Hanoi’s networking etiquette
If this is your first trip to Hanoi, you will more than likely be unaware of the social norms. Getting up to speed with the networking etiquette in Hanoi could make all the difference between a “Well it was nice to meet you” and a “Would you come to our home for dinner this evening?”. Embarrassing situations are still likely to occur – and rest assured you will be forgiven – but a good knowledge of local customs will help you to integrate into Hanoi more swiftly and pleasantly.
Never touch anyone on the head in Hanoi. This is because the head is regarded as the most sacred part of the body in Buddhist culture.
Hanoian people display the same degree of pride for their country that a parent illustrates at the birth of their first child; it is practically unparalleled. Therefore, it is vital to remember that any conversation which focuses on the late Ho Chi Minh should be approached with caution.
President Ho Chi Minh, affectionately known as ‘Uncle Ho’ was especially loved and respected by the people of Hanoi and the northern territories. English is not the first language here, so what might seem trivial to you could be taken completely the wrong way by a local. In short, just don’t say anything negative about a Vietnamese patriot, and do not make any jokes.
Another essential thing to focus on is your mannerisms when you’re out and about. There is nothing to it really, do as the locals do and you will be fine. Below is a quick, but comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts to keep you in everyone’s good books.
Wear conservative clothing at all times, especially if you are visiting temples and pagodas. On the street, shorts and T-shirts are fine, but try to avoid anything too revealing. Walking around topless will be seen as disrespectful.
Take off your shoes before walking into someone’s home.
Also, try to take a small gift with you if you’re invited to someone’s home. Fruit and cakes for women and children and liquor for men are commonalities.
Greet people like you would at home, a formal handshake is normal here.
Barter at markets for a better deal, but be reasonable.
Show off a large amount of jewellery or symbols of wealth in public. Remember that Vietnam is still quite a developing country.
Take photographs of anything related to the military or government. This can be interpreted as a breach of national security and may lead to questioning by authorities.
Kiss in public or show any intensive kinds of affection. Holding hands is fine, but save the rest for the bedroom guys!
Take too much offence if someone laughs at you. In the local culture, this is simply a means of dealing with embarrassing or awkward situations.
The drinking culture
Alcohol is incredibly cheap in Hanoi, and locals like to party as much as anyone else. It is likely that if you visit a Bia Hoi – which is like a British pub and serves local craft beer – you will be invited to raise a glass with locals. As mentioned in the article ‘How to develop a professional network in Hanoi’, drinking is also used as a means of finalising a business agreement. Karaoke bars are incredibly popular in Hanoi, and you will see them everywhere. Local people are very light-hearted, and a trip to one of these bars is a great way to blow off some steam and settle into your new home.