A Few Do’s and Don’ts in Vietnam

Visiting another country can be intimidating, especially when you don’t want to be that typical American that does whatever he or she wants to do. I wanted to be respectful of the Vietnamese culture and learned a lot after I told some people I sat on my desk while teaching my Vietnamese students. After getting the awkward looks, I learned that it was a no no to do that. Hence, I decided to put together this small list on what is acceptable and not acceptable while visiting or living Vietnam.

DO be respectful. Take off your shoes when you enter someone’s house or store. I remember to take them off when I see other shoes outside.

DON’T sit on a desk. I’ve been told that as a foreigner I’m able to get away with a lot, but I’m really trying to be respectful of the Vietnamese culture and sitting on a desk will have to go.

DOsave face’. As stated in a previous blog post, saving face is incredibly important to the Vietnamese and it’s important to not to show an angry, upset or embarrassed face; it’s a sign of weakness.

DON’T cause other people to ‘lose face’. There are times when I’m slightly impatient and frustrated because getting answers is like pulling teeth. It’s important to not spread that anger to others where they lose face and become frustrated as well.

DO keep your jewelry and valuables locked up at home. I kept all my jewelry back in New York, but a few essentials like my laptop and other electronics are locked up. I believe being born and raised in Brooklyn has prepared me for anything. Last semester a teacher had her laptop stolen in broad daylight – I’m trying to make sure that doesn’t happen to me.

DON’T dress like a slut (just making sure you’re still reading). In Ho Chi Minh City and the south it’s easier to get away with exposing knees and shoulders, but to be on the safe side, try not to expose more skin than that.

DO embrace the Vietnamese culture. I feel more and more Vietnamese everyday! At first it was a little tough adjusting, but once I learned the basics, like how to order rice with chicken, I knew I would be just fine.

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