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Things to Know about Vietnamese Work Culture

Vietnam is witnessing a surge in high-value occupations alongside a booming demand for English-teaching positions. This growth can be attributed to the influx of international companies and the rise of local industry leaders like VinGroup. Many non-Vietnamese are beginning to be curious about what it's like to work there. In this article, we talk about certain aspects of Vietnamese work culture that our foreign-born coworkers find interesting, such as the average wage, superstitions, and client parties.

1. The role of understanding work culture before co-operating

Every country, as you are aware, has a distinctive culture that has an effect on how that country does business.

You must educate yourself about the culture and traditions of any nation, including Vietnam if this is your first time dealing with enterprises there.

Understanding Vietnamese work culture will help you avoid cultural stumbling blocks and build trusting relationships with business partners. By establishing and nurturing strong commercial connections with your Vietnamese counterparts, you can effectively expand your local client base and maximize joint performance, opening up new business opportunities. This approach enables mutually beneficial growth and enhances the potential for success in Vietnam's dynamic market.

2. Here are the most basic common business custom in Vietnam

2.1. Greetings in Vietnam

It's not as easy to say "hello" in Vietnamese as some people would think. 'Loi chao cao hon mam co' (No need for a feast, a greeting is enough) is a proverb that our ancestors have passed down through the years. You are aware of how highly the Vietnamese value formal greetings.

Before we continue, remember that Vietnamese never say "Chao buoi sang/chieu," so don't even try to use Google Translate to communicate "good morning" or "good afternoon." People may be staring at you in confusion if you persist in acting following Google's advice.

Also, disregard the "xin chao" (/seen ciao) that all "textbooks" teach. In a dialogue in daily life, it doesn't exist. You don't say "welcome aboard" in English, do you? It's similar to that.

Mastering Vietnamese greetings requires understanding a few key principles, so it may take time to become proficient in them.

In Vietnam, it is crucial to be aware of someone's age. We often inquire about a stranger's birth year as one of our initial questions. We use various pronouns depending on whom we are addressing because respect for our elders is ingrained in our culture and language.

In reality, the Vietnamese have mastered a technique that enables them to determine someone's age instantaneously with an error rate that is negligible enough to feel comfortable even greeting a lady in her middle years. As a general rule, consider your social circle to be your extended family.

And like other countries, in Vietnam, the handshake is another form of greeting that is very common in the Vietnamese work culture. A slight bow of the head, combined with a handshake when greetings represent appreciation or respect to the opposite.

Shaking hands in Vietnam
Figure 1. Shaking hands in Vietnam

2.2. Vocative communication

Most of the time, Vietnamese surnames are not widely used in both informal and formal communication. And the exciting fact is that 6 out of 10 people in one group can have the same last name which is “Nguyễn” or “Trần” (these are the two most popular surnames in Vietnam). And Vietnamese people tend to expect others to call their first name, together with an appropriate title.

In formal/business conversations, it is popular to use [Mr/Mrs/Ms/Designation] + [First Name] to communicate in Vietnamese work culture. For example, you can call them Coder Nam, Director Ngoc, Ms. Lan, Mr. Hoang,…

2.3. Body Language in Vietnamese work culture

In Vietnamese work culture, the use of body language can indicate different meanings from what it is like in some Western countries, some of your body language in your country mean friendliness, but in Vietnam, those actions can be considered threatened or rude.

For example, hugging can be a widely-accepted public display of affection in most Western countries, and you will barely see that action in Vietnam. Or placing one or both hands in your pockets in Vietnam is often considered to be a sign of arrogance and an absence of respect for the opposite people.

2.4. Business relationships

Respect and seniority are fundamental ideas in Vietnamese work culture. Seniority, corporate positions, years of experience, and age are valued by Vietnamese people. Vietnamese businesses often feature a hierarchical organizational structure, with a top-down delegation of authority and decision-making. Vietnamese people, for the most part, typically feel that they should respect individuals who are older than them.

Business relationships
Figure 2. Business relationships

2.5. Teamwork spirit

Vietnamese folks are excellent team players who develop strong relationships with their coworkers. They see their place of employment as an extension of their family. They are capable of being fiercely competitive and exhibit great levels of productivity, it might be argued. Vietnamese people are also well educated, have a good work ethic, and are driven by themselves.

