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Vietnamese Conversation Starters for Deeper Connections

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Why keep saying “Xin chào” to Vietnamese native speakers when there are countless ways to start a conversation? Strangers are everywhere no matter if you’re at a party, on the first day at work, or on a first date. Starting a conversation can be scary sometimes, especially with introverts and Vietnamese people. It sounds weird but true. Vietnamese native speakers tend to be shy and less active when talking to new people. 

However, no need to bother whether you’re an absolute beginner or an intermediate, in the Vietnamese language learning framework, Vietnamese conversation starters can be easier to apply than you thought.

Needless to say that choosing the right personal pronoun to address people is a must in Vietnamese language learning. Interestingly, Vietnamese native speakers start talking by guessing how old the other person is so that they can call them properly. This shows the diversity of the Vietnamese language compared to others. More importantly, using the right tone is useful in this case to help you avoid awkwardness. Don’t panic! We have the list of conversation starters in Vietnamese language learning broken down by the 4 most common situations where you can comfortably start a conversation without hesitance. Ready? Keep reading!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Vietnamese Table of Contents
  1. You’re Single and Ready to Mingle!
  2. Conversation Starters for Socializing
  3. Conversation Starters for First Day at Work
  4. Conversation Starters to Reconnect with a Friend through Text or Email
  5. Conclusion

1. You’re Single and Ready to Mingle!

A Woman and a Man Having Coffee

The truth is, talking about yourself too much on the first date is considered impolite in Vietnam sometimes. Instead, Vietnamese native speakers preferred to be listened to and received compliments. Then what to ask on the first date without being rude when learning Vietnamese? Here are some examples for your Vietnamese speaking exercises:

  • Công việc của em/anh thế nào? (How’s your job?/What’s your job like?)

Asking about someone’s work is one of the safest Vietnamese conversation topics when starting a conversation in Vietnam. We all spend 8 hours per day working. Thus, no need to worry at all when asking “Công việc của em/anh thế nào?” because it’s quite comfortable to share some typical things at the office that we do every day. 

Another version for it when learning Vietnamese can be : 

  • Bình thường ở công ty công việc chính của em/anh là gì? (Normally what are your main duties at the company?)

Once the person is willing to share about their job, he/she will probably want to talk about more personal Vietnamese conversation topics such as family. The next opening questions could be: 

  • Gia đình em/anh như thế nào? (How is your family?/What is your family like?)
  • Em/Anh kể về gia đình anh/em đi (Tell me about your family)
  • Em/anh có anh chị em gì không? (Do you have any siblings?)
  • Anh/chị em/anh làm gì? (What does your brother/sister do?)

The technique here is to ask questions that end with “thế nào” (how) or “gì”(what) so that the person has a chance to talk more than just saying Yes or No. Forget about “Em tên là gì” (What’s your name?) or “Em bao nhiêu tuổi” (How old are you?). They’re boring. Instead, get to the point, and you’ll be surprised that it works better than traditional ways of Vietnamese language learning. Cooking can also be a nice Vietnamese conversation topic to talk to Vietnamese women about, who doesn’t enjoy eating and cooking?

A Couple Sharing Drinks on a Date at a Restaurant

Now, bear in mind that compliments always work. But how do you make your compliments sound sincere and less fake? Take a look at this one when learning Vietnamese:

  • Em dùng nước hoa gì vậy, anh thích mùi này (What perfume are you wearing? I like this scent)

Vietnamese native speakers would love to hear that someone likes their scent, no matter if they’re wearing cologne or not. Please note that a nice scent can come from clothes, hair, or oil also. Showing that you care about little things is a great way to show affection towards the person, especially for women. No matter where you are or who you’re talking to, starting a conversation with a compliment is always the best. Don’t forget to practice your Vietnamese speaking exercises with this kind of sentence. 

Men, on the other hand, are slightly different. Things like watches, shirts, or shoes are ways for them to show their style. Therefore, a simple compliment can make their day:

  • Anh đeo đồng hồ hợp lắm (You look good wearing a watch)

Once a Vietnamese man wears a watch, he loves watches, and nothing sounds better than knowing his style is appreciated. Your conversation can start smoother than ever. Note that when learning Vietnamese!

