Whereas Americans often immediately introduce themselves in given situations, the ordinary people of Vietnam think this to be rather bold and like to have a mutual acquaintance make the introduction. They will rarely introduce themselves when going into a home or office until asked to do so. This may be due to their innate shyness and modesty.
Names carry great importance in Vietnam. Often Vietnamese will have secret names, known only to themselves and their parents. If it is given away, the person believes he is exposed to evil spirits. Except in rare cases, family names are seldom used outside of the family circle. Children are often called names in rank of birth, such as Chi-hai, Chi-ba (daughter two, daughter three).
One should call Vietnamese people by Mr., Mrs., or Miss until asked to go on a first name basis. They do not do this as quickly as Americans in their relationships with people. Especially important, when in the company of a third person, your friend must be called by his name with a Mr., Miss, or Mrs. proceeding it, as the case may be. If this is not done, it may suggest great intimacy or friendliness, or can also be interpreted as being arrogant treatment of the individual by a superior.
Most Vietnamese names consist of a family name, middle name and a personal or given name. The order is reverse to the American custom. For instance, John Paul Jones’ name in Vietnamese style would be Jones Paul John. However, we do not call someone by his family name in Vietnam. If we use the names for instance, Miss Hau Dinh Cam. Hau is the family name. We would call her Miss Cam. Jones Paul John would be Mr. John. On very informal occasions, we might at their request call them Cam or John, but would always add a Miss or Mr. to the name in the presence of other people outside of the group.
An exception to this rule dates back to traditional customs of long ago when beloved leaders were called by their family names.
It is desirable to call Vietnamese professional and government officials by their title, i.e., Mr. Assemblyman, Mr. Doctor, Mr. Lieutenant, etc.