Imagine if the friend you invited over for Christmas dinner wiped their hands on the table cloth saying it was customary for people in their country to do that? To avoid such a faux pas yourself this Vietnamese New Year, mug up on our top tips for spending Tet festival with a Vietnamese family.
No matter how tired you are, resist the urge to nap and stay up until 12am so you can cheer the new year with your host family and wish them good health, success and prosperity.
Even if you can’t speak Vietnamese, learn the phrase “Chúc mừng năm mới” (happy new year) to greet everyone you meet during the holiday. If you come to a family, greet the oldest people first. Bring a small gift when you go visiting. During Tet, guests often bring along a bottle of wine, fruit, or cake.
Prepare a pile of VND 10,000 notes and some lucky money envelopes to give children.
Keep smiling and be careful with bowls and vases, as feeling sad and broken crockery are considered sighs of broken relationships.
If the family invite you to eat or drink something don’t refuse, no matter how full you are, because people will think you don’t like them. Vietnamese people, especially in the North, often eat at home during Vietnamese New Year holiday and tend not to go to restaurants. Pulling up a chair at someone’s table is a sign of respect, even if you can’t eat or drink much.
Don’t be too keen to go calling on people early in the morning, especially if you are a woman. Vietnamese people like to choose their own first-footer, often a man who is considered successful, healthy and of a compatible age of the head of the household. This person is hoped to bring good fortune to the family for the New Year. If you are invited to first food a family, you should be on time, dress smartly and walk around the house to bring good luck to every corner.
Unless you are invited on a special day, be careful which day you choose to visit a Vietnamese family. During Tet festival, Vietnamese people usually spend the first day visiting their parents, grandparents and relatives; the second visiting teachers and the third friends.
Steer chat away from death and bad news. People believe your mood at this time will extend throughout the whole year.
Forget and forgive each another’s faults. Try to start your new lunar year feeling fresh and positive.