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About Vietnam

If you’re coming to Vietnam for the first time, a basic knowledge of the local customs can help you engage with the people you’ll meet in a friendly, positive way. Here are some top tips you should know.

A Country, One Culture?

Vietnam, a land of vibrant traditions and warm-hearted individuals, is renowned for its rich cultural heritage. However, beneath the surface of Vietnamese identity lies a captivating tapestry of regional subcultures, each intricately shaped by its distinct history and surroundings.

As volunteers working in Vietnam, it's important to understand that culture is not monolithic across the country.


Click here to understand deeper about the difference between the three regions in Vietnam.

Elders are Respected.

After name and nationality, age is one of the first questions you’ll be asked in Vietnam. Their society is built on Confucian beliefs, where experience and wisdom are highly respected. This means the older you are, the more respect you command.


You shouldn’t swear or bring up inappropriate topics when you’re with older people, such as death or sex. At dinners, the eldest people are served first – and at home or work, their opinions carry more weight.

Visiting Houses or Temples

When you enter someone’s house, take your shoes off just outside the door. Vietnamese families keep altars in their shops and homes, including some at ground level: Don’t step over these ground altars or walk around directly in front of them. 

When visiting temples, wear modest clothing and always remove your shoes and hat. You can carry shoes with you, but just don't wear them on your feet.

Eat with Good Manners

Mealtimes in Vietnam are all about sharing. Most meals are laid out as an assortment of shared dishes, with small rice bowls and chopsticks for each diner. It is considered good hospitality for a host to offer you food, refill your glass and put the best bits of a dish into your bowl.


If you want to stop eating, simply repeat politely that you’re very full. In most social gatherings the person who made the invitation is the one who pays the bill. Otherwise, the most senior person is the one who pays.

No Tipping Culture

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 or behind the bill. 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 in counting your money.

Academics Are Revered

When you speak to students in Vietnam, it can be a bit disheartening to hear how restricted their lives can be – but this is the norm. Students dedicate themselves to their studies, often attending long school days and extra classes, especially in subjects like English, which has become a graduation requirement.


Acknowledging the significance of academic achievement can help volunteers connect with Vietnamese students and inspire them to seize the abundant opportunities in Vietnam's thriving economy.

Some people have learned this the hard way: don’t speak ill of Vietnamese war heroes or make jokes about anything related to the war. Generally speaking, Vietnamese people have a great sense of humor, but they don’t joke about the war years. Those were difficult times for everyone in this country.


As a foreigner, you need to be careful with this topic and be extremely mindful when speaking about their colonial past.

Their War History is Sacrosanct

Learning Vietnamese

The Vietnamese language is believed to be one of the most sophisticated language systems in the world. If you're planning to volunteer in Vietnam, having a basic understanding of the Vietnamese language can greatly enhance your experience and interactions with the local community. Here are some resources to help you learn Vietnamese.

Duolingo App


Vietnamese Pod 101 

Tieng Viet Oi

Learn Vietnamese With Annie

  • Youtube
  • Youtube
  • Youtube

Feel free to explore these resources and find the ones that resonate with your learning style. Remember, consistency is key, and practicing regularly will help you make significant progress in your language skills.



To delve deeper into this language, these articles provide in-depth knowledge and practical tips to help you improve your language skills and gain a deeper understanding of Vietnamese culture.

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