Just for fun: Unusual cultural habits in Vietnam and around the world

In this Just for fun thread, we would like to highlight unconventional customs which make Vietnam stand out. This is a chance, at the same time, to learn about other countries’ equally interesting traditions.

1. Which country considers cats to be lucky? How about Vietnam?
2. In which country should you not write in red ink?
3. Is there anything like a 15-minute grace period in Vietnam or is showing up on time or earlier a common practice?
4. In which country do people greet each other by rubbing noses?
5. What is one custom associated with Vietnamese culture that you have found to be quite unusual?

Thanks for participating,
Diksha

1)  Cats are highly valued by a segment of the Vietnamese population.  So much so that there are specialty restaurants dedicated to them.   :joking:

2)  I don't know about red ink but I have observed an exceptionally strong preference for blue ink in Vietnam.  My hypothesis is that the blue color will highlight that the document is original and not a photocopy.  Other than that it seems a mystery.  As a matter of fact, in the US some government documents dictate that you must use black ink.

3)  As far as adults go with social events, you must be kidding.  Children on the other hand do seem to get to school on time.

4)  In the 1940's, I think, there was a song in the US that went "Let's rub noses like the Eskimoses,"  but I expect you are thinking of New Zealand.

5)  After you have been in Vietnam for a while, nothing surprises you.

Hi THIGV,

Thank you for your input and for playing along  :)
4) Not New Zealand in particular but  yes there are several countries where they greet by rubbing noses. Initially we thought about some arab/gulf countries (nose kiss).

All the best,
Bhavna

4) I don't know about rubbing noses but I find my wife and daughter put their face up against the other's cheek and inhale quickly and call it a Vietnamese kiss.  Never heard of that one before.  Is it a real thing or are they pulling my leg?

SteinNebraska :

4) I don't know about rubbing noses but I find my wife and daughter put their face up against the other's cheek and inhale quickly and call it a Vietnamese kiss.  Never heard of that one before.  Is it a real thing or are they pulling my leg?

They usually make a sniffing sound near the face. Vietnamese generally dont kiss their friends, my wife was a bit freaked out by this when we went to Australia for a holiday.

Yeah, sniffing sound.  It's weird to me.

Yes yes, my wife sniffs, not just a sound, she inhales with her nose when she is close to my face. Seems stimulating to her. I'm always happy to provide the pheromones.

Does that nail #5? Anyone else been sniffed?  :/

I've sniffed my 13 year old daughter as a joke.  She gags and runs away. LOL  She's at that age where she needs everything from me and nothing from me.

I'm a toucher, hugger, and cheek kisser.  I touch people when I talk.  I hug them when they're sad, when they're happy, when we meet again after a long time, and when we say goodbye.  I also kiss cheeks -- twice or three times, depending on which country I find myself in. 

In Vietnam, people are very uncomfortable when I hug them, and God forbid I should entertain the idea of kissing their cheeks. 

I feel deprived.  Nobody even sniffs me, with or without a sound.   :sosad:

Ciambella :

I'm a toucher, hugger, and cheek kisser.  I touch people when I talk.  I hug them when they're sad, when they're happy, when we meet again after a long time, and when we say goodbye.  I also kiss cheeks -- twice or three times, depending on which country I find myself in. 

In Vietnam, people are very uncomfortable when I hug them, and God forbid I should entertain the idea of kissing their cheeks. 

I feel deprived.  Nobody even sniffs me, with or without a sound.   :sosad:

I must agree, Ciambella loves a hug when meeting.

I don't use red ink because of red-lining (americano's can relate to this practice).....also when your bank prepares to s-it-can you they send the invoice in red ink. if you use a lot of red ink you cannot tell if you are bleeding or not. after 3 nights of drinking rot gut liquor if I write in red ink the writing disappears. I never write in red ink when taking a "red eye" flight. red ink reminds me of Valentine's Day and I am not in love. if you are broke it means you are in the "red"....not good. if you run your engine past the red line it will explode and your mechanic will write you the invoice in red ink.

Answer #5 is the stand out answer here !!!  :D

Why is it unlucky for a man to offer a toothpick to a woman?  Can Tho 2018

Alitis :

Why is it unlucky for a man to offer a toothpick to a woman?  Can Tho 2018

My wife tells me that you will argue all day.

Now that you mentioned it I remember something to that effect. Thank you

Alitis :

Why is it unlucky for a man to offer a toothpick to a woman?

Not just a man to a woman.  Not even within the family (parents/children, husband/wife).  No one is supposed to offer a toothpick to someone else unless it's in a container.

