Located in Southeast Asia, Vietnam is a country with abundant natural beauty. It's known for its beaches, Buddhist pagodas and bustling cities. If you're planning to visit this tourist-friendly country anytime soon, here are a few tips that you must keep in mind to stay away from trouble.
1. Wear the right clothes
Dos: The Vietnamese generally prefer dressing conservatively. They are modest in the way they dress up. So, keep it simple and dress lightly. If you are planning to visit a temple or a pagoda (Buddhist temple), keep your arms and legs covered.
2. Keep a watch on your bag and valuables
Dos: Be alert and keep a close watch on your purse and other valuables like your mobile phone or expensive jewelry. You can use a cross-body bag to be on the safer side because robbery in Vietnam is pretty common and bag snatching is a big problem in crowded areas.
Don't: Avoid carrying your purse around in your hand. And, don't leave your bag unattended. Avoid picking up calls while walking on the streets because someone might just snatch your phone away.
3. No PDA, please
Don't: Find a hostel or book a hotel room for all the love you want to express to your partner. Anything beyond holding hands in public will invite a lot of stares.
4. Follow the right way of receiving and giving things
Dos: Use both the hands to receive something from someone and even while giving something. It is considered respectful to do so.
5. Eat the right way
Dos: Learn the right way to use a pair of chopsticks and finish everything on your plate. Use your left hand to hold your spoon while having soup. Once you are done eating, rest your chopstick on the rice bowl. You can make slurp sounds while you eat as it shows that you are enjoying your meal.
Don't: Avoid being greedy and wasting food. Don't put your chopsticks upright in your rice bowl because doing so is considered unlucky for the auspicious-minded locals.
6. Be mindful of what you click
Dos: Be careful of what you are clicking. Click the beauty and the scenery as much as you like, but if you want to click a local, always ask for permission first because come on, you gotta be polite.
Don't: Avoid clicking things that have anything to do with military equipment or installations because this is considered as a breach of national security.
7. Be careful of what you speak about
Dos: Think before you speak, that's all.
Don't: Avoid any topic that has anything to do with the Vietnam War, also known as the American War because most locals have mixed feelings regarding this topic. Avoid political talks.
8. Forget your video camera behind while visiting small villages
Dos: The sub-head says it all. Leave your video recorders behind when visiting minority villages. If you really want to record; ask for permission first because this is considered intrusive behaviour.
9. Be well mannered while visiting a locals house
Dos: Always remove your shoes before entering someone's house. Wearing shoes inside the house is considered impolite.
Don't: Avoid sitting with your feet pointed towards a family altar when staying at a locals house.
10. Keep toilet paper handy
Dos: Keep a roll of toilet paper with you at all times because there are squat toilets in public places.
Don't: Avoid peeing on the roadside.
11. Bargain as much as you like
Dos: You can bargain as much as you want to in local markets. Haggle till you get a better price.
Don't: Avoid unrealistic bargaining. Avoid hanging around the shop if the shopkeeper doesn't want to bargain. Just move on.
12. Choose the right gift colour/wrapping paper
Dos: Wrap the gift in any colour other than yellow or black paper. Make sure the colour of the gift is also not yellow or black. These two colours are considered a bad omen and will be very offensive if given to your host.
13. Don't touch a locals head
Dos: Keep away from touching a locals head, even if it's a small child. This is incredibly offensive as the head is considered the highest symbolic point in Asia.
These tips will help you enrich your experience culturally and socially. Toh ab jao holiday manao.