In Asian countries, one of the unavoidable things you will face is eating. By this, I mean eating will become an essential part of your daily life while you are Viet Nam, 24/7. Every social event you attend while you are in Viet Nam will involve dining out so if you are thinking of dieting, this might not be the best time (the chance of your breaking it is 100%).
One thing you will notice after being in Viet Nam for a while is that right after a person greets you he is going to ask you if you have eaten yet. Most of the time this question is being asked the moment you arrive at a house (if you received an invitation), business meetings, or just hanging out with the natives. As my brother pointed out the other day, every time we meet a family friend before anyone can ask a simple "How are you?" there will be "Have you eaten? There is a new restaurant that has opened up" (or something similar will be said).
In other words, food plays a major role for Vietnamese people since it is a way for people to get to know each other, especially when it comes to business. On the bright side, eating Vietnamese food will not cause you to gain that much weight or anything at all really. The reason is that most of the foods are not greasy and the meals balance each other out. Therefore, this article will help you to understand and become familiar with Vietnamese dining etiquette.
Whether you are with your business clients or new friends, the majority of the time it will be a casual and informal outing. As I said before, eating out with Vietnamese people is a time to become familiar with one another so it is better if everything is casual so you can get to know each other more personally.
While you are in Vietnam, expect to dine out even if you receive an invitation to a person's house. Most of the houses in Viet Nam are small and crowded so there might not be enough room. Meanwhile, when you go out to eat at the restaurant, there will be a greater variety of choices to choose and it will be easier to please everyone's taste.
During the meal, it is best to avoid talking about politics and business; this also applies to toasting as well. A toast is usually made sometime after the whiskey or cognac is served. When making a toast, you should keep it simple and light. Here are a couple of common toasts, "Tram phan tram" (meaning "Empty your glass, 100%) and "Chuc suc khoe" (Good health).
After a toast is made then everyone can start drinking so do not start taking the beer before that. Drinking is very common in Viet Nam so here are a few drinks you should be aware of: the "333" in the south (be cautious since the hangover can be dreadful), "Halide" in the north, "Bia Hoi" or fresh beer in the cities, wines (from Australia and France), and "Ruou De" (it is similar to the Japanese's sake). While eating in restaurants you will notice there are no smoke free zones and it will be cloudy. Smoking seems to be something that comes hand-in-hand with drinking in Viet Nam, so here's to lung cancer. (Too mean? I feel it may be.)