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Vietnam business cultures: what you need to know

Vietnam business cultures: what you need to know

Tuesday 23, 03 2021
It can be said that business culture is the soul of an enterprise as it directly influences production activities, business decisions, internal and external relationships of businesses.

Located in the southeast corner of Asia, Vietnam business cultures are typical of the Eastern culture.

“When in Vietnam, do as the Vietnamese do”

When meeting with a Vietnamese partner, foreigners should break the ice with a self introduction. Don't be surprised if they want to know your age. That is the way Vietnamese do to choose appropriate pronoun for more intimacy due to the richness of pronouns in Vietnamese.

When in Vietnam, do as the Vietnamese do

  • Giving gifts is very popular in Vietnam, especially in Lunar New Year festival.
  • Dining together is an essential part of community activities and in all Vietnam business activities. Dinners with local representatives or clients help develop rapport.
  • There is an interesting thing is that Vietnamese men often smoke during the meals because they like to eat while chatting.
  • The Vietnamese way of drinking at parties is also special. If you drink alone, you are being impolite. It's everyone's habit to only drink after toasting.


  • Vietnam’s administrative system is still bureaucratic. However, “keep calm and be patient”!
  • If your partner is a foreign business operating in Vietnam, language does not matter. However, for state-owned companies, there should be an interpreter. Moreover, the interpreter must have knowledge of your business, and even understand the dialects that vary widely by region in Vietnam.
  • Vietnamese people are very polite, always smile and agree with you, even if, in fact, they may not fully understand what you have just said. If you laugh, it will create a comfortable atmosphere and your partner will be more active in talking to you about relevant issues. In response, you should also maintain a welcoming attitude. The most important thing in negotiating with the Vietnamese is persistence. A look of anger and scowl is seen as a manifestation of 'poor bravery', which will inevitably encounter a negative reaction and failure in negotiation.
  • During the meeting, the Vietnamese often say, "We will consider" or "We will give you the answer later”. So if you need to decide early, it's best to send all the necessary papers before the meeting. If the document is sent to government agencies, compose it in Vietnamese.
  • Sometimes Vietnamese businessmen seem to be slow to grasp the business situation. It can be said that not being punctual is typical of modern Vietnamese people.

In 2014, accounting and auditing firm Grant Thornton launched a Business Guide in Vietnam to serve foreign entrepreneurs and companies looking to come to Vietnam to invest and do business. These guides are still applicable in the 21st year of the 21st century.


You should always have business cards when you visit Vietnam or attend business meetings and conferences. When meeting someone for the first time, it is polite to hand your business card with both hands.


When you are given a card, do not put it in your pocket immediatly, instead take a few minutes to look through the information on the giveer, remember to pronounce their name correctly and show how much you appreciate the chance to meet them. After finishing this process, place the namecard in your wallet to show respect.


Vietnam's climate is quite hot all year round, especially in the south. So you should consider carefully and find the right outfit when attending conferences or other business related activities. It is best for both men and women to wear formal suits.

Shaking hands

Handshakes are used both at the beginning and the end of the meeting. Handshakes are often used when both sides are the same sex. Some Vietnamese use two hands to shake, with the left hand to the top. When the partner is a woman, you should wait for them to reach out first. If she doesn't, bow slightly.

Shaking Hands


Vietnamese people are very polite and often smile and agree with their partners even when they do not fully understand what the other is saying. Laughing and nodding here is an indication that they are watching the other person speak, not just a confirmation of agreeing to an opinion.

Eating and drinking is an equally important culture in Vietnam business. Toasting at parties or going to karaoke are the main activities that take place after dinner.

When alcohol is brought to the dining tables, individuals should drink only after the toast procedure has taken place. The cup will be lifted with your right hand and supported with your left hand.


Hierarchy and face expression are important in business meetings in Vietnam. The most important person, for example, is always sitting in first place. Silence should also be noticed during the meeting. In particular, even when someone disagrees with another, they will remain silent so do not make too much expression.


Relationship is an important factor determining the success of business cooperation in Vietnam. Always invest time in building a good relationship both personally and professionally. Any first meeting should be considered as a session to "get to know each other" only.


Gifts are not commonly exchanged during the first meeting. However, a small gift after the dinner party or any other appropriate moment is always appreciated. Vietnamese people think that the gift is not as important as the heart you send in it.

A box of chocolates, a bottle of cognac or a small souvenir from your home country will show that you are a very thoughtful person.

Source: Grant Thornton

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