Visiting a Vietnamese family

What to bring when visiting a Vietnamese family

The home, as it is conceptualized in most Asian cultures, remains a sacred domain, to which access is generally restricted to trusted acquaintances, and the presence of any uninvited visitors is intrusion of some sort. In the invasive stream of globalization, this unwritten rule has indeed loosened up, resulting in shifting patterns toward Western ideas, where the home is more of a cozy location for a good rest and meal.

However, it is still a common practice that being invited to the private home of an acquaintance, say, in Vietnam, is a step-up signal to friendship from business partnership. As such, visiting a Vietnamese family will leave a very strong impression of yourself that can facilitate or hinder any continuing or future relationships.

There are some general rules that should be complied to, not only once, but also during your stay in this country. For example, you are expected to take off your footwear upon entering a Vietnamese house; in many cases, the host and hostess will provide you with a pair of household slippers, since it seems rather rude to leave a guest barefoot.

Extended families are common here, therefore, you would look better bowing slightly to such senior members if they are present; as they are respected enough to be introduced first but are not likely to accept a handshake. It is considered thoughtful, in addition, to bring a small gift at your first visit. Nevertheless, the type of present depends on specific circumstances. In most cases, a nice bouquet of flowers is never rejected, and if you know they have small children, confectionery is a good choice; souvenirs from your native country is also very much appreciated.

In the end, if you are to return another time, make an effort to inform the host beforehand and be punctual as most Vietnamese are. If you have known the family long enough, cultural faux pas will not be a problem; nevertheless these general norms are not to be excused.

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