How to work effectively with Vietnamese people?

Posted by SE Vietnam - Student Exchange Vietnam

Since its joining the WTO in 2007, Vietnam now offers several opportunities for international companies who want to set foot in Vietnamese business environment. Well-known for its competitive advantages, Vietnam is a friendly and budding investment climate appealing to foreign investors. As an intern working in Vietnam, you are going to work with people with different mindsets, business practices and work culture. To avoid cultural disasters and communication confusion, here are some recommendations to work effectively in Vietnam work settings. 

Understanding work practices during your internship in Vietnam

  • Vietnamese business contacts are mostly referrals. Sometimes, a business relationship is built thanks to another business associate recommendation. 

  • Work relationship can become a social relationship after a while. It is said that when you share more aspects of personal life such as your family, hobbies, aspirations, you get to be closer in a business relationship. 

  • Companies in Vietnam usually allocate part of their budget for team members to have dinner or play sport activities together. This is because Vietnamese employees often need to build personal trust with work partners. 

  • Giving face is also an important concept to bear in mind if you are learning to work effectively with Vietnamese people. It is advisable that you give appropriate respect based on rank and seniority. You should also ask for advices from your supervisors if you are not clear about the tasks because generally, Vietnamese people value communication at workplace. 

  • When it comes to work entertainment, most dinners and parties are held in hotels and restaurants and served with Vietnamese beer and imported wines. You can exchange toasts with the host. Usually, after the dinner, the team might go to a karaoke together. 

  • Vietnamese people also love taking naps after lunch to have enough energy to work in the afternoon.  

Understanding communication in Vietnam

  • In Vietnam, people can comment directly on other people’s weights, for example: “You are gaining weight” or “You should lose weight”. This is because people tend to adore certain beauty standard in terms of weight. You should not be offended if this happens to you and understand the cultural differences – for them it might just be a way of showing consideration and for small talk.
  • Talking to your colleagues in a humorous and positive way could help. Don’t underestimate the power of a pep talk.
  • Common topics for conversation are soccer, travel and food. Soccer is the most popular sport in Vietnam. 
  • Avoid taboos such as asking about salary and Vietnamese politics. 
  • Vietnamese names are written in this order: surname followed by middle name and then given name. People are called by their given name instead of their surname.  
  • Fun fact: Common surnames in Vietnam
    • Nguyen: 40% of the Vietnamese population 
    • Tran: 10% of the Vietnamese population
    • Le: 10% of the Vietnamese population
  •  To avoid confusion, notice that sometimes, Vietnamese start their answer with Yes and Ok, but the actual answer is after the Yes and Ok. Sometimes, Yes and Ok just implies that they understand what you say or what you ask.
    For example:
    – “What do you think about this solution?”
    – “Yes. I think that solution A is good but solution B is better.”
  • If you are an English speakers, you should avoid tag questions. Vietnamese people’s answer may be confusing as a result of different language structure. 
    For example:
    – “Solution A isn’t good enough, is it?”
    – “Yes”.
    The answer “Yes” here means “I agree with you that solution A isn’t good enough”.
    Therefore, you should ask this question instead
    “Do you agree that solution A isn’t good enough?”
  • When you present something to your colleagues, if they are silent, it can be interpreted that the group agrees/ has no objection to what you’re saying. 

To work effectively with Vietnamese people, cultural literacy is part of what you should be mindful of. Hope these tips help you to be more confident working in a whole new context. 

If you want to learn more about Vietnamese lifestyle, you can find more of our posts HERE

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About Internship in Vietnam 

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