Shopping in Vietnam is often a battle of subtleties and strategy. Negotiate them down until they won’t move any more, and then threaten to walk away. For most shops, a smaller profit margin still beats getting nothing.
Many Vietnamese traditions and customs are based around their ancestral beliefs. One of the greatest fears in Vietnam is that the dead won’t find peace in the afterlife – that they’ll be left to wander as tortured spirits. Most everybody in Vietnam has a ghost story, from a butterfly landing on them during a funeral to strange voices at night. No matter your thoughts on the supernatural, don’t make light of ghosts or the deceased.
There is so much opportunity in Vietnam these days. Everyone is working hard to improve both themselves and the lives of their families, taking a long exposure view: Today’s long hours and sacrifices will eventually pay off. You won’t hear too many people grumbling about their hardships, so try not to complain about your own problems too much. As a foreigner who can afford international travel, you won’t find much sympathy.
Tipping isn’t expected in Vietnam. If you feel the service has gone above and beyond, feel free to leave a little extra, but if you do, be discrete. Hide it under a plate. When you make an overt show of tipping, it could make a person feel like they’re losing face – like they’re begging. Some people will just flat out refuse a tip, because they think you’ve made a mistake.
Vietnam’s rivers, rice paddies, mountains and deep blue seas are deeply ingrained in the local culture. Because of this, it’s rude to leave food uneaten, especially when you’re in someone’s home and they’ve cooked for you. It’s an insult to the land and the workers who made the meal possible. Try not to take more than you can eat, and be sure to give out many compliments.
Vietnamese people talk about their societal problems all the time – be it pollution, traffic, etc. But they’re less patient when it’s a foreigner doing the criticizing. It comes off as arrogant, as though the person were saying, “Here are all the reasons why my country is better than Vietnam.” When it’s understood like that, of course it’s upsetting. If you make a joke about the crazy traffic, you’ll be fine, but don’t go on and on without also recognizing that there is so much to love about this amazing country.