Most places in the United States have a very clean-cut business market. If someone wants to shop they will go to a designated area and make their transaction. Usually there are price tags involved and the whole process is very easy. An American customer can rest assured that they have paid a fair amount after their purchase because they thoroughly understand the currency.
In Vietnam, do not look at someone for too long unless you want to buy something and don’t try to buy something to buy something unless you have memorized the value of the currency. Most people will try to rip you off; especially if you look foreign. Vietnam is a huge flea-market and one must master its economic flow.
Haggling, sweet-talking, and walking away are some of the most important tactics one should know in order to thrive in the Vietnamese market. There are rarely price tags on anything and if you ask the shopkeeper “bao nhiêu tiền?” or “How much money is this?” they will often show you a calculator with an amount that is much higher than the actual worth. The trick is to just spend a few days walking around and figuring out the street-rate of common items and the comparing the prices.
The main weapon in a buyer’s arsenal is knowing the exchange rate. It may seem really complicated but it becomes second-nature after a few days. 20,000 Dong (pronounced Dome) is a little less than a dollar. There are four main denominations: 20,000 Dong, 50,000 Dong, 100,000 Dong, and 200,000 Dong. Memorizing the conversions is of the utmost importance: 20,000 = $1.00, 50,000 =$2.50, 100,000 = $5.00, 200,000 = $10.00. It is also very helpful to remember combinations such as: two fifties equals five dollars, two one hundreds is equal to ten dollars, etc..
I have learned a lot about business since I have been here and, through learning from being ripped-off, I have gotten to the point of understanding the busy market of Vietnam and enjoying the organized chaos. Going back to American markets will be the next challenge.