Below are categories for questions that have been answered by community members. Keep in mind that the following responses may represent many members of this group but do not represent all people in a community. Not all people from diverse populations conform to commonly known culture-specific behaviors, beliefs and actions. Each person is an individual, as well as a community member.

What cultural / ethnic / religious traditions or beliefs should law enforcement be aware of?

  • The family unit is very important in Vietnamese culture. A typical family has three or four generations living under the same roof.
  • Vietnamese culture stresses the importance of showing respect for elders.
  • Many Vietnamese elders do not speak English well. If you ask them something, they may listen, smile and nod. This does not necessarily mean they understand you; they are being friendly and polite.
  • Vietnamese people tend to be very polite, avoid talking about feelings, and are stoic.

What is the appropriate manner to greet you? (demeanor, non-verbal, body space, handshake, bow, male-female interaction etc.)

  • If possible, a same gender officer should interact with or search family members.
  • Many Vietnamese men shake hands in greeting and saying goodbye. Shake with both hands, and bow your head slightly as you shake. Bowing your head slightly is the preferred greeting by Vietnamese women and elders. Women typically do not shake hands with each other or with men.
  • Vietnamese people typically avoid direct eye contact and may gaze downward when talking. Avoiding eye contact demonstrates respect to elders, people of higher status or of the opposite sex.
  • Speaking in a loud tone with excessive gestures is considered rude, especially when done by women.
  • To summon a person, the entire hand with the fingers facing down is the only appropriate hand signal. Using the middle finger to point, with other fingers closed is a common gesture and is not a sign of disrespect. Pointing to other people while talking is considered disrespectful.

Who should be addressed or acknowledged first? Who is the head of the household?

  • Vietnamese families live in multi-generational households. If the elder does not speak English, he or she may call their child to translate.
  • The eldest male, the husband or the wife would be considered the head of the household.
  • The use of a trained interpreter rather than a younger child is preferred in order to maintain family hierarchy dynamics.
  • Vietnamese immigrants who have higher education are more likely to be fluent in English. They are more likely to interact well when approached by a police officer. Those with less education may fear being interrogated and reluctant to engage in a conversation.

What is your view / perception of law enforcement? What has been your community's experience with law enforcement?

  • The demeanor of a police officer is important because the Vietnamese read faces to communicate. If police officers appear cold and serious, then they are less likely to get information.
  • The police could use more translation services. Translators are available through telephone companies. Also, the police department could partner with the county to create an employee volunteer pool of translators.
  • Vietnamese elders sometimes experience fear seeing authority figures in uniform because in Vietnam, the police pound on doors and aggressively approach people.
  • When the local police approach, Vietnamese elders may walk away due to fear and language barriers.