There is a famous saying that “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” and it is also an important note you should bear in your mind to avoid indelicacy situations. Sapa is a Northwestern mountainous district of Vietnam where many ethnic minorities in Vietnam live like H’mong, Dao, Tay, Pho … Local people in Sapa are well-known for their hospitability and generosity. However, you should try learning suitable behavior in order not to get into unexpected problems.
First and foremost, it is not to mention about clothes; white lines cloths is highly tabooed because it is the color of funeral. Next, walking to visit around villages is a popular interest of many travellers; however, sometimes you can see a bunch of green leaves hung on the top the high pillar inside villages such as Cat Cat, Ta Van, Ta Phin … That is the signal to recommend you not to go into the village. It means that, the local is worshipping gods or dispelling evil spirits so they do not want other people to come in. Also, you should avoid making noise when visiting the ethnic villages because it may break the peaceful and quiet atmosphere of the village.
Secondly, there is a divine place inside the village where often has an old tree and many sculptures; it is the most powerful place – a forbidden forest where villagers often gather for ritual ceremonies. You are not permitted to play inside the place and littering trash is unacceptable. Besides, whistling is tabooed there because the ethnic believe that whistle is the sound calls evil spirits.
Thirdly, when you come into a house in an ethnic village, you should follow the guidance of the host. You are not allowed to sit in the room which is in the middle of the house. Because for ethnic families, the middle room is the most scared place in the house, it is used for ritual ceremonies. Specially, when you enter a Mong family, you may not to sit on front seats which are used for the forefathers of the family even they are passed away. When talking, you should not point ahead, Mong people consider this as a rude behavior and you contempt them. In the stilt house of Mong people, there often has a big pillar which was buried under the ground and high up to the roof. It is the main pillar of the house where the ghost dwells so you are not allowed to hang your clothes or lean on it. Ethnic people are very hospitable and welcoming, after talking they often invited you to have meal with their family. During the meal, the hosts may offer you some wine to express their esteem with you; if you cannot drink some wine, you should refuse to drink gently. Do not put the bowl upside down, only witches are permitted to do that to dispel evil spirits.
Last but not least, you should not kiss on the head of the ethnic children in the villages even you have an affection on them; the ethnic people think that the action can make the children get sick.
Here are some notes for whoever intends to come to Sapa, you should remember them for not having unexpected problems while travelling. Hope that they are useful for you.