Vietnamese women vs American Women in dating

Dating a Vietnamese Woman: Differences with Western Women & What to Expect

Dating is tricky enough without hidden cross-cultural differences. Save yourself some needless heartbreak and prepare yourself ahead of time by knowing a few simple differences between the way Vietnamese women think about dating versus Western women (especially as compared to USA, Canada, and Australia).

We’ll discuss a few norms and expectations that are important during the earliest stages of dating when both parties are more-or-less strangers. We’ll touch on topics like: texting, who pays, exclusivity, family, and more.

A few caveats and things to note before getting into the details:

Dating Urban vs Rural Vietnamese Women

  • The following descriptions largely pertain to metropolitan areas like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh, or Da Nang. Vietnam is a large diverse place with over 50 “ethnic minority”, so YMMV outside these modern and increasingly-cosmopolitan areas.

Dating Northern vs. Southern Vietnamese Women

  • Hanoi ladies have a reputation for “playing hard to get”, being playfully difficult, and being slightly more traditional in their gender-based dating roles. Much of this article has been written about Hanoi-women. Alternatively, Vietnamese ladies from Ho Chi Minh City are stereotypically more casual and more Western in their mannerisms and attitudes. With a larger international community in Ho Chi Minh City, and more American-Vietnamese familial connections, the ladies of Ho Chi Minh City are more likely to understand you and your mannerisms.

Dynamic Vietnam

  • Vietnamese culture is changing rapidly. Within living memory it was illegal to dance to Western music or wear jeans or even run your own business. Now, Vietnam is a bustling, high-growth gem of South East Asia. This results in high variance: some people are more traditional, while others are indistinguishable from Vietnamese-Americans.

1) Long Period of Texting-Only Before Dating a Vietnamese Woman

Let’s say you’ve met a young Vietnamese woman, either in person or via an online-dating app: you should be prepared for multiple weeks of just texting, without any in-person meeting. She will use this time to get to know you and judge whether she is interested in you, or whether you are a safety-risk.

This can be very frustrating for Westerners, especially people with a lot experience with online-dating. Westerners generally value chemistry — that indescribable romantic feeling that is only possible to assess in person, e.g., how a person behaves, the look in their eyes, how they hold themselves, their organic banter. To a Westerner, chemistry is more important than the facts about a one’s occupation or family background.

Therefore, to a Westerner, any prolonged period of texting can feel like a waste of time: it is simply impossible to get a sense of interpersonal dynamics via texting, because it leaves too much to the imagination. This is why Western online-daters with a lot of experience typically want to meet in-person very-quickly: they want to assess their mutual chemistry, and then move on if it is a flop. The faster, the less harm.

However, this is not how a typical Vietnamese woman thinks. As we discuss below, safety and family background are bigger priorities, at least during the pre-dating phase.

Therefore, you must be patient and not let your imaginations run too wild.

2) Vietnamese Girls Like to Say the Opposite

A Vietnamese woman will say things like “I hate you” (Em ghét anh) but what she really means is the opposite. This is actually a sign that she likes you.

There is a tacit cultural expectation that Vietnamese women should hide their true feelings. This can make it difficult to read the feelings of your fancy, especially if you are from the USA or Canada, where people are less guarded about their feelings, and emit plenty of not-so-subtle physical cues.

In contrast, Vietnamese women will often say the opposite of what they actually mean. If you start to pursue a woman, and then explicitly ask her “Hey, do you like me?” the answer would almost assuredly be “No, I don’t like you“, even though she’ll continue to lead you on (such as texting you or holding your hand).

RELATED: How to flirt in Vietnamese – 6 Phrases that make women smile

3) “Ask Three Times” Rule Before Going on a Date

Let’s say you’ve been eyeing a girl for weeks and you think she may like you. You build up the nerve to ask her out on a date — and she says no! A strong, assertive, resolute NO!

You’re devastated! Depression sets in. The world seems dark and unkind.