Do not give / accept knives or scissors as gifts.  Pay the gift giver a token amount of money to exchange for the gifts.  If you don't, the relationship will be severed soon enough after.

Ciambella :

Do not give / accept knives or scissors as gifts.  Pay the gift giver a token amount of money to exchange for the gifts.  If you don't, the relationship will be severed soon enough after.

I think that the no knives business is Pan-Asian.  It is a common superstition in several Asian ethnic groups in Hawaii.  Sometimes if a knife is given, the giver will include a penny ($0.01) in the box so that the recipient can "buy" the knife from the giver.

One thing that seems uniquely Vietnamese is not giving perfume or cologne as a gift.  It may not be so much a superstition as a much as it may be taken as a suggestion that the recipient smells badly.  If that were the case in Europe, the great perfume houses of France, like Givenchy, Yves St Laurent, and Chanel,  would be in financial trouble.  Of course the French perfumeries became famous during a time when the French did not believe in regular bathing.   :o

Ciambella :

No one is supposed to offer a toothpick to someone else unless it's in a container

This seems hygienic as much as it is superstitious.   Think about it.  Do you want to put something in your mouth that has just been in another person's unwashed hand.  As you say, it is OK if still in a container.  I see Vietnamese will offer the salt shaker with toothpicks in it and shake it so that a toothpick comes part way out of one of the holes.  I wonder about those paper wrapped toothpicks.  Is it OK to pass them?   :/

The perfume one must be old school, as my wife was given perfume when we married and I have also bought her perfume.

[The function quote is not working on my device.]

Re: perfume.

If that's a custom in any part of the country, I've never heard of it. Our eldest brother introduced all of us to classic French perfumes (Madame Rochas to my now 85 year old sister, Chanel 5 to my now 77 year old sister, and Hèrmes Calèche to me) when we were growing up in the '50s and '60s. Perfume had always been on of the gift lists back then. Since we moved here, almost everyone we know has asked us to bring back perfume with every trip.

Re: wrapped toothpicks. 

We still hand the container over, whether the toothpicks are wrapped or unwrapped. It's not only because of hygiene. Toothpicks are sharp on both ends and sharp things are never to be given.

Also, toothpicks are not to offer until the meal is over for everyone. Anyone who finishes the meal earlier and needs toothpick would either has to wait or leave the table to use it elsewhere. Using toothpicks at the table while other people eating is considered very rude. My father taught me that when I was 8; I listened to my nephew teaching his 20 year old daughter the same thing just a couple weeks ago.

Hi,

Here are my replies:

1)Black cats are a bad omen in many parts of the world, but for the Vietnamese, the bad luck happens when the cat comes into your house

2)In South Korea writing someone’s name in red ink is a taboo. Red ink was used in the past to write deceased people's names on the family register. Writing someone’s name in red ink meant they were deceased and if the person was still living you were wishing harm or death to come to them.Although this is a superstition that belongs more and more to the past, Koreans still consider it very rude to write someone's name in red ink, so it’s always better to avoid using a red pen.

3)f something happens on the way to work and one calls in ahead to let them know they will often disregard a tardy especially if they know others are being held up as well. A 15 min grace period in general is tolerated.

4) In Oman, men often greet each other by pressing their noses together.

5) In Vietnam pregnant women are not supposed to attend weddings as they are seen as ‘bad luck’ for the newly married couple; a pregnant woman should not attend funerals lest her child be a ‘cry-baby’; she should not step over a hammock or her baby will be ‘lazy’; and she must avoid temples and pagodas to avoid angering the spirits residing there.

Best
Lena18

My experience with fried egg in Vietnam has been that it would always be served runny (escpecially the yolk) if you don't ask for 'well done'.

If you've just arrived, you are confronted with the language barrier in conveying this. Initially, I tried using sign language with the waiter or chef (at the Omelette station at Buffets) by knocking on table with a knuckle to indicate 'hard'. But most times the fried egg or omelette was still served 'runny'.

Then I learned the vietnamese word for hard = cứng. Tried saying this with the sign language (knuckle tap on table). Results were more favourable, apart from one or two occasions when it still came 'runny'.

I would immediately wonder what the waiter/chef made of my sign language gesture and attempt to say 'cứng' = hard. May be I mispronounced it as 'cưng' which means 'darling' in English.

So, perhaps the waiter/chef thought, soon after ordering the egg, I decided to tap the table with a knuckle and call him/her 'darling'?

edit: Soon afterwards I started saying 'cứng...không mềm' = 'Hard...not soft'. The results were much more favourable.

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