Vietnamese Culture

Other Considerations

  • Compliments may be received differently. Some Vietnamese may politely protest or deflect kind words in an effort to remain humble. On the other hand, young women may respond with a compliment about their beauty by saying “I already know” or “of course”.
  • It can be difficult to read Vietnamese emotions as some situations have predetermined reactions expected by cultural . For example, a bride is traditionally meant to exhibit sadness on her wedding day as it means she is moving away from her parents.
  • Open hostility and resentment of China is common. Foreigners may be shocked at racist comments about the Chinese.
  • Older Vietnamese may not ask for help unless it becomes a final resort when all other options have been exhausted. If asked to assist someone, it can be worth bearing this in mind before refusing to complete the favour.
  • In Vietnam, people dress quite modestly. For example, shorts and skirts usually reach the knee.
  • White headbands and armbands are customarily only worn at funerals.
  • Some men may grow a single long fingernail to indicate they are in the middle class and not a manual worker/peasant.
  • Vietnamese babies are considered to be one year old when they are born. This makes the reckoning of age different for the Vietnamese.
  • Most men in Vietnam smoke cigarettes. There is also a high prevalence of gambling and drinking as these are seen as social bonding activities for men.

Traditional Superstitions

The Vietnamese can be quite superstitious. There are many taboos and omens that people look out for and try to avoid. Some acts of daily life are approached with trepidation as they can recall or trigger ‘thần’, devils and spirits (see Folk Religions and Traditional Beliefs in Religion). Some cultural beliefs relate to the way a house is designed or decorated. Other common superstitions are based on the idea that the success of endeavours is dictated by the way they begin. For example, what happens to you on New Year’s Day is thought to determine the year ahead. Therefore, people may actively avoid those who could bring bad luck, taboo objects or situations.

More specific superstitions generally vary significantly among regions and families. Some examples include:

  • Put mirrors in front of doors to scare away dragons.
  • If the first person you see on your way to do business is a woman, you will have bad luck on your business trip and should try another day.
  • Praising a newborn too much can cause the devils to steal it for its desirability.
  • Eating a duck fetus egg can reverse bad luck. However, this only works in odd numbers as eating a second egg after receiving good luck can bring bad luck again.
  • If there are pictures of horses in a home or restaurant, the images should be positioned to make it look like the horses are running into the building, not out the door. This symbolises prosperity and wealth coming into the building.
  • Numbers: The Vietnamese believe the number 9 brings luck. 8 is also considered lucky. The 1 and 8 of 18, adding up to 9, are considered auspicious.
  • Colours: White, black, purple and green have negative connotations of death, evil, sadness/fragility and jealousy, respectively. Red is the luckiest colour. Yellow also has particularly happy connotations.


Generally, Vietnamese who speak English will not believe these superstitions. However, those living in Vietnam do. Many life events are planned around Vietnamese fortune telling. For example, people try to time births, weddings and events to fall on particularly auspicious years or dates. This often relates to astrology.

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