Is it true that the best time to shop for bargains is right when the shop opens because there’s a Vietnamese belief called “mo hang” – meaning that the first sale of the day will bring them good luck – so the shop owner can’t refuse the first offer because it’ll be bad for business?

Yes the belief called “mo hang” exists, although its exact meaning is a bit different. “Mo hang” refers to the action of a buyer to open/start the sale of the day and it is also the name of a Vietnamese superstition held by merchants in which the first sale of the day acts as a sign of how the entire day of trading will go. If the first sale is smooth and quick, the day will be good. If the first sale is troublesome and ends up a no-sale, then the day will be bad. This belief is mirrored in the Vietnamese practice of “xong dat” where the first person who opens the door of a household on the morning of Tet will dictate the fortune of the entire household for that coming year.

Vietnamese shoppers use mo hang to get a good bargain on things that they want. This does not necessarily mean that the shop owners cannot reject a sale either. A proper “mo hang” is initiated when a potential buyer asks the price of an item. The seller accepts by answering the question with a clear price.

Because a bad mo hang means a bad day of sale, many owners, if they feel the shoppers are merely curious about the items and not serious in buying, will reject by not answering or by saying that the item is not for sale. More aggressive shop owners may also ask the shopper to move along if they have no intention to buy. In this way, mo hang technically did not happen and the shop owner can then wait for the next serious buyer who will bring good luck.

In the case of a bad mo hang in which a sale does not happen, less than polite shop owners may also react negatively (verbal insults, burning small pieces of paper to ward off bad luck, or in a rare case, physical violence) to the shopper guilty of bringing him/her bad luck for the entire day.

accident

Is it true that if you kill a Vietnamese person during a traffic accident, you have to pay USD1,000 to the family of the victim? 

This is false. The punishment for killing a Vietnamese person during a traffic accident is stipulated in two separate legal documents: The Vietnamese Penal Code and the People’s Supreme Court Resolution 3/2006. The prescribed punishment in the penal code (clause 202) is six months to 10 years of imprisonment, depending on whether the death was caused by another traffic violation or an occupational misconduct, as well as an administrative fine from VND5 million to VND50 million.

The financial compensation to the family of the deceased person is further stipulated in Resolution 3/2006 but no exact amount is given. Instead, the amount is calculated as a total of the funeral cost, compensation for emotional damage to the family of the deceased and monthly financial support if the deceased person was a source of income for the family.

The penal code is applicable to everyone and any crime committed on Vietnamese territory regardless of status, race, religion or native country except in two special cases – if the expat who commits the crime is from a country with a bilateral agreement with Vietnam, the case will be judged and processed according to the specific agreement; and if the expat who commits the crime has diplomatic immunity, the case is documented and supervised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Copies of these documents are transferred to the relevant embassy, and depending on the severity of the crime, the expat may be forcibly evicted from Vietnam.

Images by Ngoc Tran