Travel Guide

Good and bad tempers – Vietnamese way of thinking

It tends to be the accepted wisdom that Vietnamese people never really lose their tempers or get angry in public. Such behavior is certainly rarely admired and is generally seen as unbecoming or even degrading, rather than assertive. However, like most nuggets of accepted wisdom, all this is quite true – but only up to a point. If you go beyond that point, well… you may see someone snap and lose it – big time! When repressed irritation and anger finally escape, they generally do so under high pressure. So it’s not impossible you’ll witness people seeing red after a minor road accident, or something similar. But does this mean that you, too, can throw a fit if you think the situation calls for it? Well, maybe not…

DO remember that, however exasperating a situation may become 1) you may not have all the necessary elements in hand to understand fully what is going on. 2) Part of the problem is going to be your own lack of local language skills (not everyone speaks English as well as you do!). 3) It really isn’t a good idea for you to go wading in aggressively like a bull in china shop (or like a G.I. on China Beach…). At 80 million Vietnamese against one (that’s 01) of you, the odds will never look good. 4) If you lose it, you’re as good as accepting that, basically, you’ve lost. You may feel better in the short term, but you’re very unlikely to get results after that outburst. 5) When you really have to tear someone off a strip, take care not to do it in front of others: always leave space for saving face. 6) Discretion is almost always the better part of valor: smile, even if it physically hurts sometimes. This way, you’ll live to fight another day…DON’T give up, though: keep asking leading questions in order to verify and extend your knowledge of the situation. Information is rarely volunteered spontaneously, but if you find the right question, you may get a straight answer.

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