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. The head of the host team will deliver a short welcome speech, and then turn the floor over to the visitors. Your senior team member should speak for your company; avoid conflicting statements from other team members. When talking, your spokesman should address the senior Vietnamese representative. Vietnamese prefer to hear a proposal as a broad overview, and then respond to specific issues or questions point by point.
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. Because it is a little bit difficult for you and your partner to distinguish foreign people so a very important point is you should put your picture into the business card. Business cards should be handed to all those attending a meeting because it is sometimes difficult to discern who the important players are and who will play what role in the future. 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. Don’t disregard the cards or shove them in your pocket. Basically, treat them with respect but don’t obsess over them. In the case of large delegations, the exchange of cards may only take place between the most senior representatives. Other members of the group can exchange cards after the meeting is complete.
Understanding Vietnamese Business Culture and Etiquette
Vietnam has been joining WTO, and it opens a lot of opportunities to foreign companies who want to do business with Vietnam. With the Vietnamese economy opening up, more and more foreign companies want to invest in Vietnam. However in order to avoid cultural disasters which could make the wrong move in doing business with Vietnam, here are some tips on how you can conduct a more successful business in Vietnam. 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. Unlike Western business relationship which remains professional and perhaps, aloof, even after a long time, Vietnamese business relationship becomes a social one.
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
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. Business Entertainment
Most business luncheons and dinners are held in hotels, restaurants, or government facilities. Usually your host will arrange for a dinner during the early part of your visit. You are expected to reciprocate by arranging for a return dinner, possibly in your hotel or at a well-known restaurant. If no formal dinner is indicated on your itinerary, you should still try to invite your hosts to dinner to show your thanks and appreciation for their arrangements. Business is not usually discussed at dinners, although it may be at luncheons.
Dinner in Vietnam usually consists of several courses, similar to a Chinese banquet. Several dishes will be put on the table and you will be expected to take some from each. Chopsticks are used in Vietnam, but most modern restaurants also have Western eating utensils.
Vietnamese beer or imported wines and liquor are usually served with the meal. It is appropriate for you and your host to exchange toasts, with the host usually going first. Individual toasts can also be expected during the meal. When toasting your host (or when acting as host yourself), stand and raise your glass with both hands in the direction of the senior or oldest Vietnamese present. A flowery but short speech about Vietnam's beautiful scenery, the friendship of your hosts, and prospects for a successful business venture are appropriate. Subsequent toasts may be made and answered from your seat. The end of the meal is usually signaled by a plate of fruit or other sweet dish. After waiting a respectful period after the last course is consumed, the guest is expected to make the first move to leave. Be sure to shake hands with all Vietnamese participants and conclude by thanking your host profusely
Vietnamese name generally contains three parts: family name or surname, middle name and last name. Vietnamese family name comes first and then middle name and last name. For example: Phan Van Khai, Phan is family name, Khai is first name and Van is middle name. It is always a good idea to ask a native speaker which name is the family name and which name you should call your partner. Vietnamese always say first name when they want to mention someone.
For business purposes, it is traditionally acceptable to call a Vietnamese person by the surname, together with a title, such as "Director Pham" or "Chairman Nguyen." If a person does not have a professional title, you can address a person using his or her first name, such as Mr. Khai or Ms. Thu, but always remember say first name with title like “Anh” or “Chi”. Refer the table bellow to get the idea. Formality is a sign of respect, and it is advisable to clarify how you will address someone very early in a relationship, generally during your first meeting.
A married Vietnamese woman always retains her maiden name; she will use her husband's last name on occasions for formal addressing only.
Address people using official titles such as "General" "Committee Member”, or "Doctor" whenever possible. It is customary to address the deputies by skipping the word 'deputy,' such as, 'Chief' for 'Deputy Chief,' 'Chairman' for 'Vice Chairman' 'General Manager' for 'Assistant General Manager'.
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
Gift and Gift-giving Customs in Vietnam
Gift giving is important in Vietnamese because of the significance of interpersonal relationships in Vietnamese culture.
First and foremost, do not encourage corruption. There is a clear cut between gift-giving and bribery. Nevertheless, it is common in Vietnam for exchanging small gift on certain occasions such as anniversary, Tet holiday… to express your respect, appreciation or gratitude.
Gift-giving customs depends on the context. If it is private gift for one Vietnamese partner you should give the gift at private occasion or at a business meeting if no other one presents. If you have gift for the whole office or company, you should give it after the business meeting with the whole office’s employee.
Do not wrap a gift in black paper because this color is unlucky and associated with funerals Vietnam. Gifts that symbolize cutting such as scissors, knives and other sharp objects should be avoided because they mean the cutting of the relationship.
Vietnamese may or may not open these gifts when they are received; leave the option to them.
You will also receive gifts and should defer to your host as to whether you should open it when received or not. Regardless of when it is opened or what it is, profuse thanks are always appropriate