The first thing a Vietnamese person will do after greeting you is to ask if you have eaten. More than in China, where the question ‘have you eaten?’ is equivalent to asking how you are, in Vietnam the question is to be taken literally and the likelihood is that you will be whisked off to a restaurant before you have had a chance to answer.
Whether you have been invited to someone’s house, you are attending a business meeting or you’re just hanging out with locals, you will almost always be taken out to go and eat somewhere. Dining out is an integral part of Vietnamese life and going on a diet when travelling to Vietnam is a very bad idea! The likelihood of your breaking it is 100%.
It is customary in Vietnamese restaurants and bars to pay for a round of drinks or for the whole evening. You do not divide the bill between people. As in China, your Vietnamese host may insist quite strongly on being allowed to pay the bill, as a sign of respect to you. If it is your turn to pay, try to avoid the bill being brought to the table. Leave the table discreetly before the meal is over and pay away from your guests.
In Vietnam, there is no tradition of after-dinner conversation. When people have finished eating, the person with the highest status gets up and the party leaves.
The most popular dish in Vietnam is pho, a noodle soup with a clear meat broth. Many Vietnamese people regard pho as their national dish. The word pho can be translated as ‘your own bowl’. It is one of the few items of food in Vietnam which is not passed around and shared. Be careful! Pho is very spicy. It has recently become very popular in the U.S.