The relationship with your neighbours, especially if you’re an expat in Saigon is very important. Vietnamese people are naturally kind to their neighbours and it is not uncommon for them to do small favours such as paying the electricity bill for you if you are away, or share some rice if you forgot to buy it. Having said that, for every kind neighbour, there might be the nightmare who sings karaoke until 1am or puts rubbish in front of your door.

How can establish and maintain good relations with your Vietnamese neighbours?

In general, good relations with Vietnamese neighbours do not require much effort compared with other nationalities. Apart from the principle that you should treat others the way you wish to be treated and the general rules about Vietnamese culture, note the following:

››Be sure that the neighbourhood is suitable for you before buying/renting a house or flat. Go there in the evening when people return from work and use your observation skills (i.e., listen for loud karaoke).

››Say hello and goodbye to your neighbours with a sincere smile every time you meet. Show interest in their lives by asking a few questions, including questions that might seem strange for expatriates.

››If there is a dispute, be patient and firm. Don’t raise your voice or make them “lose face.” If a suitable agreement cannot be reached, ask for help from the residence management board, Tổ dân phố, or the ward’s People’s Committee. They will handle the mediation/conciliation.

››Offer your best wishes for special occasions such as Tết (and don’t forget to give some small lì xì – lucky money – for children in the family).

››Offer small gifts when returning from a long trip (not necessarily a bottle of Chanel No. 5 – it is the thought that counts).

››If invited for a meal or drink, remember it is most polite to accept the invitation.

For information on Vietnamese traditions go to Vietnamese New Year Traditions