[Newsletter | April, 2021] – American Behavioral Culture in Business (Part 1)

As shared in a recent newsletter of Noble Network, the import-export turnover between the US and Vietnam has grown rapidly. Specifically, in the past 10 years, import and export turnover between these two countries increased from 18 billion USD (2010) to about 90 billion USD (2020) (TrendEconomy). The US is Vietnam’s largest export market and it is expected to maintain this position for a long time ahead. However, to access and penetrate the US market, Vietnam business owners should carefully invest in learning about and understanding the important factors that are present in the US market. One aspect we want to mention here is the people – American business owners – who make decisions in business deals, but have a very different behavioral culture compared to Vietnamese business people.

If you are a regular follower of the Noble Network newsletter, you will surely remember that one of the biggest difficulties for Vietnamese small and medium enterprises when entering the US market is the cultural barrier – an important factor in any international transaction. To help Vietnamese business leaders have an overview of these cultural barriers and avoid misunderstandings while communicating with their US partners, Noble Network continues to help by issuing an April Newsletter on American Behavioral Culture in Business. Note that everyone is unique; the following characteristics are only from our point of view to summarize our experience with the Americans.

1. Handshake culture

Handshake culture

Shaking hands is a common greeting not only in the US but also in many other countries around the world, including Vietnam. However, there is a slight difference in the handshake culture in the two countries. Vietnamese people often shake hands gently. Americans hold for 1-2 seconds tightly (but not too hard) and then get loose to show their friendliness and enthusiasm. Therefore, if we apply the Vietnamese handshake when meeting an American partner, they may think that this partner lacks confidence or apathy in the relationship. Therefore, keep this in mind if you want to make a good first impression on your American partner. Meet the American handshake with equal firmness and remember that their tight grip is their way of expressing their excitement to see you and make a good impression.

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2. Exchange of business cards

Exchange of business cards

Americans often do not ask for business cards. They will give you their business card and wait for you to offer yours. When giving, Americans usually use one hand, even with more senior people, but this does not mean they are impolite. The one-handed give-receive culture is accepted by all classes and ages in American culture. In fact Americans are often confused when they see two hands or arms used to offer a business card. When they want to refuse to give you their business card without offending you, Americans will say they left their business card at the office or have already run out of business cards, so they will actively contact you later using the information on your business card. Even though they say this, they usually will not contact you unless they think it could be valuable for them to do so.

3. Eye-contact culture

Eye-contact culture

Eye contact is one of the most important factors when communicating with Westerners, especially Americans. While communicating, Americans like to look into the eyes of the other person, showing their confidence and sincerity. Therefore, if you keep looking down at the table or looking somewhere while communicating with them, they may think you lack confidence or want to hide something. Preparing well for the meeting, and trying to make eye contact with your American counterpart will help you get a high score in the negotiations.

4. Body language

Body language

Americans use body language very often in business and in daily communication. They are also very comfortable sitting cross-legged, leaning back, or laughing when they find something interesting, which many Asians consider a lack of politeness or modesty. Americans also have some body language gestures similar ​​to Vietnamese people; for example: shaking his head to the left and right to show disagreement, nodding to show consent, raising an eyebrow to show surprise, or showing a smile when happy, etc. However, they will be more comfortable using body language to express their emotions than Asians in general and Vietnamese in particular.

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(To be continued…) 



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