Vietnam Gift Giving Customs

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The Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Capital: Hanoi

Currency: Vietnamese đồng

Language: Vietnamese

A former foe of the western world, this southeast Asian country has gone through a host of reforms over the last 20 years that have established it as an emerging tourist and business mecca. While emotions in the states still remain strong years after the war, the Vietnamese people maintain a strong interest in all things American, and harbor few ill feelings regarding the conflict.[1]
As more and more foreign tourists and businesses flock to this proud nation, there are many customs and traditions that should be observed in the etiquette of giving gifts in Vietnam.

Busines Gift Giving in Vietnam [2]

  • When meeting a business associate for the first time, remember to shake with both hands, while bowing your head slightly. However, if you're meeting an elderly citizen or a woman, a bow alone is sufficient.
  • Seniority is very important in dealing with a group. Make an effort to greet the most senior individual first. This also applies when handing out business cards. Be certain your card is facing up and is delivered with both hands, as all objects should be delivered. Carefully review your associate's business card; don't dismiss it as unimportant.
  • Most business relationships here eventually become social as well. Business associates frequently share meals; however business is only typically discussed during lunch. If you are invited to dinner or lunch, plan on reciprocating. Toasting is initially reserved for the host.
    If making a toast, address the senior individual, and don't refrain from over-complimenting your host on his generosity and the beautiful surroundings.
  • If invited to your host's home, a gift of whiskey is appropriate for the man. Small gifts for the hostess, children or elders of the home are a sign of respect. Usable items, such as soaps, cosmetics or picture frames are appreciated, and should be wrapped in colorful paper. Avoid black wrapping.
  • Gifts are rarely exchanged outside the home environment.
  • A profuse expression of thanks is always expected.


Holiday Celebrations in Vietnam

Tet is the most important holiday celebrated in this country. Some have described it as Christmas, Thanksgiving and your birthday all rolled into one[3]! Tet is actually a New Year celebration, and typically coincides with the Chinese New Year. Falling sometime in January or
February, based on the cycle of the moon, the Vietnamese celebration lasts an entire week. It is filled with family reunions, feasting, and worship.
[4]Much of the celebration of Tet centers around good luck, and everything is done with this in mind. Children are given new clothes and money. Homes are cleaned prior to Tet, but never on the first day of the New Year so as not to "sweep the luck out". Debts are cleared, and games, gambling, fortune-telling, and dragon dances are popular activities.
Giving gifts in Vietnam during the Tet holiday should focus on the Vietnamese symbols of good luck. Welcome items would include new clothes, peach branches, rice wine in a gourd, or anything red. Watermelon is a popular choice. Several gifts are considered taboo, including watches, clocks or knives.
The Mid-Autumn Festival[5] is an ancient harvest celebration dating back 15 to 20,000 years, which typically takes place between the 2nd week of September and the 2nd week of October, in conjunction with the autumn equinox. It is believed that at this time, the moon is at it's roundest, and shines brightest, symbolizing harmony and plenitude. [6] Ancient folklore contends this time was intended for parents to re-connect with their children, having been gone from them for so long during the harvest months. Indeed, children continue to be the heart of this celebration, which is sometimes even referred to as "The Children's Festival". [7]
The festival, known in Vietnam as Tet-Trung Thu, is filled with parades of children carrying beautiful lanterns, much singing, and traditional dragon and flower dances. Children are treated to a round little pastry, known as the Mooncake, and storytelling. It is a time of joyous merry-making among family and loved ones.
Giving gifts in Vietnam during this occasion is a welcome part of the festivities. Mooncakes, an Asian delicacy filled with sweet pastes or nuts, are always given. Other suggestions include seasonal fruit, sausages or cash, which should always come in a red envelope, suggesting "luck".



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