Car seat etiquette can prove a headache

February 26, 2023 - 08:49
A set of guidelines published by the Hà Nội Business School on the etiquette of where to sit in a car recently caught public attention.
Illustration by Trịnh Lập

by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà

In the last days of 2022, the General Department of Statistics published an annual socio-economic report.

Vietnamese car companies reported that in December alone the numbers of cars assembled in the country reached 39,700 units, making the total yearly output of 439,600 units, an almost 15 per cent increase on 2021.

Car manufacturers and importers predict that Việt Nam will assemble 500,000 vehicles this year.

The more cars that run on the country's roads, the more we need to consider car etiquette.

A set of guidelines published by the Hà Nội Business School on the etiquette of where to sit in a car recently caught public attention. On its Facebook fan page post, more than 4,000 comments were posted.

The post shows placements in a car, pointing out that the top left was the driver's seat, then for the two seats on the back row, the most important person must sit on the right, and his or her companion on the left.

If it's a company car and the driver takes his seat, the secretary shall take the front row, right seat.

If it's a boss's car, and he's driving, the rules change and the next most important person sits next to the boss who drives. In any case, if the boss drives, someone must sit in the front row to keep him company.

"This will definitely make him feel like he's the Uber driver," commented Trang Hến, a reader of the 'guide' at the HBR school's post.

Another reader added, "And they'd ask me to drop them off at the gate, then I'll have to go park my car, and meet up with them later!"

Keeping this in mind, I once got a ride from my friend, and there were only two of us, so I offered to sit in front to keep her company. To my surprise, she asked me to sit in the back, making me think I was being a bossy self-important person. In fact, as she usually rides the car on her own, the front next-to-the-driver seat is usually reserved for her lunch bag, and a few sets of shoes and sandals, so she can grab or change during her hectic workday.

If I were to sit there, then she'd have to remove everything, which is even more troubling than having me sit in the back. This has nothing to do with any inferiority or superiority complexes.

Unpleasant comments have also been made by some middle-aged Vietnamese living abroad who say when they offer rides to youngsters who have come from Việt Nam to study, they just jump in the back without consideration for the driver.

Others see these rules a petty. "You are making a big fuss out of nothing," said one Vietnamese commenter named Tuan Anh Pham. "When you offer a ride, people can sit wherever they want and feel comfortable. If you give them a ride, and then dictate where to sit, they will think you're too finicky and will not bother to ride with you any more."

As Vietnamese society today has developed, and people drive more, whether you get carsick or not is proving an important factor in where people sit in a car.

"The least rocking seat shall be reserved for a carsick person," wrote another commenter on the post. "Even if we go on a business trip, the person who gets carsick always gets the top right seat, even if it's a company car or the boss drives.

The list of so-called rules is endless, and invariably gender roles come into play.

"Be aware, if you're a lady getting a ride from a man, when you sit in his car, you'd better take the back row because it could easily be thought that you're trying to get too close to the man, even though it was just a ride, and nothing more," commented another person on the post.

Even if the sitting rules in Việt Nam are different from the rules published by the business school, it's helpful to know about them. Knowing the rules can be helpful for those who work in international companies, or for foreign diplomatic corps.

When you get a ride in your company car, or with your friends, do as Vietnamese always do, and always reserve the best seat for someone who may not feel well. If it's a company's trip, a carsick person may not be in a great shape to present the company best.

Outlining company rules is important, but making rules that work best for staff health and wellbeing is even more important, even if 'status' is jeopardised for a short car trip from your home office to a contractor's meeting room.

Etiquette is good to keep in mind, but you also need to take other factors into account. Remember to have a safe ride, depending on where you sit. VNS