"Hey Good-Looking" – A Survival Guide for Street Markets in Vietnam

Updated on January 7, 2017
Source

The Magic Word

“Hey you, handsome boy, you have nice smile! Where you from? You have girlfriend?”

Wow, you may think, are all Vietnamese women so charming?

It’s a fun encounter for all travellers to Vietnam; being approached by the owners of market stalls who want to sell you their wares. While it comes as a shock at first, gradually you can’t help but get sucked in by the Vietnamese charm and cheekiness (and it doesn’t hurt to get a few compliments now and then, does it?).

The stall holder will attempt to connect with you and try to convince you to follow them to take a look at their stall. It’s quite an experience to go with the stall owner through the maze of lanes at the markets; the cacophony of noise, smells and colours lure your senses. On the way, other stall holders beckon you to come to them and take a look at their wares.

A busy street market in Hoi An, Vietnam
A busy street market in Hoi An, Vietnam | Source

There’s an unspoken rule here among the stall owners: If you look at a stall for five seconds, it must mean you definitely want to buy something.

That’s it. From there, the charm and fun begin.

Arriving at the stall, a tailor’s stall, you realise that you don’t need another pair of Vietnamese tailored shorts.

No matter, the stall owner will tell you, your girlfriend might need one.

No? Some new shoes would do you some good. Pick from these shoes here.

The rookie mistake for anyone new to Vietnam: not knowing how to say “no”. If you don’t want one thing, they’ll find something else they think you’ll need. Once they go through a few of their wares, they’ll start offering items persistently at lower and lower prices the more you say “no”.

Because here “no” doesn’t mean no. It means you’re playing a game. You’re actually saying “maybe” but you’re looking for a better deal.

Eventually, you succumb to the charm and pressure and you feel you must buy something that you actually don’t want. Don’t worry; it happens to most travellers here. Think of it as an initiation or a souvenir from your first Vietnamese market visit. Also, you’re helping someone make a living.

How do you get around it you ask?

That’s the tricky thing: You shouldn’t say “no” at all.

Not in English or French anyway. It doesn’t work. The key is to say “no” in Vietnamese: “Kom can” or “no need”. It also helps to hold your hand up at the same time. Be firm and polite.

That’s the weird thing, the minute you say “no” in Vietnamese, the seller walks away. They’ll persist if you say it in English or French, but when you say it in Vietnamese, it works.

It’s almost like magic.

The great thing about travelling in Vietnam is that not only do you get to meet and have great experiences with the charming, cheeky and friendly locals; Vietnam helps you to develop your confidence if you’re lacking it. You will quickly learn to be firm but polite and radiate confidence. Even though learning how to say “no” is the most trivial of things, you’ll feel two inches taller. Otherwise, without confidence you’ll come across more difficulties during your trip.

Source

Do you find haggling daunting?

See results

Haggling

If you’re actually interested in buying something, you get to haggle! Many people seem to be adverse to this, as I was at first, but it’s so much fun and simple too.

If you want to buy something, a little souvenir Buddha statue for example, take the following steps:

  1. Ask the owner how much it is. I recommend having an app on your phone to convert Vietnamese dong to your local currency so you know how much you’re spending.
  2. With the price in mind, have another look at the souvenir to see if its quality matches the price. Usually, it won’t in a market stall (although it’s already very cheap for Westerners, the owner will give you a price that is much more than the item is actually worth).
  3. Offer the owner a very low price, way lower than you’re actually happy to pay (don’t go too far down). This is part of the game.
  4. Usually, the owner will try to get you to bring the price up. Keep negotiating and pushing the price up from your original offer until you reach your ideal price.

Normally, it’s quite straight forward at this point and you’ll get that little souvenir Buddha you’ve always wanted. One thing you could do if you go slightly above your ideal price is to introduce another item and try to get a “two for one” deal since you’re paying more.

If the owner still says no to the highest price you’re willing to pay, you will have to bring out the big guns:

5. Take another look at the item, and feign that it’s obviously not worth it. Thank the owner and begin walking away. As a rule, (if you negotiated up to a decent price) the owner will come chasing after you and give you the price you wanted or a better deal. It’s all part of the game.

That’s it! You’ll walk out with that little Buddha statue, which you’ve grown quite attached to in the process, with a grin from ear to ear and a confident strut: Your first successful haggle.

A typical street vendor.
A typical street vendor. | Source

Enjoy the street markets and remember: When you get hit on in Vietnam, it’s not always because of your good looks; the stall holders, or others, are trying to make you feel good and connect with you so that you’ll buy something. There are always exceptions of course. Once, I was eating in a hotel restaurant and the waitress serving my food told me that she found me handsome and stared at me while I was trying to eat. Locals also ask you often if you’re single; they’re not coming on to you it’s just a cultural thing. It’s a very normal question to ask strangers. At the markets please remember that everything is already really, really cheap in Vietnam so don’t be too stingy. The people you’re buying from are trying to earn a living like everyone else. Also keep an eye out that you’re handing over the right amount of money, many of the Vietnamese notes look quite similar. In my experience the locals are usually honest if you make a mistake but you should be careful.

Below you’ll find a list of useful Vietnamese phrases, written out so they’re easy for you to pronounce, that really come in handy in the marketplace:

Vietnamese
English
Sin Chao
Hello
Come on
Thank you
...Bao new
How much is...?
Muk kwar
It's too expensive
Kom
No
Kom can
No need
Ya (south) / Vang (north)
Yes
Sin loy
Excuse me/ I'm sorry

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, wanderwisdom.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://wanderwisdom.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)