But wait! There is still a chance that she likes you. In fact, you really don’t know anything about how she feels, because Vietnamese women (especially in Hanoi) have a rule that a man should ask her out three times before she finally says yes, even if she really really really likes him. So, don’t be discourage: come back in few days and try again.

This can be very confusing for Western men who’ve bought into the rad-fem corporate-HR idea that “no means no”.

no means no in Vietnam -- not!
Western men believe “no means no”. In Vietnam, no could mean either.

One way to know if she really likes you, even if she has said “no” multiple times, is whether or not she still engages in texting and seems curious about you (see point #1 above). If she doesn’t want to text with you, then the “no” really did mean no.

RELATED: How to say boyfriend/girlfriend in Vietnamese

4) Vietnamese Woman Are Usually Late on Dates

20-30 minutes late for a date is normal for Vietnamese women. Is it rude? Perhaps. But in any case, it is a small example of the believe that men should have to struggle and work hard to woe his date. To win a Vietnamese woman, nothing should be too easy, least of all sitting and waiting before a night out.

Even outside the realm of dating, “being on time” is a complicated affair in Vietnam. The Vietnamese do not ascribe to the Anglo-American principle that everyone should be on time for all arrangements, regardless of their “status”.

In contrast, Vietnamese people often make inscrutable, intuitive calculations about the status and importance of various parties when deciding how punctual they should be. For example, when service-providers meet a high-status client, they will be obliged to show-up on time, but it is not the case the other way around. There aren’t well-defined rules, but somehow Vietnamese people understand them.

In any case, you will likely have to wait for your date, and it would be rude to take offense.

5) Who Pays on a Vietnamese Date?

The man will be expected to pay for the date’s drinks, meals, and tickets, in keeping with traditional norms of male courtship. Occasionally, a Vietnamese female may pay for small Uber/Grab fares, or a cup of che (sweet pudding), as a small nod to Western feminism. You should use these as an opportunity to softly insist that you should pay for everything: make a few small attempts to pay as a men, but, for such small things, you should eventually concede and let her treat you. This allows her the gratification of showcasing her cosmopolitan feminism and Western sensibilities — this is very important.

One good thing about Vietnamese dating-culture is that it is not so extreme as some other Asian cultures (e.g., Korea) where women sometimes use their dates to go on shopping sprees. It is not normal for a Vietnamese date to get lavish presents of clothing, shoes, bags, cosmetics, etc.

If your Vietnamese date is hinting that she wants you to pay for her shopping, especially in the early stages of dating, then she is probably using you. Paying for dinner and drinks and small gifts and event-tickets is normal; paying for her living expenses or being expected to support her shopping habits is major red flag.

6) Conversations During a Date: Family

The clever (or cringey) banter that typifies a Western date is really geared towards establishing and testing a couple’s chemistry. Secondarily, one is interested in getting to know the other person’s hobbies, values, and life experiences, i.e. who they really are.

However, if you are on a date with a Vietnamese woman, you may be surprised how the conversation continuously veers towards family and their family’s occupation and status. For example, she may say something about her cousin being a senior administrator in some government office. In telling you so, you may notice that she pauses and smiles at you expectantly, as if you should Ooo and Ahhh over these familial accomplishments.

These kinds of family-debriefings provide an interesting contrast with the West:

  • First, family is much more important in Vietnamese culture than in Anglo-American culture. This manifests in a variety of ways, from the rituals of ancestor worship (in which they figuratively care for their deceased relatives’ well-being), to outsourcing major life-decisions to family members, and of course to dinner conversations on dates.
  • Second, this attention to family isn’t purely about Vietnamese families being somehow “closer” to each other. Rather, conflicts between in-law families are the #1 reason for divorce in Vietnam. A newly-wed husband will typically have his mother and father move-in with him and his young-bride. The mother-in-law traditionally has an inordinate amount of power over the newly-wed wife — which is a nightmare for Vietnamese brides. Therefore, if you want an “edge” in the Vietnamese dating game, you should hint to your date that, once you settle down, you are likely to live very far away from your mother and father… even if they are otherwise fantastic human-beings. Vietnamese women like Western men primarily because they know the mother-in-law will not lord over the couple.
  • Third, her attention to family may have to do with a legacy system of societal benefits and punishment. For instance, within living-memory, Vietnamese families suffered collective punishment, i.e., the sins of the father would be passed-down upon their children. Likewise, success and opportunities flowed primarily through families (as opposed to the “self-made man” ethos of Americans). Formerly, this meant that a woman who married into another family would take on all the risks associated with that family.

