Following are some business etiquette needed to be aware when doing business in Vietnam:
In Vietnamese business culture, suits and ties in subdued colors are the norm. Bright color of any kind is not appropriate.The accepted style of dress for a business meeting in Vietnam is conservative – a dark colored, uncontentious suit and tie are customary for men. Women should wear conservative suits or dresses; a blouse or other kind of top should have a high neckline. Stick with subdued, neutral, colors such as beige and brown. Women must take care that their skirts are not above the knees; good quality jewelry that is neither ostentatious nor overly expensive, is recommended for making the right impression.Flat shoes or very low heels are the main footwear options for women due to the emphasis on conservative, modest, dress in Vietnamese business culture, especially if you are relatively much taller than your hosts. High heels are acceptable only at a formal reception hosted by a foreign diplomat.Jeans may not be acceptable casual wear for both men and women especially when you working with state company.
Meetings are considered very formal in Vietnam. It is not common to commit to meeting a long time in advance. In Vietnam the meeting will be confirmed at most one week prior to the appointment. It may make it difficult for you planning a trip but it is a reality in Vietnam. You should reconfirm your meeting one or two days ahead. You also should contact with your partner first to get a list of participants and their ranks so you know who you will talk with. Vice versa send your representatives before the meeting.
You will be led into a meeting room in which the Vietnamese are already present. Your team leader should enter first. And after greeting by making handshaking, your team will be invited for sitting across a table, leaders opposite each other and others seated in descending order of importance.
Small talk will come first. Business is addressed once people feel comfortable with each other. Business cards are a common opening to business meetings. It is very impressive if you prepare the business card which has two sides, one has your own language and the other translated into Vietnamese. Generally, a business card should be handed to the most senior person first. Cards should be presented with two hands to very important officials, but for all others there is no required etiquette. By reading your hosts’ cards carefully, you can show respect and clarify the function of the person with whom you are speaking.
The initial approach
Vietnamese business contacts are mostly referrals; essentially a business relationship is struck based on another business associate recommendation. The best prices and deals often comes from a strong recommendation.
However, it is common today for cold calls and direct contacts, given the availability of the internet and the competitive nature of Vietnamese businesses. You may source from the internet, trade fairs, catalogues and brochures, advertisements and approach the Vietnamese companies directly through a call or email.
Alternatively, if you are seeking to invest in a factory in Vietnam, you can approach Vietnam Chamber of commerce and industry (VCCI) or a business advisory directly. They will be able to advise you on your best location based on your industry, raw material and manpower needs.
Business Relationship in Vietnam
Vietnamese business relationship inevitably becomes a social relationship after a while. The more you share your personal life, including family, hobbies, political views, aspirations, the closer you are in your business relationship. Sometimes, a lot of time is spent discussing matters outside of business, but then a lot of time, the other party is also making up his mind about your deal based on how much he sees your personal relationship with him.
Seniority is important in Vietnam
Seniority is very important to the Vietnam especially if you are dealing with a State owned or government body. 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 Chairman Triet, Director Dung or Manager So and So.
When giving out business card or brochures, make sure you start with the most senior person before moving down the line. When giving out a business card or receiving one, ensure that you are stretching out with both hands with the card. Remember to face the card you are giving out in a manner such that the receiving party gets it facing him correctly.
Giving face is a very important concept in Vietnam. You must give the appropriate respect according to rank and seniority. For example, if you are buying gifts for an initial contact, make sure you buy better gifts for the senior managers instead of buying similar gifts across the board.
Similarly, sitting positions in a meeting room or a dining table is accorded accordingly to rank, importance and seniority. It is good to seek advice before embarking on your first meeting with Vietnamese business contacts to avoid making the wrong move.