Vietnamese Mountainous Cultural Etiquette for Travelers

First time travelling to Vietnam, it can be confused when a foreign tourist contacts to different customs from completely new country. Take these following tips and note them down whether you interact with Vietnamese or ethnic minority groups in your journey. 
ethnic minorities house

Age and Condition

In Vietnam, respect is shown for status and age, which commands social interacting in both Vietnamese and ethnic minority languages without creating a prediction about the person who you are taking to, is older or younger than you; their statuses are greater or less than yours. This gives an explanation for the common of questions about marital status or age, for example, “How old are you?” or “Are you married?” are the most common questions you may hear when you are greeted by the local people. In Vietnam, such issues are completely considered friendly, and overseas tourists should attempt not to be insulted by them.  

Social Concord

Vietnamese enjoy making and keeping social concord, in such a manner like in many other Asian nations:

Dispute and voice raising are not as common as in the West. 

Distasteful topics and uncomfortable situations are totally skipped, which sometimes makes it quite hard for foreigners to catch up what is going wrong. 

They ward off disparaging other people in public to avoid putting them in an awkward situation or losing their faces badly. 

The regular response to any issue is smiling, because it happens as a cause of embarrassment. 

There is the fact that the smiling reaction of the Asian makes many foreigners mad. Losing your anger, however, only leads to the rising up of disagreement and significantly reduces the chances of fixing the problems! If issue occur, bear in mind that calmness is the key for resolving them. 

A good way to response to the issues is a smile.


Hospitality shall be offered willingly and kindly by Vietnamese in general and ethnic minorities in particular. It belongs to their custom. 

Giving and Receiving 

Using both hands to give and receive the gifts is the way Vietnamese showing their gratefulness. The presents are often not opened in front of the giver. It is also noteworthy that among the Buddhist community, giving present is an act of service by the giver to enable him or her to make merit for their next life. It is different from western culture, so foreign visitors may confuse. 


It will be considered as disrespect when your finger points at someone. The western gestures of having fingers or arms crossed, telling others to come close using the forefinger while the palm of the hand facing upwards, or placing hands on the hip are also show the impoliteness in Asian culture. To call someone to come near, Vietnamese and ethnic minority people will jiggle all four gingers in sync with their palm facing downwards. The people living in the S-shaped country are quite modest about women’s outfits. Therefore, shorts and other revealing fashion items will usually be approved. 

Body Contact        

Like other countries in South East Asia, those people, who are not family members, should not have physical contact with other people’s head and shoulders because these body parts have special significance. Moreover, the public display of affection (the acts of physical intimacy in the view of others) between members of the opposite gender or any form of public touching between members of the opposite sex in public is inappropriate to Vietnamese people. For instance, even at the airport, the meetings between long-separated couples never require public hugging or kissing like in the Western culture. Fondness is shown mostly by a gentle contact on the shoulder or something comparable. However, body contact such as holding hands between 2 people on the same gender in public (both are males or females) is a normal friendly gesture that often surprises western people.  
Like other countries in South East Asia, those who are not family members should not have physical contact with other’s head and shoulders because these parts of body have special significance.

In these days, Vietnamese will gladly give foreigners a handshake because they appreciate this western custom, especially, among the northern ethnic minorities since millions of visitors have come every year. 

Another Things to Remember 

When taking a tour to the spectacular northern mountains of Vietnam, tourist’s most favorite activities are visiting villages and meeting people from different ethnic groups. There are a few points of fundamental formalities that travelers should bear in mind:
  • Dress up modestly! It is considered offending if you wear low-necked outfit and revealing clothes. 
  • Some ethnic groups may have a big concern about African-braided hair, because the braids sometimes look like snakes. 
  • Bringing along some types of gifts like confectionary, cigarettes or photographs/postcards from your home country in case you visit somebody houses or meet local families. 
  • Remember to check before entering a village and make sure that there are no ceremony or special occasions that are happening or preparing. Several ethnic groups, on such events, hang banners or tree branches on the gateway to their village or on the house’s door as the sign of celebration. Yet, few other ethnic groups do not use that kind of symbol, thus, it is necessary to ask before deciding what you are going to do. For such ceremonies, foreign visitors in particular and travelers in general are not welcomed, and they need to respect the privacy of the villagers. 
  • Always request the house owner’s approval (normally a male) before getting in an ethnic house. Once the permission is released, it is better to leave your shoes outside. When you take your steps to get in, avoid stepping on the threshold of the door that lying at the bottom of the doorway. After getting inside the house, sit at the place the owner offers you, then take your action in a friendly and gentle way. Remember to try to follow your hosts’ formalities. From different ethnic groups, it may change, but in general, you are better not touching beams and pillars as well as do not point your feet at someone. The utmost importance is that never touch or abuse the family altar. 
  • The way you react when receiving offers such as a cup of green tea or rice wine will show your respect and gratefulness when the house owner gives you. Moreover, visitors are expected to bottom up the first cup of rice wine in just one gulp as an act to say thanks. 
  •  (Ask for people’s consent before taking any snap, even kids. )
  • Ask for people’s consent before taking any picture and do not insist if they don’t want to. After coming back to your home country, it would be awesome if you can give at least one of your pictures that you took to the house host as a gift of your appreciation. You can ask your tour guides’ help with sending back the copies. Actually, there are many tourists promised that they would send the hosts these photos, but forgot their words once they got home. 
  • It is illegal to use opium in Vietnam, so do not support those opium productions by purchasing it from local people. 

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