Why don't Vietnamese understand Vietnamese spoken by a foreigner?

I do believe :

sanooku

Pretty advanced question but since most Vietnamese don't understand Vietnamese I doubt you will get a usable answer.

My own experience is, you could ask ten different Vietnamese people how to say something, and they'll each give you a different answer telling you that *their* version is the best way :lol:

WillyBaldy :
I do believe :

sanooku

Pretty advanced question but since most Vietnamese don't understand Vietnamese I doubt you will get a usable answer.

My own experience is, you could ask ten different Vietnamese people how to say something, and they'll each give you a different answer telling you that *their* version is the best way :lol:

Maybe it's something that cannot be expressed in a short sentence. So, maybe I need to say 'So you took one sample to client y, and you now have client z's sample in your hand'?

For example, when I first arrived in vietnam and was looking for apartments, I would often describe (in English) to realtor what kind of apartment I was looking for, when he/she met with landlord/lady, they would start chatting away for ages. Maybe they were clearing up these nuances. I assume the conversation went like this:

Realtor: He wants a fan for the apartment.
Landlady: He wants to buy one or does he want me to provide?
Realtor: Well, he said 'get', so I'm sure he meant 'buy', why? do you have one you can provide?

Landlady: Yes, I have one in the basement, he can take it. But if he wants to buy one he can get one from mediamart.
Realtor: Yes. let me explain to him.

Realtor [to me]: The landlady has a fan in the basement, she say's you can borrow it, but if you want to buy one you can get one from mediamart.

My ex Vietnamese wife and I had this ongoing joke about "Vietnamese" communication. I'd often hear her talk for five minutes to a Vietnamese person asking what she needed, and half of the time the people would come up with something different than what she asked. I'm not sure where the "loss of data" happens but I've seen it happen a lot even between native speakers, so imagine with broken Vietnamese. We had this joke "go in a clinic to remove a tooth and you'll come out with a missing liver".

I just remember that my ex wife used to tell me that this miscommunication happens a lot because Vietnamese people assume a lot of things when conversing, often using sentence structure that really depends on the context to be understood properly. That was her version of the explanation anyway.

WillyBaldy :

My ex Vietnamese wife and I had this ongoing joke about "Vietnamese" communication. I'd often hear her talk for five minutes to a Vietnamese person asking what she needed, and half of the time the people would come up with something different than what she asked. I'm not sure where the "loss of data" happens but I've seen it happen a lot even between native speakers, so imagine with broken Vietnamese. We had this joke "go in a clinic to remove a tooth and you'll come out with a missing liver".

I just remember that my ex wife used to tell me that this miscommunication happens a lot because Vietnamese people assume a lot of things when conversing, often using sentence structure that really depends on the context to be understood properly. That was her version of the explanation anyway.

When I would go shopping with my lady friend in Danang, sometimes I would point to something and ask her to find out how much it cost from the local merchant:

"You want buy it?"

"I don't know. I want to know the price first."

"You buy now?"

"No. I mean, maybe."

"Why you want know cost if you no buy?"

And on and on...

Sometimes it felt like an Abbott and Costello routine

OceanBeach92107 :

"Why you want know cost if you no buy?"

I think this is as much customary as it is linguistic, although linguists and anthropologists tell us that the two are intertwined.  My wife, who used to own a children's toy shop is the exact same way.  You don't ask the price until you are ready to buy.  If you don't like the price, then it's time to bargain.  To her, just coming into a shop to look, without a sincere intent to buy, is insulting.  She tells me that Viet shop-owners strongly believe that if the first customer of the day enters without making a purchase, the whole day will be bad for the shopkeeper.  It may seem odd to us Westerners, but the concept of "window shopping" is completely missing from Vietnamese purchasing culture.

THIGV :

She tells me that Viet shop-owners strongly believe that if the first customer of the day enters without making a purchase, the whole day will be bad for the shopkeeper.

