Saigon Mythbusters


The Myth: Is it true that there are right and wrong ways to use your chopsticks at the dining table?

While this is true, some of the customs are no longer practiced in the city. The following is a list of things you should never do with chopsticks in the presence of Vietnamese people:

1) Never use them to drum on the table, never separate chopsticks with one hand. You should never do this because the locals believe that everything that is good comes in twos. If you separate the chopsticks, you’ll disturb the “peace.”

2) When setting down your chopsticks, never stick them into your food. If you stick them upright in the food, it will represent your tombstone because this is how food is offered to the dead. Death equals bad. If you must set them down, set them down on the table or sideways on your bowl.

3) If for some reason you can’t use one of the chopsticks from your pair or it has dropped, don’t get a single replacement chopstick; get a fresh pair.

4) Never point chopsticks at someone, especially at your elders, or even worse speaking with a mouthful of rice. It is impolite.

5) Don’t stick your finger out when using chopsticks.

6) Never attempt to pass food from chopstick to chopstick as this is how unburnt bones are moved to the urn at a cremation.

The Myth: Why do some Vietnamese men grow long hairs out of moles and long pinky nails? Is it true it’s a sign of luck and wealth?

nail cutter

Myths exist in various cultures to define good versus evil, bad luck versus good luck, prosperity versus poverty. Asian cultures in particular focus on physical traits as an indicator of a person’s future. For example, large earlobes tend to signify wealth, a wide nose signifies future prosperity. But perhaps the most curious of these facial feng shui trends is the hairy mole.

If you spot a Vietnamese man sporting a hairy mole, you’d better assume he’s hitting the jackpot, scoring with the women, and living on top of the world. Why? Legend has it that hairy moles are a sign of good luck. The longer the measly strands of hair are, the luckier you are. So, whatever you do, don’t pluck them.

According to a lunar fortune calendar, hair indicates the mole is alive and, therefore, a “good” mole. So, until the luck of a hairy mole can be disproved, the myth will continue and Asian men around the world will continue to groom their most prized physical trait.

In the old dynastic days, long fingernails were a sign you were rich and didn’t have to do manual labor. No doubt there’s some truth to this. Now they grow out the pinky nail as a sign of culture, breeding and wealth. A bit of browsing on the internet turns up photos of ornate fingernail protectors worn by ladies of the imperial court.

The Vietnamese also believe that if the little finger (including the nail) reaches past the last knuckle joint on the ring finger, you’ll be rich and intelligent. Generally, though, you’ll see men using it for general scratching and ear cleaning.

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