The Vietnamese are well-known for being open-minded, so it shouldn’t be daunting to find and give them presents. Gifts etiquettes in Vietnam probably go similarly to any other place in the world: What is the occasion? And What are the receiver’s hobbies and interests? Nonetheless, the Vietnamese gifting etiquette below will help you create an impression that you have an incredible understanding of the local cultures.
Vietnamese Gifts Etiquettes in Private vs. in Public
Most of the time, if a gift is just your casual way of showing appreciation for the other person, where you want to give the gift is the least important. In cases where you want to give gifts privately or even anonymously, most online shopping platforms or flower delivery services in Vietnam have an option for that. As for a group, the most stress-free way is to treat everyone to a nice dinner or a fun karaoke night.
If all ideas fail, you can also consider sending an online gift, such as a shopping gift card.
Wrapping Gifts in Vietnamese Gifts Etiquettes
Consideration of the color of the gift wraps is necessary because every color has a different meaning in Vietnam. For example, red is the color of fortune, enthusiasm, and love; yellow is a color of intellect and warmth. During the Tet holiday, the Vietnamese preferred the colors red and yellow.
Unless the receiver is a “hipster” or interested in the “emo” aesthetic, don’t choose black to wrap the gift. According to superstitious belief, it is a color of bad luck associated with death.
Although white is a color used at the funeral in traditional Vietnamese belief, it also represents purity and delicacy. Therefore, some choose white to wrap gifts to honor the receiver’s personality. However, do not use white when visiting people who are sick because it resembles the color of hospitals and mourning clothes.
Gifts to Avoid in Vietnamese Gifts Etiquettes
White Flowers: White flowers, especially ones with black decorations, are used in funeral mass. So, be careful when buying them as presents.
Sharp Objects: Sharp objects, like scissors and knives, means that you want to cut ties with them. There can be an exceptional case, however, in which you gift a cutlery set to a housewarming party or to a person who has a passion for cooking.
Other items that might not be ideal to give a traditional, or superstitious receiver:
Glass or Cup. In Vietnamese, these objects are called “ly” or “tach” which is similar to “chia ly” (to separate) or “tach roi” (to break up).
Watches. In Western culture, the watch is a fancy gift, but in the East, giving a watch is like counting down one’s time and reminding people of the limited time in a human’s life.
Umbrella. It might seem odd, but according to the old Vietnamese language, the word for “umbrella” sounds similar to the word “to split, to scatter”. Therefore, giving an umbrella to someone means you want to end the relationship with them.
Read more on Vietnamese superstitions
Ideas for Gift Giving in Vietnam
Here are some simple tips for gift-giving in Vietnam. If it is for children, chocolate, candies, toys, or lucky money are the best. If you visit someone’s house, bring along fruits, liquids, or a box of confectionery. Donating clothes, books, food, and other necessities is better for charitable organizations.
As for wedding gifts, the Vietnamese always put money in the invitation envelope and give it back to the happy couples so that they can build their new life. Daily necessities or furniture like framed pictures, lamps, and decorations are good ideas when coming to a housewarming.
Receiving Gifts in Vietnamese Gifts Etiquettes
One slightly confusing habit of the Vietnamese is that they usually refuse to take the gift the first time you offer it. Sometimes, you may have to insist on them. Please don’t misunderstand that they don’t want the gift or dislike it. They are just simply being modest. There is a Vietnamese saying “Cua cho la cua no”, which means the gift you receive is the debt you have to repay. As a result, the Vietnamese don’t want to take things from someone without giving something back in return.
Another thing different from Western culture is that the Vietnamese may not open the gift immediately upon receiving it but always show that they are surprised and like it. Don’t take it as a hypocritical act. The Vietnamese always appreciate gifts no matter what. They like it not because of the object inside but because of the act of goodwill.
Giving and receiving gifts from people who are older or higher in the hierarchy rank with both hands is also important to show respect and good manners.
Summary of Vietnamese Gifts Etiquettes
Vietnamese gifts etiquette is significant in expressing your respect, appreciation, and gratitude. However, it could also become an awkward or unpleasant misunderstanding if you don’t do it right. There are many things you should consider, such as the surroundings, the color of the gift wrap, what gift for which occasions, and how to give the gifts with courtesy.