Handholding in public is improper behavior for non-married couples in Vietnam.
Handholding in public is improper behavior for non-married couples in Vietnam.

With the decline of traditional arranged marriages in Vietnamese culture, men and women are being entrusted to find a suitable mate for themselves. However, because maintaining a positive reputation and showing respect for family is still highly regarded in Vietnam, etiquette rules for dating are in place to ensure that men and women find respectful, virtuous and family-oriented partners to marry.

Courting Etiquette

Protocol dictates that a man introduces himself to the family of the woman whom he is interested in dating prior to asking her out. It is also considered proper etiquette to spend time with the family on multiple occasions, often bringing gifts such as flowers and wine, before asking her parents for permission to formally date their daughter. It is important for the man to get to know the family because Vietnamese women rarely date without the ultimate goal of marriage and a woman will want her husband to form an everlasting and respectful bond with her family.

Male Etiquette

When going on a first date, and even subsequent ones, the man is expected to plan and pay for the entire affair. The man should also give the woman gifts and flowers at the beginning of each date as symbols of the woman accepting both the man and his feelings for her. Initially, it is recommended that the man takes the woman to a public place with a group of friends before later taking her on private dates. During the group dates, the man and the woman are expected to refrain from showing each other physical affection, as it is looked down on in the Vietnamese culture.

Female Etiquette

In the Vietnamese culture, the woman is expected to be submissive and never initiate a courtship with a man, because it is seen as being too forward and improper behavior for a woman. The woman in the relationship is also expected to remain a virgin until she is married and ward off physical advances during the dating process, despite the fact that it is perfectly acceptable for a Vietnamese man to lose his virginity beforehand. On dates, the woman is expected to embody the various traits expected of a proper Vietnamese woman, such as quietness, femininity, shyness and overall conservatism.

Marriage Etiquette

After getting to know each other through the dating process, the man and the woman often make the decision to get engaged, as marriage is the primary purpose of dating in the Vietnamese culture. However, before the engagement can occur, the man is expected to ask for permission to marry from the woman’s parents. If permission is granted, the parents of both the man and the woman meet to discuss the details of the wedding and marriage. With all interactions, gifts are expected to be exchanged as gestures of goodwill. Similar to dating a woman without her family’s blessing, the man is considered disrespectful if he does not ask for permission to marry the woman and the relationship might be broken up.