Yeah, I've heard that one before.
My wife even buys something she doesn't need just to prevent leaving the shop empty-handed.
My wife even keep her shop closed for a month after Tet to prevent the shop from going bad for a year in case people come after Tet and don't buy anything.

I may have a solution to prevent the bad luck scenario.

It's only bad luck if the first customer goes inside the shop and leaves empty handed, right?

So, if you are shopping in the morning or soon after TET, and see something on the shop window, don't go inside the shop to ask price. Get the phone number of shop from the sign or look it up using Internet search, then you phone or ask your vietnamese friend to phone shop and ask for price using telephone. (I know this seems riduculous, with both of you standing outside the shop)

No one has rolled the dice on imminent doom. Everyone is happy.

I used to be sensitive of those shopping rules when I went to the markets. Nowadays, I don't feel like I need to protect those women from their ridiculous superstitions.

gobot :

I used to be sensitive of those shopping rules when I went to the markets. Nowadays, I don't feel like I need to protect those women from their ridiculous superstitions.

I thought the same when I heard about this a year or two ago.  I don't worry about it but in reality I'm very rarely going to be the "first one in the shop", if ever.  I just don't get moving that early.

sanooku :

I may have a solution to prevent the bad luck scenario.

It's only bad luck if the first customer goes inside the shop and leaves empty handed, right?

So, if you are shopping in the morning or soon after TET, and see something on the shop window, don't go inside the shop to ask price. Get the phone number of shop from the sign or look it up using Internet search, then you phone or ask your vietnamese friend to phone shop and ask for price using telephone. (I know this seems riduculous, with both of you standing outside the shop)

No one has rolled the dice on imminent doom. Everyone is happy.

I forgot to put the smiley face at the end to indicate I was joking.

Anyway, I've only had this issue once at Benh thanh market. So, phone trick I mentioned above (even if taken seriously) wouldn't cut it as they are not shops with a door.

One woman sorta held me hostage saying I was the first customer and I had to buy the product (I don't even remember what it was-been so long). It was about 3pm, so I figured she was fibbing. When I went to walk out of stall, she grabbed me and wrestled with me (standing up of course). After a few minutes she finally gave up and got out of the way. I've not been to Benh Thanh market since.

When I go to shops it is never in the morning (as first customer). Not because of what happened at benh thanh, just that I never have the need to visit shop that early in the morning. Also, I now carry pepper spray (only kidding).

In the rare occasion I do go into shop in the morning, it is mostly a 7-11, family mart type shop, so it's hard to say when they count their first customer from. Is it 12 midnight or 7am?..I doubt they care much about superstitions.

The super markets I go into also don't pester me if I ever try to leave without buying something.

OceanBeach92107 :
WillyBaldy :

My ex Vietnamese wife and I had this ongoing joke about "Vietnamese" communication. I'd often hear her talk for five minutes to a Vietnamese person asking what she needed, and half of the time the people would come up with something different than what she asked. I'm not sure where the "loss of data" happens but I've seen it happen a lot even between native speakers, so imagine with broken Vietnamese. We had this joke "go in a clinic to remove a tooth and you'll come out with a missing liver".

I just remember that my ex wife used to tell me that this miscommunication happens a lot because Vietnamese people assume a lot of things when conversing, often using sentence structure that really depends on the context to be understood properly. That was her version of the explanation anyway.

When I would go shopping with my lady friend in Danang, sometimes I would point to something and ask her to find out how much it cost from the local merchant:

"You want buy it?"

"I don't know. I want to know the price first."

"You buy now?"

"No. I mean, maybe."

"Why you want know cost if you no buy?"

And on and on...

Sometimes it felt like an Abbott and Costello routine

In hindsight, do you feel your lady friend asked you 'Why you want know cost if you no buy?' in order to protect shop keeper/seller from the 1st customer superstition?

Were you going shopping soon after shops opening in the morning or after TET that could have made you the first customer?

Although I may be the one who brought it up, I think some of us have placed too much emphasis on the first customer aspect of this cultural phenomenon.  Asking the price of something, and then not buying it, is offensive no matter what time of day.

