Eastern countries, including Vietnam, are usually famous for complicated etiquette and a variety of rules in manner. One of the events that marks distinctive difference between Western and Eastern culture is meal. When having a meal with local people, there are many things you - a foreign tourist should be in mind.
1. Before the meal
1.1. Prepare yourself with basic knowledge on a typical dinner of the Vietnamese
Contrary to a scientific finding “Breakfasts are the most important meal in the day”, Vietnamese people attach the greatest importance to dinners. They consider dinners to be a gathering occasion for the whole family, where people come back from a hard-working day talking about their day and sharing things.
Dinner food usually includes one or two main dishes such as stewed pork, steamed chicken or fried fish; one dish of boiled or stir-fried vegetable and one bowl of broth. Steamed rice is definitely available in almost every meal.
1.2. Don’t forget to carry along some gifts
It is important you express your gratitude to the host for inviting you by giving them some small presents. Do not resort to expensive ones since it will make the host baffled. A bunch of flowers, a box of cookies or some fruits are “safe” choice.
1.3. Don’t sit down till you are invited
There are positions in the dining table that are allocated to different people based on significance to the family or arranged in the order of status, age, etc. So be aware of which position you will be seated, it is best to wait for the guiding of the host.
As a matter of fact, the oldest person in the group or in the family is the one who is seated first. Everyone must wait, likewise, for the oldest person to eat first because this is a sign of respect. Also, you have to wait until there are enough people for the meal to be started.
2. During the meal
2.1. Remember to “invite” others
Instead of saying “Bon appetit” or “Enjoy your meal”, Vietnamese people “invite” others in the table to take the meal, usually the younger do that to the elderly to show respect and underline family order. Since it would be hard defining everyone’s identity, you just need to say “Toi moi ca nha an com” (meaning: Please, everyone have a good meal).
2.2 Some small rules
When dining, remember to use BOTH HANDS to pass things or else you would be considered to be rude.
It is a sign of disrespect to stick your chopsticks vertically in the middle of the rice bowl (rice bowl with vertical chopsticks only appear in the mourning of death people).
You must not point the chopsticks to someone else’s face or to the dining table because it is very disrespectful.
It is acceptable to ask for forks if you are unable to use chopsticks,
You should hold your bowl closely to your face to avoid food spilling out (very impolite).
Never eat food directly from its serving plate or bowl. Instead, put it in your bowl first, then in your mouth.
Don’t flip the fish on the dish. It’s an unlucky sign especially for fisherman (flipping fish on dish resembles flipping ship).
Remember to finish the food put on your plate or bowl.
When you are done eating, place your chopsticks on top of your rice bowl.
Don’t be reserved when asking for a second serving. Vietnamese people take it as a compliment to the talent of the cook, and they are way so happy to give you more.
Expect lots of comings and goings and lively discussion. Shared dishes are picked up with either chopsticks or forks and eaten in a small hand-size bowl. It’s alright to sip or slurp from the bowl and shovel the last bits of a meal using your chopsticks.
3. After the meal
3.1 Remain to your seat
Even though you have finished your meal, you should not rise up until the others do. It is regarded as an impolite manner when you stand up while others are still finishing their meal. Instead, you should wait till the whole table has completed the meal and all are ready to stand up.
3.2. Offer to clean up
In fact, since you are a guest, no Vietnamese family will allow you to help with the cleaning. Yet, it does not mean that you should pass it. For the very least, offer to help them with it to show your gratitude and consideration. It would give you 100 plus point to the hosts!
Vietnamese dining etiquette is absolutely one of the most intricate in the world. There are tons of rules and norms, but you just need to remember the basic aforementioned things to avoid awkwardness. On top of that, just be friendly and open, they’ll love it.
At Lang Lieu restaurant, we are pleased to introduce to you everything about Vietnamese cuisine and also the culinary culture. Knowing that history deserves the narration and culture deserves the appreciation, Lang Lieu Restaurant stands by the utmost motto: “Inheritance, Preservation and Enhancement the Vietnamese culinary".
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