Though distinctly Asian, Vietnam’s history of colonialism and wars make its traditions a complex mix of East and West. The Lunar New Year is by far the most important holiday of the year, and Hanoi effectively shuts down for a week at this time, but the Western New Year is also celebrated, as is International Labor Day.

As you live in Hanoi, you will gradually learn to recognize and follow local customs relating to food, dress and greetings. These customs may seem confusing and opaque at first, but don’t worry! Though traditions are deeply ingrained in Vietnam, the Vietnamese are extremely accommodating to foreigners, and almost never take offense. Be sensitive to your environment and what others do–for example, if you visit a local friend and your host takes his shoes off before entering the house, you should, too. However, if you make a mistake with any such customs, no one will be angry. You will be respected as a guest in Vietnam, and you will never have any problems as long as you do your best to show respect in turn.