AkaMaverick :

My wife even keep her shop closed for a month after Tet to prevent the shop from going bad for a year in case people come after Tet and don't buy anything.

She's a rare bird.  The rest of the country simply arrange for their own first footers.  No one leaves anything for chance when it comes to first footer for the house (xông nhà xông đất) or the business (mở hàng khai trương).

Most first footers are repeaters for years on end.  It's an honour.  They're no longer being asked only if their marital, health, or familial status changes for the worse (divorced, widowhood, having serious illness, recently lost a loved one).

Ciambella :

Their volunteer only ends if their marital or health status changes for the worse (divorced..

Oh you meant changes for the better? :lol:

WillyBaldy :

Oh you meant changes for the better? :lol:

Not if the SO takes half of your present assets and future income.

sanooku :
OceanBeach92107 :
WillyBaldy :

My ex Vietnamese wife and I had this ongoing joke about "Vietnamese" communication. I'd often hear her talk for five minutes to a Vietnamese person asking what she needed, and half of the time the people would come up with something different than what she asked. I'm not sure where the "loss of data" happens but I've seen it happen a lot even between native speakers, so imagine with broken Vietnamese. We had this joke "go in a clinic to remove a tooth and you'll come out with a missing liver".

I just remember that my ex wife used to tell me that this miscommunication happens a lot because Vietnamese people assume a lot of things when conversing, often using sentence structure that really depends on the context to be understood properly. That was her version of the explanation anyway.

When I would go shopping with my lady friend in Danang, sometimes I would point to something and ask her to find out how much it cost from the local merchant:

"You want buy it?"

"I don't know. I want to know the price first."

"You buy now?"

"No. I mean, maybe."

"Why you want know cost if you no buy?"

And on and on...

Sometimes it felt like an Abbott and Costello routine

In hindsight, do you feel your lady friend asked you 'Why you want know cost if you no buy?' in order to protect shop keeper/seller from the 1st customer superstition?

Were you going shopping soon after shops opening in the morning or after TET that could have made you the first customer?

I don't recall the time of day or year.

She was definitely acting as if I was bringing unwelcome attention to us.

Her tone wasn't inquisitive.

She seemed very irritated, even accusatory in her question, as was her custom when I was embarrassing her somehow.

I think she felt very responsible for whatever I said and did when we were out together in public.

I think it was in line with what THIGV said about it always being taken as an offense by a shopkeeper to ask them a price but then fail to make a purchase.

OceanBeach92107 :
sanooku :
OceanBeach92107 :

When I would go shopping with my lady friend in Danang, sometimes I would point to something and ask her to find out how much it cost from the local merchant:

"You want buy it?"

"I don't know. I want to know the price first."

"You buy now?"

"No. I mean, maybe."

"Why you want know cost if you no buy?"

And on and on...

Sometimes it felt like an Abbott and Costello routine

In hindsight, do you feel your lady friend asked you 'Why you want know cost if you no buy?' in order to protect shop keeper/seller from the 1st customer superstition?

Were you going shopping soon after shops opening in the morning or after TET that could have made you the first customer?

........
I think it was in line with what THIGV said about it always being taken as an offense by a shopkeeper to ask them a price but then fail to make a purchase.

Actually, asking for the price and walking away is essential when shopping at some places in Vietnam:
https://youtu.be/EKQfhjjsCYs?t=238

At these places, if you buy from the first shop that you come across, prepare to pay 2x the usual price.

sanooku :
OceanBeach92107 :
sanooku :


In hindsight, do you feel your lady friend asked you 'Why you want know cost if you no buy?' in order to protect shop keeper/seller from the 1st customer superstition?

Were you going shopping soon after shops opening in the morning or after TET that could have made you the first customer?

........
I think it was in line with what THIGV said about it always being taken as an offense by a shopkeeper to ask them a price but then fail to make a purchase.

