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Dress Code in Vietnam: What To Wear and Not To Wear

CEO Tinh Phung
For anyone planning to visit or move to Vietnam, understanding the dress code is crucial for a smooth and respectful experience. While there is no specific dress code law in Vietnam, it is advisable to...

For anyone planning to visit or move to Vietnam, understanding the dress code is crucial for a smooth and respectful experience. While there is no specific dress code law in Vietnam, it is advisable to dress modestly and take cues from the locals. In this article, we will guide you through the do's and don'ts of dressing in Vietnam.

What Do Vietnamese Wear?

Vietnamese fashion varies across the country. In the north and central regions, people tend to dress more conservatively, covering their arms and legs. In the south, however, you will find a more relaxed dress code with younger women sporting short shorts and revealing tops. Nevertheless, both men and women usually opt for casual attire such as trousers or jeans and shirts, with shorts and sandals being common as well.

Distinctive clothing of hill tribes in northwestern Vietnam Distinctive clothing of hill tribes in northwestern Vietnam

Traditional Clothing in Vietnam

Vietnamese traditional clothing holds great cultural significance. Women often wear "Ao Dai," a long dress with a tiny turtleneck and long sleeves. This dress is typically paired with high-waist trousers, creating an elegant look. Ao Dai is commonly seen at special occasions, government offices, and even as school uniforms. As for men, traditional attire, known as Ao Dai, is less commonly worn nowadays, except for certain events like weddings or during the New Year celebrations.

Traditional women’s clothing in Vietnam Traditional women’s clothing in Vietnam

Dress Code for Tourists

As a tourist, it's best to follow a dress code that shows respect while keeping comfort in mind. For women, it is advisable to cover your shoulders and knees by wearing long shorts, skirts, or trousers, paired with a short or long-sleeved shirt. Thin, breathable materials like Thai-pants are popular in Southeast Asia for their comfort and modesty. For men, trousers or shorts with a T-shirt or long-sleeved shirt are appropriate. Avoid going shirtless or wearing tank tops, especially in religious sites. Sandals are suitable footwear for both men and women, offering convenience in temples and hot weather.

Dress Code by Season

Vietnam's weather varies across regions and seasons. If you visit during the rainy season, which lasts from June to November, bring quick-drying clothes and consider carrying an umbrella. In winter, especially in the north, temperatures can drop, so pack thermal underwear and light jackets. Spring brings hotter temperatures, so choose lightweight, skin-covering clothes. Research the weather conditions of your specific destination for a more accurate packing selection.

Business Attire in Vietnam

For business settings, Vietnamese professionals generally follow typical international business attire. Men wear suits, while women opt for formal shirts, blouses, or suits. Avoid flashy or bright colors and stick to neutral or darker tones. Conservative dressing is expected in this culture, so avoid standing out too much.

Clothing Tips for Teaching in Vietnam

For those teaching in Vietnam, dressing modestly is essential. Women should wear pants, skirts, or shorts that cover their knees, with shoulders covered and high necklines. Men should adhere to the school's policies, which can vary. Tank tops and sandals are generally not acceptable attire for teachers.

What NOT to Wear or Do in Vietnam

To ensure a respectful experience, there are certain things you should avoid doing or wearing in Vietnam:

  • Walking around half-naked, except when at the beach.
  • Not wearing a bra under thin or see-through shirts.
  • Wearing offensive clothing that insults Vietnam or the government.
  • Not covering up when required, such as in religious buildings or small villages.
  • Being half or fully naked on the beach, unless in designated areas.
  • Not taking off your shoes when necessary, such as in religious or Vietnamese households.
  • Wearing clothing that is too revealing, which may attract unwanted attention or make others uncomfortable.

When to Dress More Modestly

Certain situations require more modest dress, where you must cover your shoulders and knees:

  • When entering temples, churches, mosques, or other religious buildings.
  • When visiting Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum in Hanoi.
  • When visiting small villages or hill tribes.

Recommended Vietnam Packing List

To help you prepare for your trip to Vietnam, consider the following items for your packing list:

  • Long-sleeved blouses and light skirts for women.
  • A large scarf that can be used as a skirt or a smaller scarf for shoulder covering.
  • Flip-flops for easy shoe removal in temples or humid weather.
  • Keep in mind that local clothing sizes may run smaller than what you are accustomed to.

By adhering to these guidelines, you not only show respect for Vietnamese culture but also ensure a hassle-free trip. Remember to embrace cultural differences and engage in intelligent conversations if given the opportunity. Enjoy your journey through Vietnam!