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The Vietnamese people often rely on nonverbal communication more than verbal communication in their culture. The Vietnamese believe that verbal communication can cause more harm than good. Speaking before thinking in Vietnamese culture is considered to be as detrimental as committing harmful actions without any thought to the outcome. Children are taught, as a display of respect for their elders, to never contradict what someone superior to them says, and to always think before speaking.


Nonverbal cues are very interesting because they can say a lot about a culture. In the Vietnamese culture, manner of the nonverbal gestures describe how they feel about age and gender. They often emphasize their value of respect and what they consider to be socially acceptable. The amount of nonverbal cues also portrays the importance of nonverbal cues and how much can be said in this culture without speaking.

The following is a list of nonverbal actions and what they mean.

Nonverbal Patterns:                               Meaning in Vietnamese Culture:

Greeting; affirmative reply; agreement.
Shaking one's head  
Negative reply; disagreement.
Greeting; great respect.
Avoiding eye contact.
Showing respect to people senior in age or status or opposite sex
Not decent, especially when directed at people of the opposite sex.
Showing frustration, anger, or worry.
Agreement; embarrassment; disbelief; mild disagreement; appreciation; apology.
Shaking hands.   
Friendly greeting between men (but not the elderly); not customary between women or between a man and a woman; acceptable between a Vietnamese woman and non-Vietnamese man.
Palm of right hand out, fingers moving up
and down several times.       
"Come here." Not used to people senior in age or status.
Middle finger crossing over forefinger or forefinger
crossing over middle finger
with the other fingers closed
over the palm.  
Obscene gesture.
Middle finger pointing,other fingers closed.
No meaning
Thumb down, other fingers closed.    
No Meaning
Thumb upright, other fingers closed
No Meaning
Forefinger and top of thumb meet to form circle, other
fingers upright. 
"Zero." Poor quality.
Holding hands with or putting an arm over the
shoulder of a person of
the same sex.   
Friendly gesture, no sexual connotation
Holding hands with or putting an arm over the
shoulder of a person of the
opposite sex.   
Not usually done in public.
Crossing arms. 
Sign of respect.
Placing one or both hands in the pockets or on the
hips while talking.     
Arrogance, lack of respect.
Patting a person's back, especially those senior in
age or status.   
Whistling at performers.

(Source 23)


Contents from the page can be found in the Bibliography

Cultural Portfolio Fall Semester 2007. See Cultural Portfolio Homepage here