In the second Vietnamese Lesson for Travelers I will show you how you can call people in restaurants and bars to serve you with a smile on their faces. This is something I learned from my Vietnamese friend that not many people use.

How do you address someone?

Vietnamese have up to seven ways of treating themselves when they address another person based on their age, sex and position:

Anh – Man older than me
Ba – Woman older than my parents
Bac – Man or woman much older than my parents
Chau – Young man or woman who could be my son or grandson
Chi – Woman older than me
Em – Man or Woman younger than me
Ong – Man older than my parents

But if the Vietnamese look much younger than they are, how the hell do I know what to call them?

When you go to an establishment the normal thing is to call the clerk so that he attends you with a “¡Em Oi!”. Which comes to mean “Hey You!”.

In restaurants and breweries (the famous Bia Hoy in Hanoi with small stools and plastic chairs) you can find locals and foreigners shouting at the top of their lungs “Em Oi!” looking for attention as soon as possible. When the hours pass and the alcohol consumption per person increases, the volume of the screams increases proportionally.

Respect for everything

You can make the difference, and this is what I learned from my Vietnamese friend. She was shouting something, but something different from the rest. Waiters always turned around with a smile. She always treated them with respect.

She always told them “¡Ban Oi!”, which means “¡Hey, buddy!”.

What a difference it makes if they yell “Hey, you!” or “Hey, buddy!. In the end everyone wants to be treated with respect and affection. More if you’re going to ask them for something. So if you say “Ban Oi!” to a waiter or store clerk you can be sure that you will have a smile back and they will attend to you much better.

Hen Gap Lai Ban = See you next time, buddy.

Do you like the Vietnamese language? Do you want to learn more? In this article we go deeper about this incredible language.