Tips and the rules of business etiquette for travelling to Vietnam: the south-east Asian country has enjoyed years of strong growth. Many European companies anticipate huge business opportunities there. In this article, we have put together five tips for business travellers, to ensure that your journey to Vietnam is successful.
Many of the corona virus restrictions for travellers to Vietnam were lifted in the middle of March 2022. Although there had already been some exceptions for business travellers, they also had to comply with some precautionary measures. Now, however, there are only a few requirements, alongside a proof of vaccination status and a negative PCR test 72 hours before the journey begins or a rapid test with certificate 24 hours before take-off. No visa is required for short trips (less than 15 days). In addition, airlines have also started regular flights to Vietnam from Germany again.
Vietnam is once again a destination for travellers. Once they arrive, the next question is how they should behave towards business partners? What faux pas should they avoid?
Many Vietnamese people consider it essential to establish a trustworthy and respectful relationship before making business agreements. For this reason, initial discussions between newly introduced business partners include uncontroversial personal topics such as family, friends, preferences and personal attitudes alongside the merely commercial. Invitations to a business meal are not uncommon and are an opportunity for people to get to know each other better. It is therefore best to avoid critical topics such as politics and not to be too direct in pressing for a business deal. A deal is rarely made in a single meeting. Present a humble impression and give your opposite number time to think things over.
In Vietnam, like in many other far Eastern countries, it is important to "save face"– to avoid conflicts, give respect and not to treat one's opposite number inconsiderately or put them in awkward situations. This can result in business partners avoiding saying "no" directly, giving direct, concrete approval to offers or even agreeing to proposals that they are later unable to abide by. A more astute approach is to work out the other party's interests and options and then to gradually come to an agreement on the different points in a contract.
Vietnamese people greet each other by saying "xin chao" (hello), and shaking hands. If a lady does not offer her hand for a handshake, a slight bow is all that is needed. Not all Vietnamese are proficient in English so it is sensible to check which language a meeting is to be held in, in advance, or simply bring the appropriate language-speaker with you. Vietnamese names are written using the format last name – middle name – first name, but people call themselves by their first name, in contrast to Germans.
Hierarchy and age have special significance in professional life, so it is recommended that you greet the oldest people or those who are the seniors, at the top of the hierarchy, first. Like in the PRC, for example, business cards should always be handed over with both hands and examined for a short time as a sign of respect. As a guest, you can present small gifts at the end of a meeting, and if they have a regional touch, all the better! They are a nice gesture, but are not a requirement.
Both men and women should wear appropriately formal clothing to a business meeting. Depending on business partner, this clothing can be more or less formal – for example, if you are meeting a young start-up.
It is recommended that you send an agenda before a meeting so that everyone can prepare themselves for it. In the meeting itself, it might happen that business partners react by remaining silent – this usually means they are thinking about what has been said. There is no need to fill this silence with small talk.
When business partners meet for a meal, the oldest/most senior group member sits down first and is followed by everyone else. If a refreshing beverage is served at the start of the meal, it is considered polite to accept it. During the meal, the guest might be offered the best dishes. Here too, it is considered polite to accept them and to praise the culinary skills involved in creating them. In a larger meeting, the individual dishes are divided up and everyone takes a small portion of each one. If you are asked to make a toast, you will be expected to turn to the oldest/most senior person and to say a few brief words of thanks to them.
When a meeting ends, you should invite your hosts to join you for another meal and so reciprocate their hospitality.
Actively promoting Bremen as a business location and supporting cooperation with Bremen companies is the task of Bremeninvest. Huong Thi Hoang is based in the Vietnamese business centre of Ho Chi Minh City and provides all-round local service. You can find out more about the services of Bremeninvest here.
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