Best networking practices in Hanoi

Hanoi's networking etiquette
Updated 2023-11-17 18:53

Whenever you venture to a new country and culture, it's great to do some background research on etiquette. Vietnamese are very welcoming and forgiving, but you don't want to embarrass yourself or potentially alienate new friends by accident.  

Hanoi is a more traditional city in the country, so these few steps will make a big difference, especially at work or when you are out and about at nighttime.


In Hanoi, never touch anyone on the head or higher than the shoulders. The head is regarded as the most sacred part of the body in Buddhist culture, so this kind of action will instantly be seen as rude.

Politics and history in Hanoi

No one expects you to recount the Vietnam War or understand the long history of colonization, but there is one person you should recognize and will see all over town. Former president Ho Chi Minh, affectionately known as 'Uncle Ho,' was especially loved and respected by the people of Hanoi and the northern territories. It is common to see photos of the president around town, and any disrespect towards one is not tolerated.

Currently, Vietnam is a Socialist Republic with a one-party system led by the Communist Party. Due to many reasons, Vietnamese citizens will not feel comfortable explaining their government to you or discussing this in public.

Do's and don'ts for foreigners in Vietnam

Below is a quick but comprehensive list of do's and don'ts to keep you in everyone's relatively good books.


  • Wear conservative clothing at all times, especially if you are visiting temples and pagodas. On the street, shorts and T-shirts are fine, but try to avoid anything too revealing.
  • Take off your shoes before walking into someone's home.
  • Try to take a small gift with you if you're invited to someone's home. Fruit and cakes for women and children and liquor for men are commonalities.
  • Greet people like you would at home; a formal handshake is normal here.
  • Barter at markets for a better deal, but be reasonable and don't raise your voice.


  • Show off a large amount of jewelry or symbols of wealth in public. Remember that Vietnam is still quite a developing country.
  • Take photographs of anything related to the military or government unless you are at a museum or somewhere where permission has been granted. This can be interpreted as a breach of national security and may lead to questioning by authorities.
  • Kiss in public or show any intensive kind of affection. Holding hands is fine, and the younger generation is becoming more tolerant of open displays of affection.
  • Take too much offense if someone laughs at you. In the local culture, this is simply a means of dealing with embarrassing or awkward situations.

The drinking culture in Hanoi

Alcohol is incredibly cheap in Hanoi, and locals like to party as much as anyone else. It is likely that if you visit a Bia Hoi - which is like a British pub and serves local craft beer - it's normally on a street corner outdoors. You will be invited to raise a glass with locals and say the local toast of “mot hai ba yo,” which means “1,2,3, go!” Be careful if someone clinks your glass and says “cham fohn cham” or “chum for chum,” which means you need to down your entire glass. Failure to do so will be regarded as very rude and a sign that you are weak compared to your competitor. However, it is also used for good fun to get everyone going through the beer quicker!

As mentioned in the article 'How to develop a professional network in Hanoi,' drinking is also used as a means of finalizing a business agreement. Karaoke bars are incredibly popular in Hanoi, and you will see them everywhere. Local people are very light-hearted, and a trip to one of these bars is a great way to blow off some steam and settle into your new home.

Useful link:

Vietnamese etiquette & customs cheat sheet

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