The Vietnamese are a cool and calm group of people known for being forgiving and loving. They have often witnessed foreigners acting crazy and disrespectful so not much surprises them. If you do something stupid or insulting remember that in Vietnam, like in most places, a smile and an apology will right a lot of wrongs. But here in Vietnam there are a few transgressions that are particularly offensive and should be avoided at all costs. These include:
1. Wearing skimpy sexy outfits when entering a Pagoda. Particularly when done by girls it is looked down on by the Vietnamese. They see this as being a disrespectful when practiced in a place of worship and they do not like it.
2. Paying for small purchases with large notes is considered rude by most Vietnamese. For example paying for a 10,000 dong item with a 500,000 dong note. It is unlikely that most small vendors will have the correct change. This can cause a loss of face and be embarrassing to the merchant. You should try breaking the large notes before entering the small shops if at all possible.
3. Whenever you find yourself being the first customer of the day in a shop or store always try to buy something. If you don’t buy at least something small the owner will see this as a bad omen for the rest of the day’s business.
4. Whenever you wrongfully charge a shop owner of “short changing” you this can be considered an insulting action on the part of the shop owner. The Vietnamese are known for counting their money very carefully and don’t like to be accused of giving the wrong change after a sale. It’s like charging them with purposely trying to cheat you.
5. Vietnamese have been bitter enemies of the Chinese for centuries and many still hate them to this day. So many Vietnamese do not like foreigners giving praise to the Chinese. It’s like praising their enemy.
6. Money is difficult for the Vietnamese to earn so they don’t like anyone, especially foreigners, treating money loosely, as if it has no value. Arrogant foreigners who toss money around like it has little value are being insulting to the Vietnamese.
7. Public displays of affection are considered disrespectful by most Vietnamese. While holding hands is acceptable kissing openly in public is not.
8. Loosing your temper in public is not appreciated and is considered to be forbidden. The Vietnamese people are basically non-confrontational. Even when they feel violated they will usually not confront their perpetrators. Fighting with other drivers will only lead to bigger problems, especially for foreigners.
9. Entering another’s home without first removing your shoes is considered a very rude thing to do. Wearing your dirty shoes into another’s home is like telling them that the ground outside is cleaner. Always remove your shoes at the front door before entering their home.
10. Telling others to “hurry up” in Vietnam is considered a rude thing to do. The Vietnamese people move at a calm measured pace and don’t like being told to “hurry up.”
11. Ho Chi Minh is considered to be a well respected historical figure in Vietnam. Similar to the way that Americans respect George Washington. Disrespecting Ho is not considered a good thing by most Vietnamese. Do not say anything negative about Ho when in the presence of any Vietnamese.
Tips on how to avoid being robbed
Never put any valuable items in your checked luggage. The airport thieves in Vietnam are amazingly good at opening your “locked bags.” Place these valuables in your carry on bags or your purse and you will be protected.
Don’t talk on the phone when walking on the street. If you must talk on the phone when you’re out on the street sit in a corner where you can watch what’s going on around you.
Wear a cross body bag for a purse as it is much more difficult for robbers to steal. It’s best to leave your most important things like your passport and your credit cards back in your hotel accommodation.
Put your money in your front pockets which makes it much harder for a pick pocket to steal.
When crossing the street remember to be brave and proceed confidently while facing the traffic. Make your progress slow but steady. Wait and then continue—wait and then continue—till you finally are across the street. Just don’t chicken out and don’t unexpectedly change your pace there-bye surprising the other drivers.
Before riding in a taxi or eating a meal always ask and be clear about what the price is going to be. These are prices that can be easily changed by the unscrupulous seller. These are tricks which the bad guys practice all over the world.
Following these few suggestions is going to make your trip more enjoyable and safer. You will be a more pleasant person for the Vietnamese to be around and you will avoid experiencing problems like suffering unnecessary losses.