In Da Nang, eating food is inevitably accompanied by drinking beer. While Vietnam is home to some of the world’s most steadfast drinkers, Da Nang outperforms either Saigon or Hanoi when it comes to beer consumption. Unlike Saigon, Da Nang people start early, and unlike Hanoi, they finish late. If you want to hang with the locals, you’ll need to know a few rules regarding Da Nang drinking culture:
Da Nang Drinking Culture Rules
- Never drink alone. This one’s important, so I’ll say it again. NEVER DRINK ALONE. If you want to take a drink, even a tiny sip, you need to clink glasses with everyone at the table first. Only then are you allowed to drink.
- Speaking of clinking glasses, if you’re not already good friends with everyone at the table, makes sure you use two hands to cheers (the non-glass-hand elbow-grab counts too) and also that the rim of your glass is below other people’s rims. This is a way to show respect.
- Always have an open beer in front of you. This indicates your willingness to keep going. Conversely, by not having an open beer, you’re signalling to everyone that you want to finish early. Not advisable.
- Also make sure your glass is always full. So you take a sip, fill it up, then sit there (remember Rule #1!). Having a full glass serves the same purpose as Rule #3 but as an added benefit, makes it easier to follow Rule #7.
- If, god-forbid, you have to leave the drinking session early, you need to ask permission from the table. Cho xin phép về trước (please give me permission to go home early) usually gets the job done. You’ll almost always be requested to finish your glass, and probably your bottle, before leaving.
- Yelling một-hai-ba-dô! before every cheers is not required. It’s actually a bit amateur. Vietnamese people only do that when they’re already wasted. Play it cool and don’t be the one to initiate it.
- Obey the percentages. Sometimes you will hear calls of “50%” or “100%”. These refer to how much of your glass you need to drink, and everyone has to yield to these instructions. Other times the signal is more cryptic: sạch sẽ (“clean”) means 100%, even when it’s “50% clean”. (Năm mươi sạch sẽ). Confusing, I know. “Go to Ca Mau”, the southern-most city in Vietnam, means 100% as well.
- The person who invites pays. If it’s your first time drinking with a particular group, you won’t be expected to pay. Even offering is unnecessary, and Vietnamese people will most certainly refuse your money. However, it’s common for groups of friends to split the check. Paying is power; the boss will always pay for his employees, and letting someone pay for you is ‘deferring’ to their higher position.
Other Da Nang Drinking Culture tips
You may sometimes see people drinking warm beer, even in the middle of the day. You’re probably wondering, “What the hell are they thinking?” Most likely they have a cough. Vietnamese people believe ice is bad for your throat, so will eschew đá (but definitely not beer) when the cold bug strikes.
On the other hand, keep a big piece of ice in your beer if you are getting drunk too quickly. The bigger ice will water down the beer faster. It’s not much, but it goes a long way over a 3-hour session.
Vietnamese drinking culture, and in particular Da Nang drinking culture, may seem strange at first. But give it some time, and the rules take on their own internal logic. The one aspect I don’t care for is that people sometimes get forced to drink more than they want. Other than that, I honestly prefer drinking this way to the Western-style “everyone drinks as much as they want, whenever they want.” There’s a lot more comroadery when you follow Da Nang drinking culture rules, and to me that’s the whole point of drinking in the first place.
Want to get more insights into the unique culture of Da Nang people? Join a food tour!