Other examples that will also work:

  • Em mặc váy trông rất hợp (Dresses suit you a lot)
  • Em có đôi mắt rất đẹp (You have very beautiful eyes)
  • Công việc của anh thú vị ghê (Your job sounds very interesting)

What not to say on the first date

We’re not done yet. You don’t want to sound rude on the first date by talking about Vietnamese conversation-sensitive topics. Here are a few things that you may want to avoid when learning Vietnamese. In case the date is already a disaster, this happens to be helpful for you to get out of it. 

  • Lương của em một tháng được bao nhiêu? (How much is your salary?)

A guy asked me on our first date how much I made per month when we were at the cinema. Apparently, I’ve never seen him ever since. It’s not about the question, it’s about the intention of wanting to know how much a woman makes on the first meeting. It would make more sense if it was the tenth date. Nevertheless, asking about someone’s financial status is not a good idea at all if you don’t want to ruin your conversation. 

  • Em có biết tại sao Việt Nam lại có cả thủ tướng và chủ tịch nước không? (Do you know why Vietnam has both a prime minister and a president?)

Talking about politics is not that bad if the person is familiar with it. In case he or she is not a big fan of politics, your conversation can be boring, and it will come to an end. Furthermore, changing the topic can be tricky at this point. Therefore, try to avoid politics unless you clearly know your partner is interested. 

  • Em yêu mấy người rồi? (How many guys were you in a relationship with?) 

This is a disaster. Personal relationship status is a big deal in Vietnam. Even if someone is comfortable sharing it, it’s a terrible idea to ask such a question on the first date. There is a rumor that Vietnamese girls usually say three when being asked this question. Wondering why? Two is a bit too little, and four is a little too many. Three, therefore, is a suitable number. God knows how many they actually dated.

  • Không trang điểm trông em xin hơn đấy (You look better without makeup)

When you’re dating already, this means a lot to Vietnamese women because not everyone knows how to do makeup. Saying she looks better without makeup is highly appreciated because you’re saying she’s naturally beautiful. HOWEVER, saying that someone looks better without makeup on the first date in Vietnam indicates that she looks terrible with her makeup on, which is very rude to say to be honest. Now you know why! Again, remember not to use this type of sentence in your Vietnamese speaking exercises.

Relax! Let’s move on to the second situation, where I’ll show you detailed steps from the beginning to the end of a conversation in Vietnamese language learning. 

2. Conversation Starters for Socializing

3 Friends Socializing Over Lunch

When learning Vietnamese, these 5 steps are typical techniques to connect with someone for the first time, whether you’re at a party, a social event, or even at a club. Remember that follow-up questions are highly recommended to extend the conversation and have more ideas for the next Vietnamese conversation topics. The good news is that slang terms can be used in this case to impress people. Now, let’s start with the very first step of Vietnamese language learning – Greetings, the basic one. 

Step 1: Greetings 

  • Chào em/Chào anh (Hi)
  • Anh tên là/Em tên là (I’m [name])

Instead of saying Xin chào (Hello), Chào anh/em sounds closer and friendlier. In addition, using Anh – Em is a great way to start a conversation because it’s common to address each other Anh – Em in a relationship. You have just shortened the distance by using 2 simple words. 

Also, greeting does not mean you have to say “Hi” all the time. Remember the “get to the point” technique above? Here are some examples: 

  • Hôm nay nhạc chơi hay nhỉ (The music today is nice, isn’t it?) – At a club or a party
  • Đồ uống ở đây pha ngon (Drinks are made well here)
  • Em đi với bạn hay đi một mình (Do you come with friends or you’re here alone?)

Step 2: Asking for more information

  • Em/anh đến đây lâu chưa?(How long have you been here?)
  • Em/anh học/làm ở đâu? (Where do you study/work?)
  • Em/anh có hay đến đây chơi không? (Do you often hang out here?)

Step 3: Asking about common hobbies

  • Lúc rảnh anh/em thích làm gì? (What do you like to do in your free time?)
  • Em/anh thích ăn gì? (What do you like to eat/what’s your favorite food?)
  • Em/anh có thích … không? (Do you like + examples?)

Step 4: Making an appointment using Let’s structure in Vietnamese.

