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Greetings and Politeness

Greetings in Vietnam are commonly accompanied by a slight nod, or sometimes a slight bow when more respect is required. In official meetings, one can shake hands as in many Western cultures. However, in less formal situations, hand shaking is often gender-specific: men are more likely than women to shake hands and more so between two men than between a man and a woman.

In informal conversations, especially between close friends or those who are familiar with each other, Vietnamese people often greet each other by asking questions, such as Đi đâu đấy? Where (are you) going? or Ăn cơm chưa? Have (you) eaten rice yet? This might appear a bit unusual to foreigners, but this is just a Vietnamese way of making small talk.

As you have noticed in our first lesson, learning how to be polite is essential when talking with Vietnamese people. This goes beyond using polite expressions such as xin. Politeness can also be expressed in the correct use of terms of address. Mastering this aspect of Vietnamese will make your relationships go much more smoothly and will foster friendships with the Vietnamese people you meet.