To Vietnamese culture, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially for the workers due to the fact that it will definitely provide enough energy for a long hard working day. However, dinner is considered the most meaningful moment for people in a family to gather together and report back their day. Therefore, dinner may include some of the dining customs that if you are a tourist first coming to Vietnam, you should know a little bit about the table manners in Vietnam.
One thing you will notice after a while of being in Vietnam is that right after greeting the person; he is going to ask you if you have eaten yet. Most of the times this question is being ask is the moment you arrived at the house (if you got an invitation), business meetings, or just hanging out with the natives.
Generally, when the dark has risen, it’s time for women, usually housewives, to prepare the meal with or without the help of their mother or daughters. Usually there will seven courses such as soup (unlike Chinese banquet), pickled vegetables and shrimp chips, deli meat, hot pot, fried vegetables, roasted pork or duck, fish (steamed or fried), and fruit to end the meal. Nevertheless, in the modern life, people, those who live alone and far away from home or even modern family in particular, do not have full seven course as it was in the past. Once eating Vietnamese dinner, you should not worry about gaining more weight since most of the foods are not greasy and the meals balance each other out. You want to enjoy now? Just some more minute about dinning customs in Vietnam!
You would know that Vietnamese people, unlike Western people, enjoy using chopsticks to pick up the food, which may be hard for you to use. Therefore, make sure you could know how to use them before meal or you will fail to fulfill your stomach by the end of the meal. When dining, the Vietnamese always sit in a circle (usually on the floor or tables) so everyone gets fair access to the shared dishes in the middle. By now the food should be arriving but before you dive in you should noticed a few things first. Before picking up those chopsticks it’s essential that you should wait for everyone to be seated, especially the eldest person there. Next, wait until the eldest person to pick up his chopsticks and begin the meal as a mark of respect. Another point is that Vietnamese people enjoy sharing food to each other. That means you would find people picking up the food and giving to their members in the family. Do not feel confused or frustrated as it is a sign of love when people care for each other even in a meal!
“Mot Hai Ba YO!” or “Tram phan tram” (meaning “Empty your glass, 100%) and “Chuc suc khoe” (Good health) are those terms often used in the culture of this country when it comes to drinking. Usually simple family will enjoy pure water without saying anything. However, as you may attend a birthday party or a dinner of your Vietnamese friends, you would hear a lot of those words. Besides water, they usually drink soda such as Coca Cola or Sprite, beers including fresh beer or wines and “Ruou De” (similar to Japanese’s sake). You will be impressed and amazed by the noisy but funny moment joining in a drinking party with Vietnamese people. They will make lots of jokes and make you feel comfortable as if you are in your own home!
Throughout the meal, it is also considerate to notice when other people’s glasses are empty. If the glass is empty then fill it for the person because this will show that you are aware and able to take care of people around you.
It is sad to say that nowadays, because of the busy life with tons of hard work waiting for people to complete day and night, Vietnamese people prefer eating out rather than keeping the traditional habit of eating. This will be easily found in big cities especially those who live far away from family. That’s why at Tet Holiday or any national holiday, people spend more time coming back home and enjoy the rare moment with their member in the family hoping to keep somehow the feeling of an old family with a meal together. Having to say, Vietnamese are both simple and casual. Normal etiquettes apply in dining time and fewer expectations are placed on foreigners. If you are invited to a family dinner, make yourself at home and open your eyes, ears and mind to learn about this special aspect of Vietnamese culture.