Business basics in Vietnam

Vietnam’s Independence Day is celebrated on September 2, which gives us a nice occasion to take a closer look at this exciting Southeast Asian country. Find out in today’s blog post which cultural characteristics can affect business there and how you can best handle them.

Vietnam is a coastal nation in Southeast Asia inhabited by around 95.5 million people. The country is very agriculture-oriented, ranking among the world’s largest rice and coffee producers. Its main economic and industrial hub is Ho Chi Minh City, where the majority of approximately 300 German companies are settled. It’s consequently not surprising that these two cultures are collaborating more and more closely for the purposes of mutual economic and industrial projects.

What does cross-cultural collaboration come down to? The first thing you should know is that the Vietnamese are strongly group oriented. The family represents the smallest but most important group, as it offers financial and moral support, security and protection. Similarly, there are specific responsibilities placed on family members that need to be fulfilled. In comparison with more individualistic cultures, the Vietnamese culture tends to place rather high value on family.

Family first!

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What does this mean for you? Respect these strong ties! Show understanding when business meetings don’t last very long in the evenings, because this is when Vietnamese people often want to spend time with their parents, siblings, etc. If family reasons force your Vietnamese business partner to be late or to cancel an appointment, be empathetic, express your sympathy and give your regards. Just remember: family comes before business.

On top of that, it’s always recommended to use a polite, appreciative and indirect communication style. For many Vietnamese people, friendly and harmonic relationships with business partners are important foundations for long-term collaborations. Breaches of polite manners [e.g., insults, verbal attacks or emotional outbursts] are perceived as a loss of face, which can have negative consequences on both the relationship and business levels.

Greetings and dress code

The traditional greeting with a bow is rather uncommon with international business partners. Shaking hands [careful: not too strong] has long been widespread in the coastal nation. If you want to show your Vietnamese counterpart an especially high amount of respect, you can use two hands, but this isn’t expected of you.

And don’t forget that you express yourself with more than just words. Your clothing also sends a certain message, however indirect. With the right choice of clothing and a well-kept appearance, you show your counterpart appreciation and respect. In general, you can’t go wrong by wearing a suit.

As you can see, there are certain aspects that need to be kept in mind when you’re in contact with Vietnamese people, but this is by no means everything there is to know! We’d be happy to continue to help you with your specific concerns. And if you need help with a country other than Vietnam, we’d be happy to help with that as well. You can find all information about our cross-cultural trainings at the following link.

About Sophie Humpisch

I studied business communication and cross-cultural competence. During my studies I lived abroad for a long time and therefore experienced cross-cultural differences on my own. I have been with Eidam & Partner since 2014, being responsible for the support and recruiting of cross-cultural experts. Eidam & Partner offers worldwide services related to cross-cultural communication, such as cross-cultural training, cross-cultural coaching, eLearning and preparation for international assignments for more than 80 target countries.
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