.
  • Always wait for a woman to extend her hand. If she does not, bow your head slightly.
  • Business cards are exchanged on initial meetings and should be presented with both hands. When receiving business cards ensure you show proper respect to it and do not simply glance at it and put it on the table.
  • Hierarchy and face manifest in different ways within business meetings. For example, the most senior person should always enter the room first.

  • Silence is also common in meetings where someone disagrees with another but remains quiet so as to not cause a loss of face.
  • Relationships are critical to successful business partnerships. Always invest time in building a good relationship based on both personal and business lines. Any initial meeting should be solely used as a “getting to know you” meeting.
  • The spoken word is very important. Never make promises that you cannot keep to as this will lead to a loss of face.
  • Negotiations can be slow so it is important to bear in mind that decisions have to go through a lot of red tape and also group consultation. Be patient.
  • Business gift giving is fairly common at the end of a meeting or during a meal in honor of your business associates. Gifts should be small but not expensive. Something with your company logo or something typical from your country both makes excellent gifts.

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