Gift giving, an act of showing gratitude and affection, is one of the most crucial social etiquettes a person should know. In Vietnam, people learn gifting customs on various occasions throughout the year. For that, gift givers may find it tricky and unsure of what to prepare. In this article, we will help you get it right by deciphering the Vietnamese gifting traditions for every occasion.
Gifting Customs for Holidays
Holidays are important social events in Vietnam. It is a time when people express gratitude towards others, often their families or close connections. Yet, each holiday requires a different set of gifts.
The Mid Autumn Festival often falls upon September or October of the year and is celebrated nationwide.
While children anticipate the full moon observing ceremony, adults look for quality mooncakes to give to loved ones. A standard mooncake box often comes with four packs in beautiful packaging. Oftentimes, premium tea is included in the set.
Moon cake gifting isn’t only popular in Vietnam, but other Asian countries also have this practice. See the below articles for more information about Mid-Autumn festival celebrations per country:
- China: The Ultimate Guide to Mid Autumn Festival Traditions
- South-Korea: Chuseok; The Fascinating Korean Mid-Autumn Festival
- Japan: Tsukimi; A Guide to the Japanese Mid-Autumn Festival
2. Toys for Children
Children look forward to the Mid Autumn Festival as much as the Tet holiday. Today, more and more families give their little ones old-fashioned presents as a way to preserve traditional toys. These toys are colourful and beautifully hand-crafted.
Tet Holiday (Lunar New Year)
Tet holiday is undoubtedly the most important event of the year in Vietnam. Thus, gift-giving for this occasion gets the most care. Every year, this holiday takes place on a different date in January or February, depending on the lunar calendar.
1. Peach Blossom, Mai Flower, and Kumquat trees
From households to street decoration, these plants are prominent signs of a new year has come. According to old beliefs, they can also prevent the family from evil spirits. Having one of these plants as gifts is highly appreciated.
People can choose a small or big pot of kumquat depending on the space of the gift receiver’s house.
Giving each other liquor isn’t new to Vietnamese. A bottle of good rượu thuốc (traditional liquor) is incredibly valuable as a present. Since the start of the market economy era 30 years ago, red wine has become the standard alcohol to give someone for the Tet holiday.
On the first day of the new year, a guest visiting the family will likely receive a cup of hot tea from the host. And when the tea is good, the conversation flows. A premium bag of tea accentuates the gift giver’s courtesy so, besides green tea or Oolong tea, the delicate lotus-wrapped tea is best for gifting.
Vietnamese give each other a box of assorted jam to wish one another an abundant year. Also, the pentagon-shaped jam box remains a key piece on any family’s altar during the Tet holiday. A classic package comes with winter melon, carrot, coconut, kumquat, candied-peanuts, and sometimes a chocolate gold coin.
Gift Basket/Gift Set
Today, the improved living standard means people can afford more than assorted jams to give one another. The gift-giver has endless options to choose from pre-packed sets or select the items themselves. A gift basket often includes confectionary, wine, and tea. Imported fruits make beautiful and pricey baskets, too.
Gifting Customs for Public Ceremonies
In Vietnam, the public ceremonies aren’t as big as national holidays. But, there are a few occasions when people get to receive gifts.
Vietnamese celebrate two Women’s Days: the International Women’s Day on March 8th and the Vietnamese Women’s Day on October 20th. To celebrate women’s significance in society, family members can cook delicious meals for the moms, offer them a nice spa day, or give them flowers.
Children’s Day (June 1st)
In Vietnam, various events like book streets or introduction to traditional toys will take place on this day. Thus, parents can either reward their kids with toys, color books, or children’s novels.
Back to School
Students flocking back to school on Sep 5th marks a big event in the country. Depending on the family’s wealth, parents often give their children new school supplies or more expensive items like laptops or bikes. All is to encourage them to study hard.
Teacher’s Day (November 20th)
Vietnamese honor teachers on this day as a reminder of how critical education is to the country’s development. Students often give teachers flowers, while parents may offer a silk scarf for female teachers or a nice tie for male teachers.
Gifting Customs for Personal Ceremonies
A person’s birth marks the first of many ceremonies in his/her life. In Vietnam, people celebrate the most important events.
In the old days, Vietnamese people didn’t celebrate birthdays annually. The custom today is likely an adoption from Western culture. There aren’t any rules known to birthday gifting in Vietnam, so the only “rule” is to research the birthday boy/girl’s taste. A good present, no matter how much it’s worth, should show the affection and care of the gift giver.
The wedding gift code is rather easy in Vietnam since most people offer “lucky money” for couples. There is no limit to how much money can be gifted, but wedding goers should be mindful of the minimum amount. If the groom’s or bride’s family has been to a guest’s wedding, that same guest should not give less money than what was offered previously.
3. Longevity Wishing Ceremony
When reaching sixty, families and the local authority will organize lễ mừng thọ to celebrate the elder’s longevity. And it will continue every ten years until their passing. Usually, the senior citizens are content being surrounded by children on that day. But, people can also give them presents like gold and pearl-inlaid pictures in lacquer frames or lingzhi mushrooms.
When it comes to funerals, Vietnamese value sincerity over material. Funeral attendees often show up with condolence flowers and packs of incense. Giving money is acceptable, too. This gesture is a way to help the family arrange the best funeral services for the deceased.
Gifting Customs in the Workplace
1. For Business Partners
A nice lunch or dinner is how a Vietnamese company expresses generosity and respect to business partners. But gifting is a serious business! Practical yet luxurious items like rollerball pens are among the most common business gifts. Also, presents should adapt to the partner’s gender and year of birth.
2. For Coworkers
Gifting coworkers on non-holiday occasions is quite rare unless you’re close to that colleague. Oftentimes, employees may receive a small gift on their first day at work, birthday, or public ceremonies. In recent years, plants like aroid palms are what companies prefer to give to their employees.
3. After a Holiday
To Vietnamese, the flip side of taking a holiday is that coworkers are burdened with your work while you’re away. As a way to say ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’ for the help, people will buy local specialties and bring to the office. It’s the thought that counts so you shouldn’t feel obligated to buy a lot.