Actually, asking for the price and walking away is essential when shopping at some places in Vietnam:
https://youtu.be/EKQfhjjsCYs?t=238

At these places, if you buy from the first shop that you come across, prepare to pay 2x the usual price.

Actually...

You asked about the situation.

If you want to give lessons on how to negotiate, you are responding to the wrong person.

IN TRUTH!

(Actually!)

If one is truly negotiating and not window shopping (which I was, and which it is agreed is a foreign concept for most Vietnamese) one does not walk away until one has first made same sort of counter offer and the counter offer has not been accepted.

You're welcome

Negotiate?

I've never negotiated since I've been here.
My wife never negotiates either. She even has an information sign in her store that says "prices are non-negotiable" in Vietnamese.

In tourist places they charge higher prices because the locals know that tourists think the locals love negotiating.

AkaMaverick :

Negotiate?

I've never negotiated since I've been here.
My wife never negotiates either. She even has an information sign in her store that says "prices are non-negotiable" in Vietnamese.

In tourist places they charge higher prices because the locals know that tourists think the locals love negotiating.

Hmmm?

Why do you think your wife would go to the trouble of making a special sign in Vietnamese unless...oh, maybe...too many Vietnamese people attempted to negotiate her prices down?

There would be no need for that sign if she didn't live in a culture where negotiating is common.

Also, to pull from another thread where you just took issue with JohnRoss mentioning the relative safety of Vietnam compared to other SEA countries, if you live in an area where there is so much theft and burglary, does it make sense to think that all merchants always charge a fair price, and no one ever needs to negotiate the price with an opportunistic merchant or a neighbor trying to sell something for an unrealistic profit?

I get the impression that sometimes you simply like to disagree, denkst du nicht? 😉

OceanBeach92107 :

I get the impression that sometimes you simply like to disagree, denkst du nicht? 😉

No.
Unlike some people, I don't always have to have the last word.
I just pass on what I experience, no more and no less.

We know the market value for what we buy and what we pay is in most cases always the market value price.
If someone want higher prices on the rare occasion we just leave. Outside of tourist areas they do not run after you to offer a lower price.

I see the contradiction you mentioned.
But she has only put up the information sign to get rid of those who think they can come into the shop, tear everything off the shelves and then only want to pay half price.
But these are just a few, and not the standard customer.

What this has to do with the other thread is a mystery to me.

OceanBeach92107 :
sanooku :
OceanBeach92107 :

........
I think it was in line with what THIGV said about it always being taken as an offense by a shopkeeper to ask them a price but then fail to make a purchase.

Actually, asking for the price and walking away is essential when shopping at some places in Vietnam:
https://youtu.be/EKQfhjjsCYs?t=238

At these places, if you buy from the first shop that you come across, prepare to pay 2x the usual price.

......
If one is truly negotiating and not window shopping (which I was, and which it is agreed is a foreign concept for most Vietnamese) one does not walk away until one has first made same sort of counter offer and the counter offer has not been accepted.
.....

It was never mentioned on your initial post (#564) that you were 'window shopping'. Have a look. You've just said:

When I would go shopping with my lady friend in Danang....

You may well have intended to bargain after your friend asked the price. Previous posts didn't make it clear about the 'window shopping' aspect and asking for price for bargaining aspect, so I was making this clear for visitors to this forum, so they are are aware of the 'don't buy from the first shop you ask price unless you wanna pay double' social trap.

It wasn't so much for your benefit only.

Your post #576 only say's:

I think it was in line with what THIGV said about it always being taken as an offense by a shopkeeper to ask them a price but then fail to make a purchase.

No mention about negotiating here. See where I'm coming from? Actually, it also needed to be made clear that asking price is perfectly socially/culturally acceptable to 'price the item out', then come back to the first shop if the price is the best. As it say's on the youtube video I posted. If you have any other source that says otherwise, feel free to post these.

You're welcome.

p.s. someone mentioned that the western concept of 'window shopping' is completely missing in Vietnamese purchasing culture. Actually, I've seen some sources that suggest this may not be the case anymore. I feel it largely depends on the kind of shop and owner/merchant.

