Using chopsticks rules in Vietnam


Using chopsticks to eat is a long tradition in Vietnam and other Asian countries like China, Korea, and Japan. I’ve had many foreign friends and clients having meals with me. And when it comes to using chopsticks for the first time to eat Vietnamese food it always brings us some good laugh, just like when Vietnamese people trying to eat with knife and folk. It is not easy to handle those two long stick to pick food. Especially you have to pick up everything on the tray with chopsticks, even when eating soup. Eating with chopsticks is difficult. Knowing rules about using chopstick when having a meal with Vietnamese families is even more complicating for foreigners.  


In Vietnamese culture everyone shares the meal meaning we use chopsticks to pick up food from shared dishes. There are basic rules about using chopsticks to be polite when having meal with Vietnamese.


Using chopsticks is never easy for first timers

Using chopsticks rules when in Vietnam.


  1. Chopsticks all have two points the right and the wrong. The right points are to be used to contact with food and the other points are for your grips. When using a pair of chopsticks make sure you can tell the right points. Which are the smaller points. Never accidentally mix those two points of chopsticks when picking food.
  2. Don’t make any sound using chopstick beating on dishes or bowls. That’s a sound made by beggars when they ask for food. Your host will not be happy about it. Children are always told chopsticks are not toys.
  3. Never put a pair of chopsticks standing straight up on a steam rice bowl. That is a sign of funerals. Use chopstick holders or just simply put them on the tray when you haven’t finished.
  4. Don’t use chopsticks the way you use folks to stick food. Always use both of them to pick up food. Put food in your bowl then eat from the bowl.
  5. It is the same when you want to cut some food. Don’t use chopsticks like a knife to cut food. Use a spoon in this case.
  6. When you are about to pick up a particular food on the tray do it straight in one action. Don’t hesitate and wave chopsticks around the dish.
  7. Don’t pick up food to your bowl and return it back. It has been touched by your chopsticks and it will not be nice to return. In this case you have no choice but to eat what you already pick.
  8. Don’t use chopsticks to dig around the shared dishes. Pick up food from top to bottom without mixing it.
  9. Never point someone with chopsticks during meal. When you are having a long talk put chopsticks down vertically on the tray on your right hand side.
  10. When others on the table are picking food don’t do it at the same time with them. Always wait until everyone finishes picking food then it’s your turn.
  11. The oldest person o the table will be the first one to pick up food before anyone else. It is considered to be rude to eat before him/her.
  12. It is a very common thing for the hosts to pick up food with his/her own chopsticks for their guests. In this case refusing that food is not polite. In this case guests don’t have much choice but to eat that food no matter how much you hate it. If you are a vegan or there are particular food you cannot eat, inform your hosts before the meal.
  13. Do not use chop stick to push bowls, dishes or anything on the food tray.
  14. Do not lick your chopsticks not matter how delicious the food is.
  15. Try not to drop anything when picking up food from the tray.
  16. Make sure you eat everything stuck on chopsticks before you pick up other food.
  17. Don’t use chopsticks as toothpicks.


Those are few rules about using chopsticks when having a Vietnamese meal. Let's practice what you've learned in our Hanoi Food Tour to master the skill when you go home!


By Pham Tuyen