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What to Know When Drinking with a Vietnamese


Vietnamese people love drinking! We have different types of Vietnamese beers and we drink for many reasons. We drink mostly to show our hospitality, but we also drink at special celebrations, and we drink either when our mood is either good or bad. Besides joining a Vietnamese family meal, drinking together is one of the best occasions for you to bond with local people. Drinking is fun, drinking is sharing, but sometimes it may turn to be a competition. So, here is some information to help you “survive” when having a drink with a Vietnamese.

Some Slangs You Would Need to Know When Drinking with A Vietnamese

These are some words or phrases that Vietnamese people use a lot while drinking. Learning some of these phrases can help you quickly integrate into the fun at the table.

"Nhậu" /ɲəw˨˩˨/ is a Vietnamese word for the occasion that people gather to eat and drink. If a Vietnamese asks you to “đi nhậu,” it means that he or she wants to invite you to have some alcohol which most of the time is beer. Vietnamese people love to nhậu on Friday nights and weekends, but nhậu is in fact not about partying. There is no need to come to bars, club, and also do not include any dancing or fancy dressing-up. It can happen in small restaurants, sometimes on the sidewalk, with a plastic desk and small chairs, or at home with a barbecue. No matter where it is, it is when people gather to converse, eat good food and get drunk together.

drinking with a vietnamese slang nhau
Nhậu can happen with just a small group of people with some beer and irresistible dishes

"Một, hai, ba dzô" /mot hi bah yo/ is the Vietnamese slang for “Cheers!”. While “một, hai, ba” means one, two, three, “dzô” is about the series of activities to clink your cup of beer with others. Vietnamese people like to say this sentence as loud as they can to show their happiness and enthusiasm.

drinking with a vietnamese slang dzo
Don’t forget to say dzô after clinking with your companions

"Cạn li" /kan lee/ - which is the equivalent to "Bottoms up!" - can be used to replace "Một, hai, ba, dzô". In Vietnam, there is a dubious conception which is the more a man can drink, the stronger he is. Therefore, this phrase is used quite a lot during nhậu. Another phrase with the same meaning is "trăm phần trăm" /cham fohn cham/ which indicates drinking 100% of the glass.

See more Fun and Useful Vietnamese Slangs

Some Facts About Drinking with A Vietnamese

Although we all know beer is best when served in cold bottles, Vietnamese drink beer with ice. Due to the tropical weather of Vietnam, the locals prefer to have ice in their beer. But don't you worry, the ice comes in big chunks so as not to alter the distinguished taste, not to mention the fact that you might chug down the glass before the ice can melt. However, some places still offer refrigerated, chilled beer, so just ask the servants in case you want some.

If one person gets to drink, everyone has to drink too. When drinking with a Vietnamese, some people consider drinking without "dzô" as impolite behavior. Therefore, before you want to take a sip, it would be better to raise your cup and dzô first. You might not have to do that every single time, but if someone insists on making you clink with everyone, keep in mind that is just a part of Vietnam's drinking culture. Also, anyone who dzô has to drink, but in these cases, you do not need to drink too much. Save your drinking limit for later, the challenges are still ahead.

There are many Vietnamese foods that help beer taste better. They range from simple dishes such as roasted salted peanuts or a Vietnamese cold cut called nem chua to more delicate ones such as grilled squids with butter or roasted frog. Most of them have a sour or salty taste which is believed to go exceptionally well with beer. Although these dishes are among the must-try Vietnamese street foods, don't get too caught up in the food and forget about drinking.

drinking with a vietnamese nuts
Roasted peanuts are the easiest-to-make beer snack

drinking with a vietnamese beef jerky

drinking with a vietnamese chicken leg

Beef jerky and grilled chicken legs are two favorite beer snacks of a lot of Vietnamese people

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Useful Tips to “Stay Alive” When Drinking with A Vietnamese

Remember to eat before and during “nhậu.” Having some food in your stomach would put a halt to the effect of alcohol. Not only is it a perfect excuse for trying the exquisite local cuisine but it also prevents you from getting wasted.

drinking with a vietnamese eating 1

Don't forget to drink water. There is not-so-popular advice among Vietnamese people for those who are not good at drinking: When you drink a glass of beer, you should drink the same amount of water right after that. It would keep you away from either getting drunk too soon or being dehydrated.

Don’t drink beers mixed with other soft drinks. Vietnamese people, especially teenagers, would sometimes love to mix beer like that. It makes the beer sweeter, tastier, and easier to drink. However, if you are not a good drinker, this is the last thing you want to try as it will knock you out in a heartbeat.

Don't be afraid to say “Tôi không biết uống”. This sentence means “I don’t know how to drink”. When being offered a glass of beer, saying it and shaking your hand would make your companions understand what you are about to express. You might have to drink at least a little anyway, but it would lessen the chance you are forced to drink until you get drunk.

Learn more about other Useful Vietnamese Phrases

We all know that never drive when you drink. If you go for a drinking night, it would be better for you and your friends to grab a car. Driving services are quite developed in large cities like Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi or Danang, you can quickly get a car or motorbike through booking apps, but apparently, a car would be a better choice after a drunk night. Taxi is also widely available in most of the major cities in Vietnam. Whatever you do, make sure to arrive home safely.

Vietnamese soups are the best for a hangover. Pho, Bun Rieu, Bun Bo Hue are some examples of great choices for breakfast after a drunk night. A steaming hot and nutritious bowl of soup can ease your headache and rejuvenate your body from inside out.

Read more Best drunk food in Ho Chi Minh City.

drinking with a vietnamese pho
Pho is the best treat for hungover

Summary of What to Know When Drinking with A Vietnamese

Drinking is one of the best ways to spend time with the Vietnamese people. All you have to do is to have fun and drink as much as your ability allows you to, but remember not to get too drunk!

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Guest - Sylvester Castro on Saturday, 26 October 2019 14:39

Your guides were so much fun when we were on the food tour , this is an interesting blog too

Your guides were so much fun when we were on the food tour , this is an interesting blog too
Guest - LN on Friday, 23 August 2019 23:14

sounds funny when read it. Tks for review

:D sounds funny when read it. Tks for review
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