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Untold rules when having meals with a host family for backpackers 1

If you are a backpacker staying in a homestay or in a host home, surely you will be invited to have dinner by your host family as a welcome and their warmth for foreign friends. They will cook dinner for you and certainly do not need you to repay anything. However, let’s check out the hidden rules of Vietnamese meals to avoid being impolite and show your being grateful to the host family.


  1. Help the host prepare the meal

variety of fried dishes on banana leaf

Source: Eiliv-Sonas Aceron

You can join the cooking time with the host family. By doing so, you can learn how to cook some Vietnamese food or have time to communicate and understand your host family. They probably show you a lot about Vietnam culture. And by helping them, the cooking time will be faster and not take much time.

If they tell you that you do not need to help them and give you the time of dinner, make sure that you are on time or better if earlier than the given time and bring along some desserts (like fruits, cakes or sweet soups) or drinks with you as a thank to the host.


  1. “Invite” everyone sitting in the dining table before the meal starts

This seems quite strange for foreigners because you are the invited one.  “Inviting” everyone sitting in the dining table before the meal starts meals that you wish them all to have a good meal. In a typical Vietnamese family, the youngest (who already knows how to talk) will start to invite first, and they must invite from the oldest to the younger. But now, you can just say “Moi ca nha an com” (/Moi ka nya en kohm/), meaning that you invite the whole family to start eating and wish them to have a good meal. And remember not to pick your utensils before the oldest does that.


  1. Learn how to use chopsticks

person holding chopsticks near green bowl


Source: Lily Banse

Vietnamese families often use chopsticks in their home meals and not all families have knives and must. This will be an interesting experience for you and will make it easier for you to eat at any restaurant in Vietnam.


  1. Eat everything in your bowl

You should finish everything in your bowl and not leave anything left. Vietnamese families will have a habit of picking the food by themselves to give it to each other in order to show that they want the delicious pieces for their relatives and friends. You should not refuse when they give you food and eat them all.  Moreover, you should try every dish, not just pick the one that looks good.


  1. No phone time. It’s connection time

Untold rules when having meals with a host family for backpackers 2

Source: Samantha Gades


It is impolite if you use the phone during meals unless there is an emergency call. This is the time you communicate with family members, asking about their lives, about Vietnamese people or about the guests who have been staying here, what you should eat, or the places you should visit. And also note that you should not talk when there is still food in your mouth.


  1. Give complement, thank you and help to clean the dishes

Whether you like a meal or not, compliment you for having a delicious meal and thank the host family for their meal by saying “Com rat ngon. Cam on.” / kahm rat nyon. kahm uhn/. Helping to clean the dishes shows you are thankful for the meals.\


Backpackers, 10th July 2019.








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