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Where are you going?

Like other cultures, Vietnamese also has many similarities to other cultures, especially Vietnamese history was very much related to France and America in the West. However, there are plenty of uniqueness cultures and reactions that probably just happen here in Vietnam. I would like to explain couple of them.

When Vietnamese people meet, we don’t say ‘how are you?’, if someone does, It is likely happened to two cases: 1, the first meeting! 2, that person you greeted to look sick or just back from sickness recovery. And in general, ‘Hello, how are you, or Hi’ is very formal way and rarely used by Vietnamese. So, you wonder how Vietnamese people greet to each other? Of course, we do. When we meet, the most common saying is ‘where are you going?’, and the most common answer is ‘I am going out there for a while’. Weird isn’t it? but it exactly stands for Hello, how are you or something like that. For older time (still used but just likely popular in countryside), people greeting like ‘Have you had rice yet?’ or my uncle greeted me anytime I am back to my hometown as ‘Tuan, is that you?’ This is very common in country and spoken from older to younger people. When someone in rush, maybe they just smile to each other, It also stands as a greeting.

When Vietnamese express their feelings like sadness or happiness to someone, they use actions more than words. For example, if you go to a funeral, people often hold hands or touching to the relatives of death person or with eye contact. If they said something, that would be the questions like ‘what’s happened to him or her?, when she/he died or just try your best…’ in stead of sorry sayings or alike. The similar to wedding, people may share happiness to pride or groom as making jokes of them (is that similar to the West?).

Travel to see real Vietnam, I always suggest or drive our travel products as close to locals as possible, as details on culture as possible. I trust by doing that, travelers will more enjoy Vietnam, see what Vietnam is really and I guest that is the main purposes of your trip to this developing country.

Hey, where are you going?

Watch your language!

I have many nice memories with customers from leading a large number of groups travelling in Vietnam, but some memories are quite embarrassing, mostly caused by misunderstandings with language.  You aren’t to know that some words you use daily in English that are ‘forbidden’ words or ones rarely used in Vietnamese.

I took a group from Australia to visit a local family for dinner (that is part of the V V T ‘Local Tours’ that experience local activity) that was beautiful group.  They bought flowers and presented them to the local family.  The owner also called all children back home to host my group.  After a few Hanoi beers we sat down for dinner with all members of  the family.  Before the meal I tried to explain a couple of rules on English to customers on the dining code in Vietnam.  Everything had gone fine until the owner came over (she was busy with her last cooked course) and ask in Vietnamese, “Do you like our food?”   I translated.   All the Australians replied, “Yum, yum!” and kept repeating “yum, yum” over and over.  I saw the owner’s face getting red, but she acted with a smile and shot back to the kitchen. The visitors did not know that ‘yum, yum’ sounds very close to ‘break wind’ in Vietnamese!  I followed the owner into the kitchen and explained to her the different meaning of those words to an Australian. Party ended up perfectly.

That was my most embarrassing memory though. So, be careful when you speak to Vietnamese. Some of the English words so far I know below may sound very funny to Vietnamese too:

–         Loan: Never ever speak this word to Vietnamese, especially to girls. You know what I mean

–         Alone: Speak it quickly and try not to repeat it often. That is also sounded like ‘a female’s stuff’

–         Among: sounds very much like ‘bum, butt or ass’ in Vietnamese (people are still very shy talking about it)

–         Still in thinking…

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