VietnamCulture and HistoryChopsticks Etiquettes in Vietnam and Vietnamese Meals

Chopsticks Etiquettes in Vietnam and Vietnamese Meals

Each country has its style of making and using chopsticks. The chopsticks used in Vietnam are often much more straightforward than those used in Korea or Japan. The design of chopsticks also varied in Vietnam. Specifically, chopsticks from Northern Vietnam are usually made of bamboo, while chopsticks in the south are typically made from coconut wood.

In terms of usage, chopsticks etiquettes in Vietnam also seem to be less complicated. However, a few dos and don’ts will be explained in this guide.

How to Use Chopsticks – Chopsticks Etiquettes in Vietnam

Firstly, ensure the two ends are placed evenly before holding the chopsticks. After that, use the 3 fingers, the thumb, the index finger, and the middle finger, to hold the chopsticks gently. The middle finger is placed under and between the chopsticks to close or make a gap between them. The thumb and index finger clamp the chopsticks to hold them firmly, and you can balance them using your ring finger.

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Dos in Chopsticks Etiquettes in Vietnam

1. Wipe the chopsticks before using them while eating out

Vietnamese often wipe the chopsticks with a paper napkin or lime juice to pasteurize and remove dust from the chopsticks, ensuring they are clean enough to use. That is also often applied to other utensils, like the soup spoon.

2. Use clean chopsticks or reverse them to pick the food for others

In Vietnam, the culture of using chopsticks is a way to express your caring to others subtly. At the beginning of a meal, especially in traditional meals, before picking up their items, Vietnamese usually use clean chopsticks to pick up food for others who sit near them. In the middle of the meal, if you want to or somebody asks you to pass them a piece of food using chopsticks, you should reserve the chopsticks and use the clean ends.

3. Rest your chopsticks properly

Avoid sticking your chopsticks upright in the middle of the rice bowl. When you need to place chopsticks down, rest them on a designated chopsticks holder or on the side of the bowl.

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4. Other suggested guidance

  • Using chopsticks like a knife and fork to cut soft foods into smaller portions for children is widely accepted.
  • If you are invited to a Vietnamese family meal by locals and are unfamiliar with chopsticks, it is also acceptable to ask for a fork for your convenience.
  • Once you finish your meal, you could place your chopsticks parallel to the bowl to indicate that you have finished eating.

Read more about Vietnamese Traditional Table Manners

Don’ts in Chopsticks Etiquettes in Vietnam

1. Don’t use chopsticks when the length of them are uneven

In ancient beliefs, uneven chopsticks would bring bad luck, such as death. The coffin was formed in the past by five wooden planks, two short and three long. The unequal chopsticks are thought to resemble these wooden planks, representing the unfortunate event. Thus, using uneven chopsticks is a very bad omen.

2. Hit the chopsticks repeatedly against the bowls

Knocking the bowl into the bowl is considered the same as a beggar because beggars use chopsticks to knock on the pot to sound out and then ask for food. That is regarded as bad luck in Vietnam’s chopstick etiquette, which you should avoid, especially during business dinners. In addition, the Vietnamese also appreciate the courtesy that you will not make clanking chopsticks noise or chewing sounds while eating.

3. Pierce chopsticks through food or stick them upright in a bowl of rice

Do not put the chopsticks vertically into a rice bowl. This action is thought to be similar to sticking incense into the censer. If you put a pair of chopsticks into the bowl like that, it would seem like you are consecrating this rice bowl to the dead.

While an upright chopstick in a bowl is associated with offering to the dead, piercing chopsticks through food to pick it up makes you look greedy.

4. Drop the chopsticks on the floor

This behavior signifies severe mistakes in the past because people thought all ancestors were resting on the ground and should not be disturbed. Today, although not many people hold such a spiritual belief, you should still be careful not to drop the chopsticks as they would make you look clumsy, much like scattering food on the table while using them.

5. Other taboos need to be avoided while using a pair of chopsticks

  • Leave your chopsticks crossed on your bowl
  • Use the chopsticks to point at something or someone
  • Do not pass the food from chopsticks to chopsticks
  • Hover your chopsticks around without taking any food
  • Instead of picking up food from the table and placing it directly in the mouth, you had better place them in your own bowl first

Learn more about Vietnamese superstitions

Conclusion on Chopsticks Etiquettes in Vietnamese Meals

Using chopsticks might be a little tricky at the beginning. But once you get used to it, you will find it extremely useful in eating, especially when you eat Vietnamese noodle dishes like Pho or even Bun bo Hue.

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