3. Vietnam’s Business etiquette

3.1. How Vietnamese people wear in the workplace

In Vietnam, it is customary for individuals to don modest and straightforward attire while engaged in work activities. Therefore, when conducting business with Vietnamese counterparts, business partners need to dress formally but maintain a sense of modesty. Men usually opt for dark-colored suits and ties when attending meetings or signing investment contracts. On the other hand, women often choose formal dresses or blouses with high necklines to maintain a professional appearance. However, it is worth noting that dress codes may vary in agency environments, where the expectations for attire could differ from the traditional norms. When engaging in business interactions in Vietnam, it is essential to respect the local customs and adhere to appropriate dressing practices to foster a positive and respectful environment.

3.2. Cuisine culture in Vietnam

Vietnamese business etiquette is distinctly evident in its dining and drinking customs. Unlike in Western countries, meals in Vietnam involve a plethora of dishes spread across the table, and it is customary to share these dishes with colleagues, bosses, or business partners. Typically, the Vietnamese host will provide a signal to commence the meal, and as a guest, you may be honored with the best dish on offer. This gesture symbolizes hospitality and respect towards you. Sharing a meal in Vietnam is not just a means of sustenance but also a way to foster camaraderie and build relationships. By partaking in this communal dining experience, you demonstrate your willingness to connect on a personal level, which is highly valued in Vietnamese business culture. Embracing the customs of dining in Vietnam is essential for creating a positive impression and strengthening professional connections.

Traditional Vietnamese eating is attached to rice bowls and chopsticks, so you will see some people eating Western food with chopsticks. And making noise by tapping the chopsticks on the bowl is considered to be impolite.

Vietnamese's traditional meals usually have lots of food
Figure 3. Vietnamese's traditional meals usually have lots of food

Another fact to know is tipping is not customary in Vietnam eating and drinking etiquette. However, you can pay a tip of your pence if you satisfy with their food and service. It is also worth noting that reciprocation is a part of the value in Vietnamese culture. They will expect you to arrange for a return dinner which should be of the same standard as yours.

Within most business circumstances, tea is often served at the reception as a signal for hospitality and you should feel pleased to accept it. Northern Vietnam tends to use hot tea, and the Southern part of Vietnam usually brings you iced tea or soft drinks.

4. Gift-giving culture in Vietnam

In Vietnamese work culture, gift-giving does not mean bribery and corruption, but it will depend on the context and situation.

In Vietnam, it is customary to exchange gifts after business meetings. Similar to the modesty observed in business attire, this culture of gift-giving also reflects a sense of modesty. The gifts exchanged need not be extravagant or large, but they should possess practical value. For foreign investors, it is advisable to keep in mind that the gift intended for senior partners should be of higher quality compared to those given to others. This distinction signifies respect and acknowledges the seniority of the recipients. By adhering to this practice, foreign investors demonstrate their understanding and appreciation of Vietnamese customs, which can help establish a positive rapport and strengthen business relationships. Thoughtful and practical gifts are appreciated in Vietnamese culture, emphasizing the importance of sincerity and consideration when selecting presents for business partners.

Gift-giving culture in Vietnam
Figure 4. Gift-giving culture in Vietnam


Understanding Vietnam's business culture is crucial for ensuring success in your investment endeavors. Familiarizing yourself with the customs and traditions of this country will not only enable you to create positive impressions but also facilitate the establishment of long-term relationships, which can greatly benefit your future investments. Vietnam's unique business culture is rooted in its rich heritage and traditions, and by embracing these cultural nuances, you can navigate the business landscape more effectively. Taking the time to learn about Vietnamese etiquettes, such as appropriate dress codes, dining customs, and gift-giving practices, demonstrates your respect and understanding of the local business environment. This knowledge can help you forge connections, gain trust, and foster fruitful collaborations with Vietnamese partners. By investing in understanding Vietnam's business culture, you are investing in your success and paving the way for mutually beneficial relationships in the future.

Source: Internet

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