Vietnam Business Culture and Its Effects on Business Relationships in the Country
Vietnam business culture can be difficult to grasp for foreign investors and workers. Aside from the obvious language barrier, there are social norms that may confuse new foreign entrants into the market. In this guide, we will delve into the strategies to successfully forge valuable partnerships and comprehend the nuances of workplace culture..
The fundamental values of Vietnam business culture
Overall, Vietnam business culture places a strong emphasis on tradition, harmony, and maintaining one’s reputation or “face.” Specifically, respect for authority, especially senior colleagues, is vital. Communication is often indirect and polite to avoid conflict, and public disagreements are discouraged. Building and preserving positive relationships is key, and face-saving solutions are sought to maintain dignity and respect.
In Vietnamese culture, greetings are very important. A simple phrase you can learn to use when greeting someone for the first time is “Xin chao,” which means “Hello.” Meanwhile, a handshake and a slight bow are common forms of greeting in the Vietnamese business environment.
It is critical to show respect by addressing someone by their proper title and using honorifics such as “Mr.” or “Ms.”
Simple greetings and expressions of gratitude can affect your business partner’s attitude positively. These simple gestures not only demonstrate your dedication to understanding their language but also convey your deep respect for their rich culture and way of life. Embracing these linguistic subtleties can enhance your interactions and enrich your experience while in Vietnam.
Navigating the nuances of the Vietnamese language can be a rewarding challenge. As a tonal language, Vietnamese can be quite complex, where a slight change in tone can completely alter the meaning of a word. While many Vietnamese people do not expect foreigners to be fluent, making an effort to speak a few basic words can go a long way.
Hierarchy and Respect
This is a very important aspect of Vietnam business culture in general. When addressing someone, always use titles, especially in a business setting. Titles such as “Bác” (uncle), “Cô” (aunt), “Ông” (Mr.), and “Bà” (Mrs.) are commonly used. It’s important to address individuals correctly based on their age and position.
Respect for elders is highly valued in Vietnamese culture. Respect older people and pay attention to their advice and guidance.
“Face” is a crucial aspect of understanding Vietnamese business. Despite the significant progress in modernization, a strong sense of tradition remains deeply ingrained in the culture.
Vietnamese are inclined to uphold societal and cultural norms, and one of which dictates that self-image is closely tied to social standing. Central to this concept is the idea of “face,” symbolizing an individual’s reputation, dignity, and prestige. This expands to business culture, as Vietnamese enterprises will try to save face for both parties while conducting business.
It is important to present yourself professionally and with discretion. Men typically wear suits and ties to formal business settings, while women typically dress professionally. Modesty in clothing is appreciated. You should dress appropriately for occasions like fine dining, a party, or a first meeting.
Remember that dressing appropriately not only reflects your professionalism but also demonstrates respect for your partners. It can contribute to creating a positive impression and building strong business relationships in Vietnam.
Punctuality is not only an important aspect of Vietnamese business culture but also a valued virtue of Vietnamese people in general. Meetings are expected to start on time, but they may start slightly later. Unfortunately, there are many things that may impact your punctuality, predominantly the country’s borderline chaotic traffic. In large cities such as Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, traffic congestion can be a major issue. Plan your travel time accordingly to account for potential traffic delays.
Business etiquette in Vietnam
After you have grasped the fundamentals of Vietnamese culture, we have compiled a list of additional points to consider.
Communication in Vietnam is frequently indirect and polite. Maintaining a calm and respectful tone is critical. Language that is confrontational or aggressive should be avoided. Saving face is crucial, so criticism should be delivered tactfully and privately. Furthermore, in order to maintain harmony, they may avoid saying “no” directly. You should pay attention to their impression or tone of voice to understand what they mean.
Be patient during negotiations and avoid rushing the process. Building consensus is frequently more important than individual decisions.
Body language in Vietnam may differ from that in your home country, which may lead to misunderstandings. For example, hugging is a sign of affection in Western countries, but not in Vietnam. Furthermore, in Vietnam, folding one’s arm or putting one or both hands in one’s pockets is seen as arrogance and a lack of regard for the opposite. Remember, cultural sensitivity and adaptability are key to building positive relationships in Vietnam.
If you are invited to a business meal, a typical Vietnamese meal includes many dishes on the table at the same time. There are some unspoken rules and the hosts will not tell you as they do not want to appear imposing.
One, it is customary to offer the most senior person at the table the first serving of food or drink. Additionally, tapping chopsticks into bowls during a meal is considered impolite and should be avoided. In fact, you can opt for other utensils if you please, because fumbling with food can be considered tacky. Other than that, be sure to pass things around with both hands, especially to seniors, eat in your own bowl and use the shared utensils to get food, do not pick and choose, and remember to socialize during the meal.
Beverage wise, tea or water is usually served as a gesture of hospitality, and you should accept it with pleasure. Although tipping is not customary in Vietnam, you can leave a 5–10% tip should you wish to do so.
Giving and receiving gifts is a common way to express goodwill. If you want to give a gift, do so at the end of the meeting. It is important to be modest; the gifts do not have to be expensive or grand, but they should be useful, and it is customary to use both hands and smile when presenting a gift. Opening gifts are usually done in private.
Patience and Preparation
In Vietnam, doing business is quite formal and will require a considerable amount of time. Successful deals usually require several meetings, which may span several months. So, it is important to plan ahead by sending a formal email or making a phone call as well as preparing a detailed agenda for the meeting.
Furthermore, to avoid misunderstandings, it is best to have a local translator with you. If possible, make sure all documents are in both Vietnamese and English. The language barrier can potentially cause misunderstandings. It is important to be patient and clarify with interpreters before responding or answering questions.
By observing and respecting these customs, you will be able to effectively navigate the vietnam business culture, build positive relationships, and foster goodwill with your Vietnamese counterparts. On Digitals, we hope that this information will be useful to you as you embark on your journey into the Vietnamese market. Visit our website for more information. On Digitals is a Digital Marketing Agency, perfect for enterprises seeking solutions to promote your products or services. We look forward to the possibility of becoming your future partner.