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The Vietnamese are well-known for being open-minded, so it shouldn't be a daunting quest to find and give them presents. Gifts etiquettes in Vietnam probably go similarly to any other places in the world: What is the occasion? and What are the receiver's hobbies and interests?. Nonetheless, these Vietnamese gifting etiquettes below will help you create a better impression and that you have an incredible understanding of the local cultures.
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 of the matter. In cases that you want to give gifts privately, or even anonymously, most online shopping platforms in Vietnam or flower delivery services have an option for that. As for giving gifts to a group, the most stress-free way is to treat everyone to a nice dinner or a fun karaoke night out to avoid comparisons or even jealousy between the group members.
Read more about Business Etiquettes in Vietnam.
Be careful when choosing colors for your gifts
Consideration for 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, while yellow is a color of intellectual and warmth, and green is a color of balance and opulence. During the Tet holiday, the Vietnamese people would prefer the colors red and yellow.
Unless the receiver is a "hipster" or has an interest in the "emo" aesthetic, don't choose black to wrap the gift. It is a color of bad luck and associated with death according to superstitious belief.
Although white is a color used in the funeral in the traditional Vietnamese belief, it also represents purity and delicacy; therefore, there are people who 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.
White Flowers. The white flowers, especially ones with black decorations, are used in funeral mass, so make sure to consider them carefully when buying them as presents.
Sharp Objects. Sharp objects like scissors and knives, should be not chosen because it means that you want to cut off the relationship with them. There can be an exceptional case, however, in which you gift cutlery set in a housewarming party or to a person who has a passion for cooking.
Other items that might not 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, people would think the watch is a fancy perfect gift, but in the East, giving a watch is like counting down one's time and reminds people of the limited time of 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.
A bouquet of white flowers is one of the things you should avoid when picking gifts
Read more on Dos and Don'ts in Vietnam and Vietnamese superstitions.
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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. For charitable organizations, it is better to donate clothes, books, food, and other necessities.
As for wedding gifts, the Vietnamese always put money in the invitation envelope and give back to the happy couples so that they can build their new life. When coming to a housewarming, daily necessities or pieces of furniture like framed pictures, lamps, and decorations are good ideas.
One slightly confusing habit of the Vietnamese people is that they usually refuse to take the gift the first time you offer; sometimes you may have to insist it on them. 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, so the Vietnamese don't want to take things from someone without giving something back in return.
Another thing that is different from Western culture is the Vietnamese may not open the gift immediately upon receiving it but always show that they are surprised and really like it. Don’t take it as a hypocrisy act. The Vietnamese always appreciate the gift no matter what it is; they like it not because of the object inside, but because of the goodwill you offer.
Giving and receiving gifts from people who are older or higher in the hierarchy rank with both hands is also important to show your respect and that you are a person with good manners.
Vietnamese gifts etiquettes are the significance of 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 surrounding, the color of gift wrap, what gift for which occasions, and how to give the gifts with courtesy.
For more information and tips on Vietnamese culture and travel, check out our guides:
Vietnam Festivals and Public Holidays
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is giving alcohol ok?
definitely, Vietnamese loves all kinds of alcohol