‘Saving face’ and food waste: An observation from northern, central, and southern Vietnam

Editor’s note: Nguyen Van Cong explains how a fear of ‘losing face’ by people in northern and central Vietnam leads them to buy more food than needed, only to throw away leftovers – a stark contrast to their southern peers. As in several Asian countries, the importance of ‘ saving face’ – behaving in a way that projects a certain reputation – is paramount in Vietnam. Cong, who lives and works in the south, introduces himself as being born to a northern Vietnamese mother and a central Vietnamese father, an upbringing which allowed him to closely observe and experience the culture of ‘saving face’ in all three regions. He says that people in northern and central Vietnam “pay too much attention to etiquette and sometimes make things overcomplicated” when inviting guests to a meal at their houses, especially when compared to those in the southern region. From his observation and experience, Cong has drawn three main conclusions about the issue in this piece sent to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper. 1. People in the south: simple eating, no showing-off The menu for a party in the south, particularly in Saigon or the Mekong Delta, usually consists of fewer dishes compared to that for a bash in the north and central regions. The party hosts will make it simple and quick, large ceremonial parties excluded. Whenever guests drop by for a meal, southerners prepare quick, simple dishes while still focusing on creating a cozy, respectful welcoming atmosphere. For instance, a hotpot, which can… [Read full story]

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