How it is to dine out a.k.a Nhậu in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

What business makes the most money in Vietnam?
The answer is Quán nhậu which is a place that everybody comes to meet their friends, drink beer and enjoy life.
But why? Because Vietnamese people drink for almost every reason. Sad => drink, happy => drink, just bought something new => drink, long time no see friends => drink, New Year => drink, National Holiday => drink, nothing to do => drink…etc..
Therefore, the places are always crowded with people, every night, 365 days a year (or 366 days if leap year).
And to blend in the drinking culture, these are some facts/advice to all the expats and travelers in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon):

  1. The Promoting Girl:
    As soon as you sit down you might be assisted by young ladies dressed in beer company uniform (the common will be Heneiken, Saigon Special, Bud Weiser, Tiger, Strongbow, Desperados…). Their purpose is, of course, to make you drink the beer they are promoting.
    But you can always turn down their offer and call your favorite beer.
  2. The menu
    Ask for them with the quote: “Cho anh/chị xem menu, em ơi” (May I see the menu?) and take your time. Even when the waiter who brought the menu for you will probably stand right next to you and wait for you to make your order. And don’t feel irritating about this, they are trying to show their manifestation of attentiveness.

    Now, almost every quán nhậu has the online menu so that you can look it up beforehand to see what the best dishes are, reviews etc.. (but mostly in Vietnamese)
    Or, you can ask the waiter what is the best and go with the flow, the magic quote is “Món gì ngon nhất ở đây” (What’s the best here?)

  3.  The dishes
    The dishes are always meant to be shared. Everyone will pick things up from the dish and put in their bowl.
    You also can receive the special treat. People will plop something into your bowl if others really like you and want you to enjoy the best part of the dish. So, believe the locals.
  4. The drink
    You will always be pushed to drink a little more and more and more, especially if you are a male and/or a foreigner.
    But since you’re foreigners, you can always make excuses.

    Nhậu is the efficient team building activity in Vietnam. But be careful with it. There is no “don’t drink and drive” here and most accidents are from drunk drivers. You play with the fire, you get burned.

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