Understanding Vietnamese Business Culture for Your Internship in Vietnam
Vietnam is opening itself to the abundant opportunities for foreign investments and business cooperation which means more and more chances are being offered to both graduates and undergraduates who want to work or find an internship in Vietnam. With the economy going through its most exciting phrases, now is a great time to come to Vietnam to get a head start on your future professional career.
Travelling to another country for an internship is not just about improving knowledge of your major. It is also about observing the country’s cultural and business settings. Essentially, adaptation to the country’s business culture is one of the most crucial set of skills to gain while doing your internship in Vietnam but also the less talked about. This often results in misunderstandings, frustrations and sometimes, awkward situations.
Navigating yourself in the Vietnam’s business environment. Photo source: Travel with Josh.
Vietnamese is the official language of business. While English is spoken in most business circles, informal conversations are often in Vietnamese. One thing to keep in mind is that not all Vietnamese office workers are fluent in English but they are very open to having the chance to practice. While the language barrier maybe a considerable difficulty for interns trying to adapt and blend into the social scene of their new office in Vietnam, it is always helpful to start the conversation with your Vietnamese colleagues as they would be more than willing to talk to you in English once they know you’re interested.
Hours of Business
Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm. Some businesses nowadays still require work on Saturday or Saturday mornings (especially businesses in the hospitality and culinary industry).
Depending on the type of business you are in, you’ll be required either to wear a uniform or business attire. Business attire should be formal and not too revealing. As Vietnam is increasingly becoming a scene of startup companies, the requirements for business dress in many places have been loosened. So make sure to check with the host organization of your internship in Vietnam for further information.
Relationships and Networking
Networking is incredibly important in Vietnam. Vietnamese businesspeople prefer to work with those recommended by a friend or business contact rather than be approached directly. Personal relationships are considered to be critically important to successful business partnerships, so expats should expect to invest a considerable amount of time getting to know colleagues. If you are on an internship in Vietnam, you’ll sometimes be asked out for dinner with alcoholic drinks (we often call it “nhậu”- a social activity loved by the Vietnamese to release the stress of work and maintain business relationships) after work by your employer or fellow employees, take this as a chance to expand your network in Vietnam and enjoy the atmosphere of the informal social setting outside of work. These types of meetings are often very crucial as even the most important business deals are agreed on informally on the occasions of these social outings.
Networking is a very important part of business in Vietnam. Photo source: eddiesenatore.com
The concept of face is very important in Asian culture in general and Vietnamese business setting in particular. Face often means one’s pride in public and saving face is meant to avoid publicly humiliating someone, especially at work. Vietnamese people will try their best to avoid embarrassing themselves and colleagues during business proceedings. When disagreement happens, people would either remain quiet or move the discussion to a more private space so as to not cause a loss of face. Therefore, silence in a heated discussion sometimes isn’t necessarily a sign of impoliteness. This face saving culture, however, is starting to change as Vietnamese employers and employees are being more and more exposed to the Western business culture and etiquette and direct, constructive criticisms in working space are becoming increasingly welcomed.
The Vietnamese are very flexible in many aspects of life and this includes: time and plans. Sudden change of plans with little notice is not uncommon in Vietnam’s business setting, especially in smaller companies/organizations. Sometimes these changes occur because the organizer or the employer comes up with a better or quicker way to do the job and since Vietnamese people are flexible, they expect their employees to always be ready to change plans. It is helpful to keep in mind that, most of the time, changes of plans with little notice occure because the employers want the best for the team or organization. Make sure you are aware of this cultural difference and not mistake flexibility for irresponsibility or inconsideration; otherwise, you’ll encounter a lot of frustration.
Sudden change of plans with little notice is not uncommon in Vietnam’s business setting, especially in smaller companies/organizations. Photo source: lrqconsulting.com
Seniority is very important in the country’s business setting especially if you are doing an internship in Vietnam with a State owned or government institutions. Instead of addressing the other party as Mr. or Mrs. so and so, it is always appropriate to address the other party by his designation for example Doctor (name), Director (name) or Manager (name). Always give special respect to higher ranking staff or your senior.
Vietnamese business contacts are better done through referrals; normally a business relationship is struck based on another business associate recommendation. The best opportunities often come from a strong recommendation. Therefore, finding an internship in Vietnam placement would be easier done through organization with strong network of contacts with businesses from many industries like SE Vietnam.
SE Vietnam’s intern – Alanna, working as a Marketing intern in a education business in Vietnam.
Think you’re well-equipped to carry out your internship in Vietnam in style? If you’re still a bit worried, why not contact us for a fool-proof full internship in Vietnam service and the rest of your worries are on us.
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