Gah! The way visitors dress in Viet Nam

Katherine Huynh - PhoTravels




















Here, put my glasses on for a second. We’re just going to chit chat about an aspect of Vietnamese culture that you may not be aware of.

It’s hot in Viet Nam right? Yep, it’s an inescapable heat that makes even your elbows sweat. Your natural tendency is to wear clothes that make you feel comfortable. It’s your holiday, so you may even tend to choose clothes that you wouldn’t normally wear, perhaps even throw away at the end of your trip, so that you can make room in your luggage for all of your shopping.

I’m talking about shorts, singlet tops (hello tattoos!), and I hate to say it, harem pants. Argh! Fashion crime right there. Just saying.

But on a more serious note, and look through my glasses again while we chat about this.. Display of too much skin in Viet Nam makes Vietnamese people feel uncomfortable, form negative impressions about foreigners, and can plain just piss them off, particularly when you’re visiting sacred sites, like temples.

Quietly observe them for a moment. What are they wearing? They’re melting inside from the heat too, but you’ll notice that they’re pretty well covered up, smartly dressed pending financial means, and take pride in what they’re wearing.

Ever seen a tattoo? Think about that one. They’re not a positive form of self expression in Viet Nam. Tattoos are often associated with criminals and prison life.

Living a respectable life is important to Vietnamese. So much depends on keeping good relationships – simple things like access to government services, a good education, finding a spouse, having career prospects.

I’m not an expert on Vietnamese culture, but I do think that dressing in long pants and shirts with sleeves in Viet Nam will have a positive effect on your experience and that of your hosts, the locals. I’d love to know what you think about this somewhat sensitive topic. Let me know.

Oh, and with regards to coping with the heat, I only have one awesome tip for cooling down. Seek shelter, obviously, but down a smoothie – quick as you can, and you’ll feel a lovely coolness seep through your  body. Works everytime!



6 thoughts on “Gah! The way visitors dress in Viet Nam

  1. I noticed the same thing in Thailand. There were tourists with their butt cheeks hanging out from beneath their shorts while the Thai people were well-covered. It made me feel ashamed and embarrassed to be categorized in the same group as some of these tourists.


    • Awful! I’m sure the local people would have noticed the way you dressed and appreciated it. I was browsing in the big market in district 1 in Ho Chi Minh City once, melting in the heat but wearing long pants and a blouse, and a stall holder stopped me and said how nice I looked, and asked if I was married to a Vietnamese. She was really sweet. So, don’t worry..but maybe it’s up to us sometimes to mention to fellow foreigners that they might need to cover up a bit.


  2. Food for thought, definitely.
    Can’t say I’ve noticed that here, in Hanoi, though. Although women especially are very covered up outside to protect from the sun, I’ve also seen a lot of very short dresses. There’s also a bit more of a sports look going on. People are very active and are either riding their bikes around the lake, working out in the park, or running.
    Will definitely keep my eyes open for that a bit more because I haven’t paid that much attention to it.
    I do agree that as visitors to a country, we should respect the people, especially at religious places.


  3. I find that the Vietnamese women here in Hanoi show a LOT more flesh than most of us expats. Tiny shorts, tiny bodycon dresses with ginormous heels (my Teaching Assistants included!). They only really seem to cover themselves up when they’re driving around in the sun.

    I’m always really conscious about having my shoulders on show as I know traditionally it’s supposed to be indecent, but I don’t know why I am as the Vietnamese – here in Hanoi anyway – young and old, all wear vest tops, or sleeveless blouses and dresses, including at the office and some teachers in schools.


    • I wonder how those showy women get on in life. I’m surrounded by family members in government, the architectural industry, the trucking industry and banking, and they dress conservatively and dare I say it, look down on those who dress in skimpy outfits.

      I think if the local people surrounding you dress in a more relaxed way, then perhaps you could too. It sounds like you dress tastefully, which is the main thing. Your thoughts?


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