When visiting a new country, Vietnam for example, a visitor is unavoidably shocked by the strange customs of that country, especially Vietnamese dining etiquette & customs. This following customs will help you avoid confusion and be more courtesy when eating with Vietnamese people for the first time during your Vietnam vacation.
Vietnamese Eating Etiquette
Unlike Western meals that are divided into separate courses such as appetizers, main courses, and desserts, Vietnamese dishes are often served at the same time on the table and shared in the meal. Most Vietnamese families sit on the floor mats around a low table or around a western table with chairs, and each family member has their own bowls, chopsticks, and spoons. For soup, they use soup spoons; for fried dishes and rice, they use chopsticks. Spring rolls and other similar dishes are considered as finger food (hand-fed). When not used, chopsticks should be placed on a bone plate or side dish. Do not place the chopsticks in the bowl. The chopsticks come up from a bowl symbolizing death. Chopsticks placed on the bowl means you have finished eating.
It is also a custom for children to ask/wait for older people to eat first and women sit right next to the rice cooker to serve food for others. They also pick up food for each other as an act of caring.
- When dining with a Vietnamese family, you should note the following:
- Wait for seating arrangements.
- Wait for the oldest to sit and be served first.
- Pass the dishes with both hands.
- The chopsticks shouldn’t be placed on the bowl.
- Hold the spoon in your left hand while eating the soup.
- Cover your mouth when coughing, sneezing, or using a toothpick.
- Leave some food and eat all your rice is considered polite.
- After meals, you should say thank to the host.
- When you invite Vietnamese to go out, the inviter will usually pay for the bill. Sharing bill payment is not appreciated in Vietnam.
Vietnamese Drinking Etiquette
Tea is the most popular drink in Vietnam. Tea is served before and after each meal. Most Vietnamese prefer green tea, but there are also black and fermented teas that can be bought in urban areas.
While tea is a drink chosen by many Vietnamese, the country also grows and sells coffee beans. Iced milk coffee, or “ca phe sua da”, is a famous Vietnamese beverage made by mixing roasted coffee and condensed milk. It can be served hot or cold, depending on taste. In the morning, a cup of coffee helps Vietnamese people to work more alert.
Vietnamese also like drinking. They drink alcohol and beer while eating roasted peanuts or grilled squid. Before drinking, they often shout “One! Two! Three! Drink!” to get the spirit.