  • Tuần sau em/anh có rảnh không? (Are you free next week?), đi xem phim đi (let’s go watch movies)
  • Hôm nào em/anh rảnh? (When are you available?)
  • Anh có thể mời em đi uống cà phê được không? (May I invite you out for coffee sometime?)

Step 5: Asking for contact

  • Em/anh có dùng Zalo không? (Do you use Zalo?)
  • Em có dùng + [mạng xã hội] không? (Do you use any + [social network])?

Besides, knowing basic etiquette in Vietnam will also get you on the way to becoming more familiar with anyone you talk to for the first time when learning Vietnamese. It shows how much you care about the cultures as well as the people and this is an exact approach. Don’t forget to practice your Vietnamese speaking exercises with this kind of sentence.

3. Conversation Starters for First Day at Work

A Supervisor Helping an Employee with Something on Their Computer

On the other hand, talking at work requires higher techniques in some other situations when learning Vietnamese. Asking too many questions on the first day at work might be considered bad manners or a sign of inexperience in Vietnam. Instead, making smart questions and spending time to self-study before asking is a good way to remember things and get to know the job. Instead of asking only, people can make requests, and use How or multiple-choice questions when learning Vietnamese. Details are as follows:

Example 1: Asking where something is by making requests

  • Anh chỉ giúp em phòng Marketing với ạ (Please show me the Marketing Department)
  • Chị đi cùng em lên phòng điều hành nhé (Please go with me to the Operations Department)
  • Phòng Kế toán ở tầng 3 hay tầng 4 ý nhỉ (Is the Accounting Department on the 3rd or 4th floor?)
  • Anh share giúp em thư mục … nhé (Please share with me the … folder)

Example 2: Making How questions

  • Bình thường anh lưu trữ tài liệu thế nào ạ? (How do you often store documents?)
  • Quy trình xin hoá đơn bên công ty mình như thế nào ạ? (What is the process of applying for invoicing in our company like?)
  • Chị lên lịch dự án như thế nào ạ? (How do you schedule projects?)

Example 3: Using multiple choice questions by asking for specific cultures

  • Mọi người hay mang cơm hay là ra ngoài ăn trưa? (Do you usually bring food or go out for lunch?)
  • Ngày nghỉ mọi người thường hay đi ăn hay tối hay là đi cà phê? (Do you usually go out for dinner or drink coffee on your days off?)
  • Phòng mình có hay uống trà sữa không? (Do you often drink milk tea?)

Another technique that might help when starting conversations when learning Vietnamese is to show interest by using exclamations. Remember that the little things matter, especially for conversation starters in Vietnamese. 

Besides, do you know that Vietnamese native speakers are religious sometimes? Knowing someone’s age and the 12 Zodiac animals is an interesting tool. We’ll have a bunch of things to talk about the 12 Zodiac animals in another blog. 

4. Conversation Starters to Reconnect with a Friend through Text or Email 

Starting a conversation after a long time with someone can be awkward. Vietnamese native speakers sometimes call very old friends to invite them to their wedding or even… borrow money. How to start a conversation in this case without reluctance for both? These are some common questions in Vietnamese language learning to reconnect with someone you haven’t seen for a while.

A Woman Texting Someone and Smiling

Common questions : 

  • Khoẻ không? (Are you doing well?)
  • Dạo này thế nào rồi (How have you been doing lately?)
  • Có gì mới không (Anything new?)
  • Công việc dạo này thế nào rồi? (How has your work been?)
  • Sắp tới có dự định gì không? (Do you have any plans in the near future?)

Here are some extra questions if you want to be more specific

  • Em bé dạo này ngoan không? (Is the baby good these days?)
  • Công việc của ông xã thế nào rồi? (How is your husband’s work) 
  • Ba mẹ bạn khoẻ không? (Are your parents doing okay?)

5. Conclusion

Once you both could feel the vibe, it is easier to move on to another Vietnamese conversation topic. Think of all the common things you’ve had together and naturally share your thoughts or reasons for why you haven’t connected for a while. Most people you have a good relationship with will also quickly get involved in the conversations.

Mindful conversation starters are best for deepening relationships and encouraging meaningful talks, whether with newcomers, family members, or friends. What are some of your favorite questions to ask or answer? Share them in the comment below and visit VietnamesePod101.com for more learning materials.

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