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Learn Vietnamese Greetings

vietnamese-greeting_20180806-114905_1

The first impression is always important, especially to the older Vietnamese generation; there is even a saying “Lời chào cao hơn mâm cỗ”, which means the greetings are more meaningful and valued than having a feast (a good meal is considered really important in Vietnamese culture). If you want to speak and greet like a local, learn some Vietnamese greetings tips below. There are many things you will not be able to find if you just follow the dictionary or textbook.

Simple Phrases for Vietnamese Greetings

English

Vietnamese Notes

Hello

Xin chào “xin“ is the word put in front of phrases to show respect, and “chào” means "hello".

Goodbye

Chào tạm biệt/Tạm biệt “Tạm biệt” can roughly be translated as “Until we meet again” where “tạm” means temporary, “biệt” means away, distance.

Good night

Chúc ngủ ngon “Chúc” means “to wish” and “ngủ ngon” means “sleep well”. Pronouns usually add in the middle to personalize the conversation like “chúc con ngủ ngon”, a parent says to their child.

Good morning

Chào buổi sáng “buổi sáng” means morning. This expression, along with "good afternoon" and "good evening", is only a literal translation; they are actually never used in regular conversation as Vietnamese often use the formal and informal of “xin chào” for any time of the day.

How to Say Vietnamese Greetings Like a Local

The above is a simple translation, but when Vietnamese say hello to others, they don’t usually put the phrase like that. To be fluent in Vietnamese greetings, you have to master the Vietnamese pronouns for male and female, junior and senior, people of the same level or age. So people's age is a common (and also important) question when you first met someone. You should also call people the way they want to be addressed as the pronouns indicate their age and level of respect.

Related article:  Vietnamese Family Values

Back to Vietnamese greetings, different regions and different ethnic groups will have a slightly different way to express themselves, but you can use the below phrases in any region of the country.

The younger usually have to say “Cháu/Con/Em chào cô/chú/bác/ông/bà/anh/chị”, and add “cháu/con/em mới đến/tới” when coming to people houses as a way to announce “I’m here”. The older will respond the same way, for example, “cô chào con”, a senior female may say, or simply acknowledge by nodding.

In a family setting, the junior will always be the first to say hello, crossing their arm, and make a bow (a small bow: about 30-45 degrees forward is fine, the kids usually have to make a 90-degree bow). In business meetings, a handshake and a small bow is the standard.

vietnamese greetings bowing vietnamese greetings waving

The kids greet and make a bow to the seniors

With your friends or in an informal setting, you can just say “chào” and their name, or even an English greeting like “Hello!” or “Hi!” and people still can understand you.

When saying goodbyes, people will just greet the same as they say hello and replace "I'm here" with "I'm leaving/going". For example,  a junior says to a female senior “Chào bà, con về/đi”. To excuse yourself, you can put “cháu/con/em xin phép cô/chú/bác/ông/bà/anh/chị” before the phrases for goodbye.

In informal settings with friends, you can simply say that you are leaving and add “bye” or “bye bye”. The word “tạm biệt” is rarely used if you will meet them again on a regular basis.

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Other Phrases of Vietnamese Greetings

In Vietnamese greetings, people usually say things that don’t have a particular meaning or are obvious so you don't have to reply to them, like “Đi đâu đây?” - where are you going (used when you come to their place), or “Cháu/con/em đến chơi à?” - you are here (used when you come to their place, as a way to show surprise rather than unpleasant of your interruption). When approaching your friends or colleagues in schools or at work, you can say “Đang làm gì đấy?” - what are you doing, and the reply is to say hi back, and tell them what you are doing.

“Dạo này sao rồi/thế nào?” or “Khỏe không?” in a less formal setting - How’s it going? or How are you doing? What’s up?, What’s new?, or What’s going on? How’s everything ?, How are things?, or How’s life?

“Dạo này” recently, “Sao rồi/thế nào?” means “how are things?” ("thế nào" sounds more formal than the first). Pronouns usually adding between the two words like “Dạo này ông thế nào?”. While the first phrase asking for your general condition (work, life, health), the second is more about your health, physical condition. You can simply reply to both situations by saying “you are doing fine and well” “Cháu/con/em/anh/chị khỏe”

"Rất vui/hân hạnh được làm quen" + someone - "It’s nice to meet you" or "Pleased to meet you"

"Good to see you" or "Nice to see you" can be expressed as "Cám ơn cô/chú/bác/ông/bà/anh/chị/em đã đến" (thanks for dropping by), if you invite them over. Otherwise, there is no similar expression in Vietnamese, but people will simply say hello to you.

