Your very first opportunity to build a network in Saigon is through your workplace so before heading off to networking events, it is important to understand several business related habits in Vietnam, especially if you’re an expat whose culture might be different.

Understanding Vietnamese workplaces is vital for integration and success. Some of the following statements may be generalisations but are a good summary about the culture and behaviour fostered in many companies:

››Men continue to dominate the Vietnamese business world but things are changing quickly.

››Women working in Vietnam traditionally occupy lower-status jobs, but they tend to work harder.

››Most men are able to work with foreign women in more senior roles and will treat them as equals.

››Status is an important aspect of Vietnam’s business world and society. It is achieved not through age alone but also through education.

››Companies function in a hierarchical manner.

››Generally speaking, employees from the older generation are more loyal than younger employees.

››Decisions are made at the top and the decision maker is often the oldest, though this is also changing.

››Vietnamese are respectful of their colleagues, especially those senior in age.

››Vietnamese institutions often do not select the best and brightest, but rather their family members or closest friends.

››Business relationships are relatively formal.

››Disagreements are handled in a subtle manner, and if you adopt this, you will likely find it effective.

››Business relationships take time to develop as Vietnamese prefer to get to know their foreign counterparts before conducting business.

››Vietnamese names start with the surname followed by the middle and lastly the first name. It is important to use titles whenever possible.

››When referring to one another, Vietnamese people will use the appropriate title followed by the first name.

››The nap after lunchtime is a cultural norm and is counted as part of the total working hours. It raises staff efficiency, allowing them to return to work refreshed.

››It is common for senior managers to be out of the office enhancing their ‘personal’ relationships and conducting ‘social’ intercourse on a daily basis.

››Disregard of personal responsibility and accountability is a major problem. You cannot rely on diplomas alone to establish competency.

››Trying to reduce work pressure and creating a friendly and relaxing office atmosphere is a great idea.

››Chatting or sharing a snack with colleagues is part and parcel of office life.

››Most Vietnamese employees benefit from some coaching in phone manners; especially when introducing themselves over the phone.

››If a colleague (or a colleague’s family member) is sick, Vietnamese co-workers usually take the time to visit, bringing along a small gift.

››Vietnam is well known for its disciplined, hard-working and fast-learning population. However, due to language differences, you may need to repeat things more than once or paraphrase a complex sentence. This will help you to be understood effectively.

››Remember that family relationships very important here, It helps to enquire and show concern from time to time about your colleagues’ families.

For information on working in Vietnam go to Culture Clash: Multinational Working