"p.s. someone mentioned that the western concept of 'window shopping' is completely missing in Vietnamese purchasing culture. Actually, I've seen some sources that suggest this may not be the case anymore. I feel it largely depends on the kind of shop and owner/merchant."

Go to the more upmarket centres and places like Vincom, window shopping is quite common.

colinoscapee :

"p.s. someone mentioned that the western concept of 'window shopping' is completely missing in Vietnamese purchasing culture. Actually, I've seen some sources that suggest this may not be the case anymore. I feel it largely depends on the kind of shop and owner/merchant."

Go to the more upmarket centres and places like Vincom, window shopping is quite common.

Exactly. So, it's not 'completely missing'.

Duplicate post

sanooku :
AkaMaverick :
OceanBeach92107 :

.....
I see the contradiction you mentioned.
But she has only put up the information sign to get rid of those who think they can come into the shop, tear everything off the shelves and then only want to pay half price.
But these are just a few, and not the standard customer.
...

I'm sure I've seen the 'fixed price' sign in some shops/stalls in touristy areas too.

There's been a couple of occasions where I had not seen the sign and tried to negotiate, and the shop keeper has politely pointed at the sign and said it's all fixed price.

This is in line with my parents experience when they visited Vietnam back in 2017. Before they visited Ben Thanh market I told them to negotiate price before purchase.  When they returned to hotel I asked if they had negotiated. The feedback was 'The seller said it was fixed price'.

I didn't ask if they went to a few stores and asked price/negotiated or if they purchased from first shop. They are pretty clued up people, so I'm sure it's the former. (BTW, I may be biased saying they are 'clued up' people. LOL.)

So, to summarise , figure out if negotiation is acceptable (look for a sign etc). Ask for price, if you didn't see sign about negotiation, try to negotiate.  If it's the first shop you've asked, move on to next shop and do the same, do this with another shop. Then you have a good idea of the price you should be paying. 

Go back to first shop, if the price was unbeatable and merchandise is good.

As for 'why have a sign if negotiation is not common in Vietnamese culture' conundrum. The sign could save both the customer's and seller's time wasted in negotiating. It could save embarrassment on the part of the customer AND seller (and causing offence by the customer). Picture the situation where customer asks price of a painting, seller says 500,000 dong. Because customer did not see 'Fixed price' sign, he offers 250,000 dong. If I was the seller I would be offended by this. But, I would assume that the customer did not see the sign and politely point to the 'fixed price' sign and also verbally tell him it's fixed price.

Most of the above is for everyone, not targeted at you (AkaMaverick), even though I'm replying to your post.

p.s. apologies. My 'summary' turned out to be longer than the main body.  :D

sanooku :
sanooku :
AkaMaverick :


.....
I see the contradiction you mentioned.
But she has only put up the information sign to get rid of those who think they can come into the shop, tear everything off the shelves and then only want to pay half price.
But these are just a few, and not the standard customer.
...

I'm sure I've seen the 'fixed price' sign in some shops/stalls in touristy areas too.

There's been a couple of occasions where I had not seen the sign and tried to negotiate, and the shop keeper has politely pointed at the sign and said it's all fixed price.

This is in line with my parents experience when they visited Vietnam back in 2017. Before they visited Ben Thanh market I told them to negotiate price before purchase.  When they returned to hotel I asked if they had negotiated. The feedback was 'The seller said it was fixed price'.

I didn't ask if they went to a few stores and asked price/negotiated or if they purchased from first shop. They are pretty clued up people, so I'm sure it's the former. (BTW, I may be biased saying they are 'clued up' people. LOL.)

So, to summarise , figure out if negotiation is acceptable (look for a sign etc). Ask for price, if you didn't see sign about negotiation, try to negotiate.  If it's the first shop you've asked, move on to next shop and do the same, do this with another shop. Then you have a good idea of the price you should be paying. 

