Anyone going to Vietnam would be wise to bone up on some of the unique
customs and superstitions of the country, lest they cause confusion,
misunderstandings, hard-feelings, or loss of friendship. the old saying, "when
in Rome, do as the Romans do" cannot be applied to the letter in Vietnam, but
it is still very important that we respect certain customs and superstitions of
Many Vietnamese having extensive contact with Americans have begun to
understand American ways and have even adopted some of them for their
own use. However, there are thousands of ordinary folk whose customs have
not changed in generations.
There are numerous taboos on all aspects of life in Vietnam, just as we have
our omens of bad luck such as walking under a ladder. A few of them are as
Don’t express lavish admiration for a new baby, because the devils might hear
you and steal the child because of his desirability.
When going somewhere on business, avoid seeing a woman first. If you do
see a woman first as you go out your door or on the way, postpone the trip.
Mirrors are often placed on front doors. If a dragon tries to get in, he will see
his reflection and think that there is already a dragon there and go away.
Single bowls of rice and chopsticks should not be served. Always place at
least two on a table. One bowl is for the dead. Never let chopsticks touch
others or make unnecessary noise with them. Do not place chopsticks in food
and leave them there.
Do not hand someone a toothpick.
Never buy one pillow or mattress pad, always buy two.
Do not use relative’s towels.
Do not overturn musical instruments, or beat both sides of a drum
Do not cut finger and toenails at night.
Going dutch with a Vietnamese is not appreciated. If you run into someone at
a restaurant and you join his table, let him pay the whole bill or pay it all
yourself. The senior person usually pays.
Gifts for brides and grooms are usually given in pairs, including blankets. A
single item indicates the marriage is not expected to last long. Two less
expensive items are more desired than one nicer one.
Educated people and others who are not in the peasant class do not work with
their hands. To do so would appear to try to beat a poor peasant out of his job.
In addition, it is considered beneath the dignity of refined people.
Hats are not usually worn inside churches, even Catholic ones.