The Road Book : Vietnamese Culture And Society


The teachings of Confucius influence the Vietnamese describe the position of the individual in Vietnamese society. Confucianism is a system of behaviours and ethics that stress the obligations of people towards one another based upon their relationship.


The basic tenets are based upon five different relationships:

  • Ruler and subject
  • Husband and wife
  • Parents and children
  • Brothers and sisters
  • Friend and friend


Confucianism stresses duty, loyalty, honour, filial piety, respect for age and seniority, and sincerity.




The Family

Vietnamese life revolves around the family. The Vietnamese family consists of the nuclear as well as the extended family. It is not uncommon for three generations to be living together under one roof. In Confucian tradition, the father is the head of the family and it is his responsibility to provide food, clothing and shelter and make important decisions.


Within the same tradition it is believed that after someone dies their spirit lives on. Descendants will “worship” their ancestors to ensure their good favour. On the anniversary of a person’s death, ceremonies are held in their memory. They are also remembered during certain lunar festivals and souls are consulted prior to important decisions or occasions such as a birth or a wedding.


Etiquette and Customs in Vietnam

Vietnamese society has a fair amount of public etiquette. The following are some of the more common points.


Etiquette in Vietnam:

  • Avoid public displays of affection with a member of the opposite sex.
  • Do not touch someone’s head.
  • Pass items with both hands.
  • Do not point with your finger – use your hand.
  • Do not stand with your hands on your hips.
  • Do not cross your arms on your chest.
  • Do not pass anything over someone’s head.
  • Do not touch anyone on the shoulder.
  • Do not touch a member of the opposite sex.
  • Shorts should only be worn at the beach.


Dining Etiquette

If invited to a Vietnamese home:

  • Bring fruit, sweets, flowers, fruit, or incense.
  • Gifts should be wrapped in colourful paper.
  • Do not give handkerchiefs, anything black, yellow flowers or chrysanthemums.


Table Manners

  • Wait to be shown where to sit.
  • The oldest person should sit first.
  • Pass dishes with both hands.
  • The most common utensils are chopsticks and a flat spoon.
  • Chopsticks should be placed on the table or a chopstick rest after every few mouthfuls or when breaking to drink or speak.
  • People hold bowls close to their faces.
  • Hold the spoon in your left hand while eating soup.
  • Meals are typically served family-style.
  • Try to finish everything on your plate.
  • When you are finished eating, rest your chopsticks on top of your rice bowl.
  • Cover your mouth when using a toothpick.



Water is often contaminated in Vietnam. So, it is not safe to drink tap water. Bottled water is low-cost and is easily available in shops, hotels and restaurants throughout the country. Always check whether the seal on the bottle cap is intact.


Cuisine and drinks

Vietnamese cuisine is one of the most famous cuisines of the world. It consists largely of vegetables, fruits, herbs, rice, meat, and it is also very healthy. Traditional Vietnamese dishes are varied, distinct with comparatively low in fat and high in carbohydrates.


The basic ingredient of Vietnamese cuisine is rice and fish sauce. Vietnam is the second-largest rice exporter in the world after Thailand. Rice is growing throughout the country, the fields in the lowlands, mountain terraces. Most bountifully so in the Mekong Delta down south. Rice appears at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. There’s rice-rice of course as well as rice noodles, rice paper wrappers, rice porridge, sticky rice with fruit, fried rice, puffed rice snacks, and rice wine.


In north of Vietnam, the cuisine differs a bit depending on where you are, whether in the mountains or in the city. You can taste almost everything in the city but in the mountains you will find mainly rice, herbs, meat and fresh vegetables. Meat is expensive commodity for the people from ethnic minorities.


Most popular dishes:

  • A variety of chicken and beef soup (Pho Bo, Pho Ga, Bun Bo Hue)
  • Rice (Com), noodles (Bun) – in several ways, all with rich Annex vegetables
  • Rolls, rolls (banh cuon, Goi cuon, Nem cuon, plagues DEU) vegetables or other attachment.
  • Meat Dishes – Bun Cha (grilled meat with noodles and vegetables), Bo kho (braised beef with vegetables and noodles).
  • Banh Mi Vietnamese sandwiches, in mountainous areas.
  • Banh Chung sticky rice cake and Banh Beo steamed rice cakes.
  • Goi Vietnamese salad (beef, chicken, vegetarian, shrimp…)
  • Bahn Xeo pancakes.
  • Seafood



The drinks consist of juices, tea (Tra Viet), mineral waters, and beers (Hanoi beer, Dai Viet, Bia Hanoi). Fruit shakes (Sinh to) is also available. Vietnamese coffee (Ca Phe Sua) is famously tasty. It can be found on every street corner and is served with sweet condensed milk and ice. Vietnam is the world’s largest producer of Robusta coffee.


You can also taste a wide selection of fresh exotic fruit drinks. Coconut water and sugar cane juice is a favourite in the hot southern part of the country. Another thirst-quencher is the fabulous Sinh To, a selection of sliced fresh fruit in a big glass combined with crushed ice, sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk.In mountainous areas, the main beverage is the popular rice wine (Ruop Nep cam).


  • Confucianism stresses duty, loyalty, honour, filial piety, respect for age and seniority, and sincerity.


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