Business Etiquette in Vietnam – How to win every negotiations in the far land of South East Asia

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Business Etiquette in Vietnam – How to win every negotiations in the far land of South East Asia

With the globalization process taking the lead as one of the world’s most significant and distinguishable trends, different cultures blend, creating countless chances for mutual activities between countries. And one of those united activities is called international business. However, doing business with different cultures means using different sets of expected behaviors, and failing to do so may result in unfavorable outcomes. With this in mind, let us dive into some of the most interesting facts about business etiquette in Vietnam.

Getting in contact with your business partner

Referral plays an important role in initiating contact with a Vietnamese partner. A business relationship is usually struck based on the recommendation of another business associate. Vietnamese companies fully trust their longtime friends, so getting a good feedback is the best way to impress your potential partner. Usually the best prices and deals come from a strong recommendation.

However, taking into account the availability of the internet as well as the emerging Vietnamese market, it is very common nowadays for companies to initiate direct contacts. It is perfectly fine to approach Vietnamese companies straight through an email or call.

Business relationship in Vietnam

After a short period of time, a Vietnamese business relationship inevitably turns into a social relationship. The more you and the representatives of the company which you are working with share your personal life, including hobbies, family, political views, aspirations and dreams, the closer you are in your business relationship. It is customary to spend a lot of time discussing matters that are not related to your business in any ways. Usually the other party makes up their mind about your offer based on how much they see your personal relationship with him.

The importance of seniority

Seniority is one of the most important principles in Vietnamese culture, and it is strongly apparent while doing business. You should be aware of this custom especially when dealing with a government or state body. It is always appropriate to address your contact by their status or title. Greeting the other party using Mr. or Mrs. is alright, but you will gain the much needed respect if you follow this custom. Also, make sure to give out your business card starting from the most senior person and then to the others, following the same principle in the process. When you do so, or when you are offered a business card from your partner, be sure to stretch out both hands with the card.

Another important thing to note is that if you are planning to prepare presents for your partner, make sure to buy better gifts for the senior managers instead of buying similar gifts for everyone in the delegation. Remember, if you give the appropriate respect to the representatives of a Vietnamese company according to rank and seniority, they are more likely to strike a fruitful deal with you.

Business dinners

Business lunches and dinners are mostly held in restaurants, hotels, or government facilities. During the early part of your stay in Vietnam, your partner will most likely arrange a dinner to welcome your visit. Then throughout your time in Vietnam you will be going to a lot of the similar lunches and dinners. Strangely, business is not usually the main topic at dinners. Consider these arrangements to be opportunities to impress your potential partner and get on their good side.

Alcohols and appetizers are usually served with the meal. It is appropriate for you and your host to exchange toasts, with the host being the first one to make a toast. Individual toasts are to be expected during the course of the meal. A short but enthusiastic speech about Vietnam, its beauty, the good will of your hosts and prospects for a successful business deal is an ideal start. Fruits, sweet dishes and Vietnamese tea often mean that the business dinner is coming to an end. The guest is expected to make the first move to leave.


The easiest way to fully understand the business culture in Vietnam, and by extension, in any other countries is to be a part of that culture. It is not an exaggeration to say that these pieces of knowledge only come “with experience”. The more you interact with foreign partners, the richer your understanding of their etiquette is. Hopefully these small but fascinating tips regarding Vietnamese business culture will establish a good start for those who seek their future in Vietnam or those who are genuinely interested in Vietnamese companies. You don’t always win negotiations and deals with good offers, you win with professionalism.

 Tuyen Dinh Anh