4 Protocol Tips to Fit in with Vietnamese Business Culture

As one of the most dynamic emerging markets, Vietnam has arisen as a key investment location in Southeast Asia thanks to its business environment and low cost competency. To avoid a cultural disaster by making the wrong move, we bring you some advice on how you can conduct business in Vietnam successfully.

1) Address Your Counterpart Correctly
Vietnamese names generally contain three parts: surname, middle name and given name, for example, Nguyễn Thị Minh. For business purposes, it is common to call a Vietnamese person by the surname, together with a title, like Director Nguyễn. If you don’t know his or her professional title, you can address him or her using their first name, such as Ms Thảo or Mr Vũ.

2) Don’t Underestimate the Power of Referrals
Vietnamese businesspeople are more likely to conduct business with someone they trust. To make your business go smoother, try to get a third party introduction or recommendation. The best prices and deals often come from a strong recommendation.

3) Understand the Concept of “Face”
Similar to the Chinese, Japanese and other cultures in Asia, giving face (in Chinese “Mianzi”) is also very important in Vietnam. Face in Vietnamese is a combination of reputation, social standing, sense of dignity and honor. Pointing out someone’s mistake or showing rejection/ disagreement in public is making someone “lose face”. “Building face” is the process of making the other person feel good in front of others either through gift giving or by accepting their ideas/ kindness. In Vietnam, building face at the early stages of business meetings helps proceed to a real deal.

4) Nail Your Meeting Etiquette
Meetings are considered very formal in Vietnam. When compared to online meetings or phone calls, face-to-face business meetings show a high level of respect and sincerity.

Appointments are required and should be made several weeks in advance. At the beginning of the meeting, business cards should be exchanged using both hands. Handing business cards and documents both in your language and Vietnamese make conversation easier – and leave a very good impression.

The sitting positions in a meeting room have a cultural significance of its own. Both parties should sit across a table, leaders facing opposite each other while their aids seat in descending order of importance. Similarly, dining table is seated accordingly to title, importance and seniority.