Following the renewed attention for non-structural flood risk reduction measures implemented at the household level, there has been an increased interest in individual flood risk perceptions. The reason for this is the commonly-made assumption that flood risk perceptions drive the motivation of individuals to undertake flood risk mitigation measures, as well as the public's demand for flood protection, and therefore provide useful insights for flood risk management. This study empirically examines these assumptions by presenting data from a survey conducted among 300 households in central Vietnam. The main implications for flood risk communication and the stimulation of precautionary behaviour are that the current predominant focus on flood risk perceptions in the academic literature, and risk communication policy is not supported. Hence, the study provides an important contribution to the existing literature that mainly studies flood risk perceptions in developed countries. © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd and The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM).