WORKING ABROAD / SEP. 11, 2014
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How to Master Business Etiquette in Vietnam

The history of Vietnam has been a complicated one to say the least. From the struggles of conquest in the late 19 century to the bitter war that transpired throughout the Asian nation for so many years, Vietnam has started to turn their morose state around over the past couple of decades by embracing free markets, though still relying on rigid central economic planning.

Vietnam has become one of the success stories coming out of Asia in recent years. Maintaining an array of rich agricultural industries and experiencing a rapid exporting sector, Vietnam enjoys a near half-trillion-dollar gross domestic product, a very low 1.3 percent unemployment rate and an 11 percent poverty rate.

Business has flourished in Vietnam and an enormous amount of opportunities have come to fruition because of the formerly struggling state allowing more free market enterprises, a reduction in regulations and a more flexible policy in the dong – though it has experienced stiff competition from the influx of United States dollars and even bitcoin.

Here are five things to know about business etiquette in Vietnam:

Communication

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam has declared Vietnamese the official language of the land. However, English has been unofficially recognized as the No. 2 language in the country. In addition, there are several languages spoken, including Chinese, French and Khmer (mountain area languages).

Upon speaking with a Vietnamese individual, it is always best to remain indirect in your conversational tone as opposed to be direct in what you’re saying. For instance, it is always better to imply what you mean and say instead of actually saying it.

During conversations, remain at least two and half feet away from the other person – this diminishes the closer you become with your friends and acquaintances. Members of the same sex do touch each other somewhat, but men and women avoid it entirely throughout their discussions.

Akin to their indirect talking tone, the same can be applied to eye contact. Vietnamese prefer to maintain indirect eye when meeting others because direct eye contact can be interpreted as suspicious and even threatening.

Dress Code

Men and women tend to dress rather conservatively in all situations, both business and informal – it should be noted that jeans and t-shirts may be appropriate in rural settings. Men will usually sport a conservative suit, while women will wear knee-length skirts, dresses, pants or a blouse.

Greetings

The handshake is the most common way to greet someone. There are specific protocols, however: men will use a two-handed handshake with other men; women will shake hands and nod their head many times as a sign of acknowledgement with other women; and men will wait for women to initiate a handshake.

Professional Titles & Business Cards

Although the Vietnamese aren’t fastidious when addressing a person, it still would be safe to identify others as Mr, Miss or Mrs.

There are few measures to take regarding business cards: be sure to have one side of a business card translated to Vietnamese, give and receive business cards with both hands and always treat the received card with respect, which means to never write or fold the card.

Punctuality

Being on time and following a set schedule isn’t very important to people. Instead, the Vietnamese place an importance more on people and relationships rather than an agenda. Overall, times are a lot more flexible than elsewhere.

Vietnam has experienced hardships over the past century. It is only now starting to take pleasure from its land and hard work. Vietnam is slowly becoming one of the most affluent countries in Asia, which is leading to a tremendous amount of foreign investment. Therefore, if you’re seeking out business opportunities then keep a close eye on Hanoi.

Have you previously conducted business in Vietnam? Let us know in the comment section.

 

Photo by Neils Photography via Flickr.

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