Working Effectively with the Vietnamese


Working Effectively with the Vietnamese

A Working Effectively with the Vietnamese programme will increase your cultural knowledge and skills to enable…

Living and Working in Vietnam

Communicaids Living & Working in Vietnam courses are designed to respond to the needs of international…

Doing Business in Vietnam

Communicaids Doing Business in Vietnam cultural awareness courses are ideal for professionals and teams…

Vietnam in focus

Vietnam Today

Vietnam became an independent state in the 10th century but was colonised by the French in the mid 1800s. It gained independence after World War II but still retains traces of French culture which are visible in the way people communicate verbally and non-verbally. Though Vietnam has struggled over the past century through colonial rule, the Vietnam War and recent economic upheavals, it is now rebuilding itself to be able to compete on a global scale. Having a comprehensive understanding of Vietnams unique cultural values and traditions is essential if you want to develop strong and effective business relationships with Vietnamese counterparts.

Vietnamese Culture Key Concepts and Values

Confucianism Based on the teachings of the early Chinese philosopher Confucius in the 6th century BC, Confucian teachings emphasise the importance of relationships, responsibility and obligation. This philosophy is still a vital component of Vietnamese society and is prevalent in Vietnamese business culture in conserving the harmony of the collective good.

Face The idea of saving face is an important concept in Vietnamese society. The Vietnamese will do anything to prevent loss of face, even if it means to avoid confrontation or telling others what they want to hear rather than dealing with immediate issues. Criticising someone in public and not staying true to promises are possible ways that may cause a loss of face.

Collectivism Vietnam is a collectivist society in which the needs of the group are often placed over the individual. Community concerns will almost always come before business or individual needs. Family in particular plays an important role in Vietnamese society. You will notice that close ties between extended families and communities can have a major influence on individual behaviour and oftentimes there are multiple generations living under one roof.

Doing Business in Vietnam

A once war-torn nation, Vietnam experienced severe economic turmoil in the past century due to the inefficiencies of a centrally planned economy as well as the trade embargo from the US and parts of Europe. However, the implementation of the doi moi (renovation) policy in 1986 brought about reforms that allowed for economic liberalisation. A member of the World Trade Organisation since 2007, Vietnam has taken progressive steps to transform itself into a market-based, competitive economy which has seen its economy grow significantly. Vietnamese authorities have recently reaffirmed their commitment to economic modernisation and the government has shown efforts to stabilise the economy through tighter monetary and fiscal control. As such, Vietnam is becoming an increasingly attractive market for international investments. Understanding Vietnams complex history and economy and how it has influenced its unique social and business culture will help to further any business endeavours in Vietnam.

Part 1 Working in Vietnam

Working practices in Vietnam

  • Business hours are predominantly between 8.00 and 17.00 from Monday to Friday, with about an hour set aside for lunch.
  • Vietnamese prefer to schedule all meetings ahead of time, usually several weeks in advance. You should always aim to arrive at the stated time and if running late, let them know as soon as you can.
  • Business attire tends to be professional and conservative.

Structure and hierarchy in Vietnamese companies

  • Business organisations in Vietnam tend to be hierarchical. Decisions and ideas are generated at the top and more often than not, the eldest person has the most influence over the decision.
  • Status is important in Vietnamese society and respect should be given to supervisors and work colleagues. It is obtained with age and education and titles are very important in Vietnamese business culture.
  • In Vietnamese culture it is very important to respect more senior individuals, whether by education, job position or age. In business meetings, it is usually the eldest member of the group who enters the room first.
  • The Vietnamese business world is dominated by men. Though things are changing, the majority of Vietnamese women work as secretaries, assistants or other similar administrative roles. Men are accustomed to working with foreign women in more senior roles in a business context and will treat them equally.

Working relationships in Vietnam

  • Business relationships in Vietnam are relatively formal and tend to take time to develop as Vietnamese like to get to know their foreign counterparts before conducting business. Vietnamese may be suspicious of those they do not know well at first so be sure to spend the time during the first few meetings getting acquainted.
  • Vietnamese names start with the surname followed by the middle and lastly the first name. It is important to use titles whenever possible. When referring to one another, Vietnamese people will use the appropriate title followed by the first name not the surname.

Part 2 Doing Business in Vietnam

Business practices

  • International business in Vietnam is mainly conducted in English. It is, however, polite and appreciated when foreigners use the native language when possible so if you do not speak Vietnamese, it might be wise to hire a translator. A working knowledge of French is also beneficial as English will hardly be spoken in rural areas.
  • It is advisable to have all written documents translated into Vietnamese as your business counterparts in Vietnam will not necessarily indicate that they do not understand.
  • Business cards are a common practice in Vietnam. It is polite to have your business cards printed in both English and Vietnamese. When offering your card for the first time, give it using both hands with the Vietnamese side facing up.
  • Negotiations can be quite lengthy and time-consuming as the Vietnamese want to examine everything as well as consult the group before reaching an agreement. Doing business in Vietnam can also be quite slow as there is often a lot of bureaucracy to go through before any deal can be made.
  • Do not be surprised if there are long periods of silence during negotiations as Vietnamese tend to wait a while before responding. Your Vietnamese counterparts may also remain silent if there is a disagreement in order to save face.
  • Initial introductions in Vietnamese business are formal. A handshake while maintaining direct eye contact is the normal greeting and should also be exchanged upon leaving. Handshakes usually take place only between members of the same sex. Occasionally a slight bow will accompany the handshake.
  • Gift giving is a common practice in Vietnam. Gifts do not need to be expensive and should be a simple token of appreciation. Common gifts include fruit and flowers.

Business Etiquette (Dos and Donts)

DO maintain a soft voice while conducting business as loud voices and excessive hand gestures are often perceived as rude and make Vietnamese uncomfortable.

DO hand out business cards as they are a must in business dealings. Although there are some Vietnamese that have a working knowledge of English, it is considered polite business practices to print the cards in Vietnamese and use the language if possible.

DO wrap gifts in colourful paper.

DO arrive on time to meetings as Vietnamese are very punctual. Being late is considered impolite and timeliness is expected.

DONT refuse tea or food when offered by your Vietnamese counterpart. It is considered impolite.

DONT stand with your hands on your hips or with your arms crossed or use your finger to point but instead use your whole hand.

DONT publicly criticise others as it would cause the loss of face for both parties. Vietnamese are status conscious and appreciate the value of a good reputation.

DONT touch someones head as it is considered to be the spiritual centre of the person.

Vietnam Culture Quiz True or False

1. Vietnamese tend to avoid showing any emotions in their speech and facial expressions.

2. Punctuality is imperative when conducting business.

3. It is not acceptable to exchange gifts with Vietnamese counterparts as it may be seen as a bribe.

4. Some Vietnamese will not speak up even if they do not agree with their foreign counterparts in a business negotiation.