To greet someone in Vietnam, you generally shake with both hands and bow your head slightly to show respect. But there are different greetings for different people, such as family members.
Bow to elderly people who do not extend their hand and do not shake hands with women; they generally prefer to exchange greetings with a slight bow of the head.
Do not greet Vietnamese people by joining your hands in ‘prayer position’ and bowing. This is the standard greeting in Thailand, as well as in Laos, Cambodia and India, but not in Vietnam. Vietnamese people use this gesture only at the pagoda.
Shaking hands with only one hand, as in the West, is becoming more common in Vietnam, although it is still mostly done among men.
Do not try to kiss people on the cheek. They will back away from you.
In Europe, bowing has mostly fallen out of custom, except on stage and in the world of royalty. Traditionally men would bow and women would make a curtsy, bending the knees while drawing one leg back. This is still seen in very formal circumstances. In some countries, such as Germany and France, gentlemen are still in the habit of bowing over a lady’s right hand while holding it in theirs and lightly kissing or almost-kissing it.
In Vietnam there is a difference between pagodas and temples. A pagoda (chua), is a place of worship, where one goes to make offerings or to pray. A temple (den), is not so much a place of worship as a place built to honour a historical figure.