Vietnamese Chopstick Etiquette

Before reading this article, you may refer back to Chinese chopsticks etiquette. Due to the similarity between the two countries, I will only concentrate on a few of the extra customs in Vietnamese culture that are not included in Chinese culture

Can I use both hands as a pair of chopsticks?

In this section, I will tell you the etiquette and usage of the chopsticks. If you are not use to using the chopsticks and feel awkward using them, you can ask for utensils such as fork and knife. You should still attempt to use the chopsticks though to show you are willing to try.

Do not worry if you cannot do it, the worst thing can happen is you will get a few chuckles out of the natives and have to ask for a fork. The only thing that matters is that you try; it takes time to get used to them. Everyone has trouble using them at first, but they learned when they were little and you were not there to see it.

All Asians have difficulty with the chopsticks at first; trust me on this since I'm one of them. Up until I think I was either 8 or 9 years old, I preferred the spoon over chopsticks. I would try not to pick up a lot of food if I didn't have to or pick enough of each food one time so I would not have to use the chopsticks again. Sometimes I would ask someone to pick up the food for me instead when I failed miserable.

chopstick on top

My childhood...

As a child I could get away with picking up a lot of food at once but I suggest you should not. It was hard to hold the two sticks especially for a child with small hands; the chopsticks tended to fall out. You may think you are frustrated trying to use them once in awhile but you do not have to eat with them every day.

The only reason I have gotten better at using the chopsticks is because I have to. When you become older, you cannot keep using the spoon frequently to eat during meals unless there is soup. For me, it took a long time to get used to eating with the chopsticks and comfortable at it. What I am trying to say is that it is okay for you to look dumb at first. We know you will not get the hang of the chopsticks right away but keep trying.

The do's and don'ts...

The Vietnamese are superstitious when it comes to the dead and avoid at all costs upsetting the spirits. Why do you need to know this little fact? If you tap on your bowl with your chopsticks it is considered an act of trying to call on the dead. So, please no kung fu on the table.

Some Vietnamese people believe in an ancient superstition that if you hold the chopsticks halfway down it is an omen of a family death. Nonetheless, nowadays you can hold your chopsticks halfway because it allows the chopsticks to have multiple uses. The blunt end of the chopsticks can be use to pick up food and place it into the individual's bowl, while the tapering end can be used for putting food into the mouth.

The chopsticks should not touch your lips, teeth, or tongue since it might also be used to pick food off a dish that everyone shares. Onto the next point, do not let the end of your chopsticks that you use to pick up food cross with another person's.

Do not pick up more than one piece of food at a time. This is interpreted as meaning that you are very hungry and have not had food in days (beggar).

Do not dig for something you would like on the plate or return a piece of food that you do not like back onto the dish.

Do not transfer food you just got from the plate to your mouth, place it in your individual bowl first.

Practice makes perfect so keep trying if you do not get it right the first few times and look like a kid. We all have been there once. Best of luck. Until next time. Bye.

P.S If you still have questions, feel free to contact us.

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Raphita Tobing