Go back to first shop, if the price was unbeatable and merchandise is good.

As for 'why have a sign if negotiation is not common in Vietnamese culture' conundrum. The sign could save both the customer's and seller's time wasted in negotiating. It could save embarrassment on the part of the customer AND seller (and causing offence by the customer). Picture the situation where customer asks price of a painting, seller says 500,000 dong. Because customer did not see 'Fixed price' sign, he offers 250,000 dong. If I was the seller I would be offended by this. But, I would assume that the customer did not see the sign and politely point to the 'fixed price' sign and also verbally tell him it's fixed price.

Most of the above is for everyone, not targeted at you (AkaMaverick), even though I'm replying to your post.

p.s. apologies. My 'summary' turned out to be longer than the main body.  :D

Now that you are taking the time to explain this and instruct us, I have to confess I'm totally clueless.

Would you please elaborate more?

In this video (I've marked it to begin at the bit I am asking about) does the female presenter say 'cảm ơn cũng' (thanks also) or is it cảm ơn cưng (thanks darling/honey/sweetheart):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2NJ1NZ … &t=387

Seems it's cảm ơn cưng (thanks darling), is it not?

sanooku :

In this video (I've marked it to begin at the bit I am asking about) does the female presenter say 'cảm ơn cũng' (thanks also) or is it cảm ơn cưng (thanks darling/honey/sweetheart):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2NJ1NZ … &t=387

Seems it's cảm ơn cưng (thanks darling), is it not?

Wow you're good, yes it's "cưng". I had no clue. My Vietnamese friend gave me the answer, but she says it's a word from the "North" and doesn't like it :lol:

WillyBaldy :

she says it's a word from the "North" and doesn't like it :lol:

To paraphrase and modify George Bernard Shaw: The north and south of Vietnam are two countries separated by a common language.

Duplicate.

WillyBaldy :

Wow you're good, yes it's "cưng". I had no clue. My Vietnamese friend gave me the answer, but she says it's a word from the "North" and doesn't like it :lol:

I didn’t watch the video, but cảm ơn cưng is used daily, often between vendors and customers as a gentle persuasion in the course of negotiations. (“Mua mở hàng dùm chị đi cưng.” Please buy, darling, as you’re my first customer.)

Your friend is incorrect.  Cưng is not a Northern term. It’s used in both the North and the South but more often in the South.

In the North, it’s an adjective (once in a blue moon, a verb, but never a noun) used only between blood relatives (parents to young children, grandparents to grandchildren). (“Cháu cưng của ông bà đâu?” Where’s our loveable grandchild?)  You’ll never hear it being used as a form of address and never between strangers.

In the South, cưng is a noun, an adjective, and a verb all rolled into one.  As a noun, it means darling. As an adjective, it means loveable.  As a verb, it means adore.

Ciambella :

Your friend is incorrect.  Cưng is not a Northern term. It’s used in both the North and the South but more often in the South.

I'm sure you're right, but in my experience, you ask ten Vietnamese people what's the best thing to say in some context and they'll have ten different answers. She probably answered from her Saigon born and bred perspective. It seems that often I'll hear them say a term is "from the North" when they're not overly familiar with it or just don't like using it :lol:

In Vietnamese, shopping centre (shopping point) is called địa điểm mua sắm.

điểm = point.

However, I noticed that a slight variation of this word with the tone mark 'dấu sắc' (acute) instead of the 'dấu hỏi' (hook above) is the word:

điếm = prostitute.

If we are enjoying tet with wife's family and I happen to say:

'Mình sẽ ghé thăm địa điếm mua sắm' could this be taken to mean 'I will visit shopping prostitute' or will it be understood as 'I will visit shopping point'?

Google translates the sentence as 'I will visit the shopping mall'. However, if I translate only 'địa điếm mua sắm' it gives 'shopping whore'.

I am sure they would give you the benefit of the doubt. I have committed some doozies that actually made sense but were quite unintentionally inappropriate.

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