There are many ways to interpret different gestures, words, and body language all around the world, especially if you’re an expat and you’re working in a multicultural workplace. Other cultures may have a different ways, interpretation of life, and politeness compared to Vietnamese culture. Some are very straightforward, some are more reserved, but in Saigon or Vietnam in general, it's a little bit of both.
Consider it normal for people to ask very personal questions during first encounters as in their minds, they are just being friendly. So, when this happens, there is no need to be offended, that's just their way of showing that they genuinely care about you.
At times, Vietnamese questions may seem random and even awkward or embarrassing to foreigners. In reality, most locals mean no harm. Here is a guide on how to preserve your mental integrity while facing odd questions.
|When they say||It means...|
|How old are you?||I want to know if the ‘elder’ honorific is required.|
|Are you married?||I care about your well being.|
|Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?||I am matchmaking, I can introduce you to someone lovely (possibly myself)|
|When will you get married?||Marriage is good and I care about you, I encourage you to do so soon.|
|When will you have children?||Children are important and I care about you, I encourage you to start a family soon.|
|Why are you still single?||You are beautiful/handsome, I don’t understand why you’re not married.|
|You look fatter than the last time we met!||You look healthier and more prosperous than before.|
|How much do you earn?||You are financially secure and I’m happy for you.|
A simple smile is an irreproachable way to save face and please both parties if you're not comfortable with sharing your private information. It’s understandable, especially if you came from a more reserved culture. A crash course on Western politeness isn’t required either; best not to take it too seriously and just keep smiling and move forward.
For information on Vietnamese culture go to 15 Important Vietnamese Phrases For the Clueless Foreigner