We discuss the most common ways to greet friends and strangers in Vietnam, including some tips about Vietnamese rules regarding age-based politeness and formality.
How to Say “Hello” in Vietnamese
“Xin Chào” is the most generic expression for “Hello” in Vietnamese (hit the play button above to listen to the pronunciation of Xin Chào). It can be used in both formal and informal situations, such as speaking to elders or children.
There are many other ways to greet people in Vietnam, most of which depend on whether you are speaking informally to younger people, or speaking formally to elders & superiors:
- Xin chào – “Hello” (appropriate for everyone)
- Chào – “Hi” (casual hello; only appropriate for people your age or younger)
- Chào Chị – “Hello, Madame” (formal, appropriate when speaking to older women)
- Chào Chú – “Hello, Sir” (formal, appropriate when speaking to older men)
- Chào Will – “Hi Will”
- Chào meo – “Hi cat”
How to Pronounce Xin Chào in Vietnamese, with Audio
“Xin Chào”, like “Sin Chiao”
Both Xin and Chào have flat natural tones.
How to say “How are you?” in Vietnamese
“Xin Chào” is the plainest way to greet someone. Much like English, Vietnamese has a wide variety of friendly & cool ways of not saying hello literally, but using colorful expressions like “How’s it going?” or “How ya doing?”
Among friends and family, consider using these informal ways of greeting:
- Bạn khỏe không? – “How are you?”
- Đi đâu đấy – “How are you?” (literally “where are you going?”)
- Dạo này thế nào – “How are you?” (literally “how have you been lately? or “how has life has treating you?”)
- Ăn com chưa? – “How are you?” (literally “have you eaten yet?”)
The latest expression may seem odd to English speakers: how can “have you eaten yet?” be a legitimate greeting? The answer is actually quite interesting: read our post dedicated to this funny expression .
Do Vietnamese People Bow As A Type of Greeting?
Modern Vietnamese people generally do not bow as a type of greeting. Instead, they do something halfway in-between a nod and a bow, like a nod plus shoulder-duck. You will see this only in highly formal situations, like when workers are greeting a customer at a classy restaurant, or at a spa, or when meeting your fiancee’s parents. Casually, or among friends, Vietnamese do not bow.
There are exceptions, such as among very formal & traditional families. Some sycophantic employees may exaggerate their nods into formal bows when they are trying to suck-up to their superiors — but they will be viewed as a weird “ass-kissers” by their colleagues, not as respectful individuals.
Traditionally, the Vietnamese did a lot of bowing in the past. But, everything changed with the Socialist revolution. The Socialists made a concerted effort to vilify the old Vietnamese traditions and mannerisms. Bowing was associated with peasants bowing deeply to nobility. Therefore, in the socialist effort to make everyone seem equal, as well to remove any respect for aristocracy or wealthy merchants, the Vietnamese flipped from viewing bowing as respectful, to bowing as a symbol of past inequities.
Nowadays, the Vietnamese will use greeting-gestures that are familiar to most Anglo-Americans…
Physical Gestures That Mean “Hello” in Vietnam
When walking around town and casually bumping-into acquaintances, most Vietnamese people will just wave their hand as a hello, or give a gentle nod and smile. These are very casual and quick ways of saying hello — quiite similar to Northern European cultures.
The Vietnamese are not known for their exaggerated politeness or overly verbose greetings. So, unless you are a very close friend, or a respected senior, you will not be greeted with a lot of formal hellos, nor are you expected to give them.
Do Vietnamese People Shake Hands?
Hand-shaking is quite common in Vietnam, especially among men, and especially among working relationships such as clients and work-colleagues.
Much like in the USA, hand-shakes are generally reserved for when you are first introduced to someone, or after an usually long period of having not encountered someone. Hand-shakes are not very common among close friends who are frequently around each other.
Do Vietnamese Female-Friends Hug as a Greeting?
Some Vietnamese youth who have studied abroad or who work for American companies have started to adopt a hugging-culture.
But aside that tiny minority, Vietnamese female-frIends almost never hug as a greeting. Vietnamese people rarely hug, in general, least of all as a greeting.
Do Vietnamese People “Fist Bump?”
Unless you’re hanging-out in a wild and crazy youth-hostel, or at an expat bar in Hanoi, you are not likely to encounter a lot of fist-bumping in Vietnam. However, some young people may do it ironically or as a larp.
Other Helpful Vietnamese Expressions
Interested in learning more? Please see our Word Of The Day blog that provides more expressions and key cultural insights about Vietnam, through the lens of helpful words and phrases.