"Long time no see" or "It’s been a while" - “Đã lâu rồi không gặp” + someone. You don’t need to take it personally when Vietnamese comment on your look because they want to guess if you are doing well, and they do this to everyone they haven't seen for a while.

When picking up the phone,  people usually say "A lô", a word adopted from French, instead of "hello".

See mote Useful Vietnamese Phrases

Language to Show Respect in Vietnamese Greetings

  • “Xin” - please or excuse me
  • “ạ” - an ending sound without any meaning, to show respect, your humble before a person
  • “Dạ/Vâng” - yes or a word put before the start of your answer to a senior
  • “Thưa” - excuse me a word put before the start of your answer to a senior
  • More pronouns: Besides cô/chú/bá/ông/bà/anh/chị, you should call the teachers or professors “thầy” (male) or “cô” (female) even if they did not teach you, and address the doctor as “bác sĩ”

See also Vietnamese Slangs

Vietnamese Greetings for Letters and Emails

In Vietnamese letters, people do start a letter with something similar to “Dear”. However, to end the letter, they usually express appreciation, wish, or request, noting down the day writing, the place where they write it, and sign their name, instead of salutation like those in English writing. However, as email was adopted along with western culture, sometimes there are salutations at the end of the email.

Opening a Letter and Email

“Kính gửi”, “Thân gửi” + pronoun + the person name, in place for “Dear ...”

“Gửi” and “Chào” + pronoun + the person name, in a less formal setting, in place for “Hello”

Signing off

“Kính thư/Trân trọng/Thân ái” in formal writing or “Thân” in informal writing. In some cases, you can even see email signing off with salutations in English like “Best regards” and “Regards”, even though the rest of the email can be written in Vietnamese.

Ending an email

Appreciation: Cám ơn cô/chú/bác/ông/bà/anh/chị/em - “Thank you”

A wish: Chúc cô/chú/bác/ông/bà/anh/chị/em một ngày tốt lành - “Have a good day/Nice day/Have a good one”

Ending a letter

A wish: Chúc cô/chú/bác/ông/bà/anh/chị/em một ngày tốt lành - “Have a good day/Nice day/Have a good one” The appreciation and wish is the same as when writing an email, followed by time and date written.

For example: align to the right, just above the signature

06/08/2018 (August 6th, 2018)

Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh (Ho Chi Minh City)

Non-verbal of Vietnamese Greetings

  • Bow: from 30-90 degrees forward
  • Handshake: often used between men or in business situations
  • Smile and nod: usually between people of the same age or a senior to a junior
  • Pat on the shoulder: usually between men and friends
  • Eye contact and facial expression: maintaining good eye contact, looking at the person’s face you have the conversation, and showing interest in the conversation would create a good impression in general
  • Hug and kiss: rarely used, only when you are with your close friends or family members
  • Waving with your palm out, hand moving from left to right: to your friends, junior, close family members

vietnamese greetings patting

A pat on the shoulder usually goes with a handshake between the men

Read more:  Vietnamese Non-verbal Communication

Conclusion on Learning Vietnamese Greetings

First, you will need to master the Vietnamese pronouns, because if you do not specify clearly the person you are talking to, it can be considered rude and ill-mannered. Secondly, greeting verbally is not enough; usually, it would accompany gestures like bowing and handshake. You can see the below table for simple guidelines. And lastly, if you cannot remember it all and just want to have a closer connection with the locals while you are on a visit, the usual phrases in the textbook “xin chào” and “tạm biệt” are fine.

Junior to senior

Responses of senior to junior Informal situations or people of the same age

pronoun (1st person) + chào + pronoun (3rd person)

usually accompanied by a bow

Cháu/Con/Em chào cô/chú/bác/ông/bà/anh/chị

pronoun (1st person) + chào + pronoun (3rd person)

usually accompanied by a nod

Cô/Chú/Bác/Ông/Bà/Anh/Chị chào cháu/con/em

Chào + pronoun + person name

usually goes with a hand waving

Chào anh Thanh!

 

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