Cultural Differences

Learning the cultural differences between Westerners and Vietnamese (From the Vietnamese point of view)




1. Touching between people of the same sex is not acceptable It is quite acceptable. One can see two men or women in the street holding hands
2. A man and a woman may hold hands or touch in public People rarely do this in public. It looks “ridiculous”
3. A man can touch a woman (put an arm around her shoulder, hold her arm, kiss her cheek, etc…) A man does not do this for affection or friendliness. It is insulting to a woman.
4. Kissing (between husband and wife, lovers) in public is acceptable It is not acceptable. It should  be done in private quarters. No kissing in front of the children
5. Parents and children kiss each other Rarely,  except small babies


1. Christmas and New Year holidays are the most important Tet (Lunar New Year) is the most important. This date varies from year to year, between January 15 and Feb. 20.
2. Americans celebrate birthdays. They give presents and throw birthday parties Vietnamese celebrate death days. They worship ancestors. the prepare a big meal and invite members of the family and relatives to get together and talk about the good aspects of the dead person. Birthday is also celebrate, but not that big.



1. Pajamas are not acceptable in public They are quite acceptable in public, even in the streets
2. Shoes and slippers are used day and night Slippers do not exist. People can walk in the streets with bare feet.
3. Americans wear leather shoes. Vietnamese wear wooden and rubber shoes more often.
4. Men and women wear Western-style   clothing Men wear Western-style clothing but women dress in their “national” style.
5. Women wear socks or stockings with shoes They do not wear socks or stockings. Vietnamese women go bare foot with their shoes.

Cooking and Eating

1. Americans do not spend much time in preparing food. Vietnamese spend a lot of time in preparing food.
2. Grocery is bought once a week Grocery is bought everyday
3.  Americans say “grace” before eating and everybody starts eating after that Vietnamese children ask parents or elderly of the family to eat first, and they follow
4. Americans use napkins and drink during meal Vietnamese do not use napkins but wash their hands and their faces before and after every meal. They don’t drink during eating, they drink afterward.
5. Americans use knife, spoons, fork and plates. They eat soup in a plate Vietnamese use spoons, chopsticks and a bowl. They eat soup in a bowl
6. Americans have one big dinner per day Vietnamese have two equally large meals per day (lunch and dinner)
7. The smell of prepared food is weak The smell of Vietnamese food is strong
8. American food is less spicy Vietnamese use more spices
9. Potato or bread is the main starch Rice is the main starch
10. Meat is cooked in big pieces, they cut it during eating. Meat is cut into small pieces before cooking because they never use knife during meal
11. Food is put in individual plates or on the table. They tend to pass the whole plate of food around The food is put on the table and individuals take piece by piece. The parents get food for their kids using their chopsticks, not by passing the whole plate
12. All food is shared equally Preferred food is served to parents or the elderly first
13. Americans do not make noise in appreciating good food.     Vietnamese sometimes make noise in appreciating good food, especially soup
14. Women eat equally like men (in quantity) Women have to eat small amounts (like cats) and men in quantity (like tigers


Americans shake hands with the opposite sexVietnamese do not shake hands with the opposite sex. They do not shake hands with old people or women unless they offer their hand first. slightly bow the head and/or put the hands in front of the chest in order to show more respect. Two women do not shake hands.
Americans exchange cheek-kisses to express friendliness Vietnamese never exchange cheek-kisses. It is a shock to most married women.
Americans use “waving motion” to call peopleWaving motions are only used by adults to call little children but not in other way.
To slap someone on the back (expressing happiness)is acceptableIt is insulting to the Vietnamese to be slapped on the back; especially to women
Americans can greet anyone in the family firstA Vietnamese greets the head of a family or an older person first, then the younger ones.


Homes have more rooms, space and conveniences.Homes are small in cities and towns
Home are mostly constructed of wood or brickHomes, in the country side, are usually made of bamboo trees, dry rice plants and mud. In the cities, they are constructed of brick or cement.
  • There are places for children to play inside
  • More rooms are reserved for bedrooms
  • Everybody owns a bed, including children
  • Americans do not share a bed with same sex
  • A double-bed sleeps only two people
  • A bed implies mattress and spring board, bed sheets and bed spread
  • Children sleep in their own bedrooms
  • Americans sleep late on the week-ends
  • Americans do not take a siesta (afternoon nap)
  • Children in the cities or towns play in the streets
  • One room is reserved for an altar. This is the sacred room where the worship ancestors
  • Not everyone owns a bed
  • Vietnamese can share a bed with the same sex. It is not abnormal for two male or female friends or relatives to share one bed.
  • It can even sleep three or four people
  • A bed is made of either wood or bamboo and covered by a reed mat. (Many Vietnamese do not know ho to make a be a American way)
  • Children often sleep with their parents
  • Vietnamese get up early and every day
  • Vietnamese take siestas almost every day