Although familial-punishment is now illegal in Vietnam, it isn’t hard to imagine how this legacy mindset would strongly incentivize a woman to exercise careful due-diligence about her suitor’s family background.

In contrast, Westerners generally consider family-as-a-dating-topic to be pretty boring. Furthermore, many Westerners will want to downplay the status of their family — it is considered unseemly to brag about one’s privilege and family. A Western girl would consider you to be a wanker if you rambled on about the success of your family and how many properties they own.

This working-class conceit should be discarded when you enter Vietnam. Instead, you should be frank about your family’s relative station in life: their good and bad attributes. You should gloat a little about their wealth if you can — but especially, you should not pretend that you are a lone-wolf self-made-man who is solely responsible for his own success despite his humble backgrounds. That is the ideal in America, but it sounds risky to a Vietnamese woman.

7) One At A Time, Gents

There is a noxious stereotype about Western men in Vietnam: they are bad guys who date multiple girls at once! Don’t go out with them, because they will cheat on you.

This stereotype may be due to a few tourist scum-bags. But it could also be due to cultural differences about exclusivity in dating.

Thanks to the rise of Tinder and fast-dating culture, Western guys often need to actively text and court many women at the same time just to find one who may be tolerable (i.e., “juggle five to land one” as we used to say in college). During this frenzied exploratory phase, a Western guy and girl typically have zero expectation about commitment and exclusivity. It may take multiple dates and a “home-run” before the Western woman insists upon some sort of exclusivity.

In contrast, Vietnamese woman would find this behaviour to be very disreputable and insulting. This is related to the above point about Westerners wanting quickly meet in-person and judge each other’s chemistry, whereas Vietnamese women want to “get to know you” over a prolonged texting-period. The presumption if that if a man is really interested in a woman, then he should only be pursuing her exclusively, and engage in some sort of numbers-game and hedging the probability of failure.

This mismatch can lead to the mistaken impression that Western men are philandering cheats. The lesson for expats in Vietnam is to have patience, be pickier with whom you pursue, and do things one-at-a-time.

RELATED: Our guide to Vietnamese Dating Culture. We discuss issues like: Are Vietnamese parents accepting of foreign lovers? Can a fortune-teller ruin your relationship? What are traditional Gender roles? And more…

8) Ghosts and Superstitions

Vietnamese women are likely to be much more superstitious than Western women. Beliefs in supernatural things like ghosts are not restricted to abstract matters like the afterlife and morality — they are intimately connected with day-to-day matters like work and romance.

For example, many Vietnamese people believe that bad relationships are due to the malignant presence of ghosts! Fortune-tellers also play an important role in making big decisions, like when to get married and when to have a baby.

These beliefs are very widespread — they are also a big red-flag. Such superstitions can make women unable (or unwilling) to take control of their own life, i.e. they have an unhealthy external locus of control. They are also likely to be exploited by unscrupulous fortune-tellers.

Hot Tip: Be sure to determine early-on in the relationship whether your Vietnamese date is beholden to fortune tellers. Ask her: do you have any friends who got married or divorced based on the advice of fortune tellers? Do you consult a fortune teller for major decisions like buying real estate?

If she is sympathetic to the influence of fortune tellers, you are likely to end-up very unhappy as they manipulate her for their gain. This is frighteningly common in Vietnam, even among well-educated urban women who you’d think should know better.

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    1. Sir, I don’t think this is the proper venue to find friends online.

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