• Aida Xie

Things to Know about Vietnam's Work Culture

According to the World Economic, Vietnam already has many competitive advantages and a strong investment climate appealing to foreign investors. Just like any other country, they have their way of doing things in Vietnam, which can be effective in its own right but can be bewildering to some people. To avoid cultural disasters, here are some recommendations on how you can work effectively with Vietnamese colleagues and partners.

Managing a team

First and foremost, get to know your team as much as possible. Organize outings with the team to start with to create semi-professional bonding experiences. Since the male colleagues should be willing to go for beers but the female coworkers generally prefer not to, it could be a good idea to go to cafes (coffee shops as it is known in Vietnam) or for dinners after working hours. It may not be easy in the beginning to find out their strengths and weaknesses as Vietnamese are generally shy. One way to quickly break the ice is to talk to the team humorously and positively. Through the outings, we will be able to observe and understand the team’s habits, characteristics, attitudes, and preferences. With that knowledge, it will be much easier to get through to the team. In circumstances where they made mistakes or something was not done, patience and polite firmness are the better solutions. Encourage your team to take action, give them a sense of responsibility and complimenting them are other ways of forming a successful work relationship. In an interview on Vietnam news, foreign managers have commented that they found their Vietnamese teams to be hardworking, show interest in their work and pay attention to their duties.

Doing business

Usually, business contacts in Vietnam are referrals, a recommendation from an existing business associate. However, given the growing competitive nature of Vietnamese businesses and the influence of the internet, it is common today to develop direct business contacts. Vietnamese business relationship inevitably becomes a social relationship after some time and the more you share about your personal life such as family, hobbies, and aspirations, the closer you will become in the business relationship. A typical business dinner meeting will be held in a restaurant and alcohol, be it beer, liquor or wine, will surely be served and toasts will be exchanged. Informal business meetings in Vietnam such as having meals and drinking can help your business as it will strengthen your relationship with your partners and it is a norm that many important deals are made over a drink.

Points to take note of

  • Seniority and showing respect are important concepts in Vietnam, influenced by the hierarchical structure in Confucianism; it is common that most Vietnamese feel they have the obligation to respect people who are older than them.

  • Vietnamese employees are rather punctual, especially in business meetings. However, a tolerance of about 5 minutes late is normally acceptable.

  • Vietnamese employees usually need to build personal trust outside of the office in order to increase their teamwork and collaboration. This is the reason why companies in Vietnam usually have a budget for team members to have meals or some sport activities every few months or even monthly.

  • Vietnamese people, especially software developers, generally dress casually probably due to the hot weather especially in the south. Suits and ties are not common and developers could even be wearing t-shirt and jeans to the office.

It may be tough to condense Vietnamese business culture and etiquette into a few paragraphs but points mentioned in this entire article should give you a good enough grasp and enable you to work more effectively with Vietnamese colleagues and business partners. It may take a while to work smoothly with the locals but with new technologies, skills, and attitudes that are being adopted daily, everything will be possible in Vietnam. Not to mention the youth here are bright, eager to learn and optimistic for the future. It could very well be the current generation to unleash the full potential of Vietnam’s human capital resources.

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