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.