[Newsletter | May 2021] – Vietnamese Behavioral Culture In Business

One of the best ways for foreign partners to succeed in doing business in Vietnam is by mastering the ability to embrace Vietnamese business customs. When you are prepared, a certain understanding of the Vietnamese customs, the opportunities will expand. 

The following article will mention some of the unique cultural features of Vietnamese business.


Americans often do not reveal their age to a new acquaintance: however, when Vietnamese people introduce themselves while meeting someone, they often want to know that person’s age. Unlike the English language, there are many age-based personal pronouns in Vietnamese. Once knowing a person’s age, the Vietnamese people feel more relaxed and confident while addressing new acquaintances and they become open to a more personal conversation.


The Vocative

Vietnamese people have a very rich system of speech etiquette, with many principles of addressing each other to show mutual respect. Name and pronoun usage show a big difference between Americans and Vietnamese people. The Vietnamese people often avoid calling each other by their names. To begin with, the name order is reversed between Vietnam and America. The family name is included first in Vietnamese full formal name, and the given name is listed last in the full name. It is just the opposite with American names.


However, the family name is never referred to in Vietnamese conversation, so the given name is used, but be careful. Using a given name when there is an age difference is considered to be very rude, only to be used for example when arguing. While for Americans, they usually can freely call each other by their given names without fear of causing misunderstanding of making the listener feel disrespected. It can be helpful to discuss how people would prefer to be addressed if you haven’t mastered the common Vietnamese pronouns.


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Clothing Style

The climate in Vietnam is quite hot and humid, so visitors should consider finding an outfit that is comfortable but suitable for the event they will be attending. However, there are not too many Vietnamese fashion differences compared to other countries, the most notable one being the elegant “Ao dai”. With formal business meetings or conferences, luxurious and elegant suits will be a great choice for foreigners. Men should wear a tie, and women should wear discreet dresses and blouses.


Hand Shaking

When the two partners meet, the custom of shaking hands is used before and after the meeting ends. Handshakes are often used for two people of the same sex. For a woman, if she doesn’t actively reach out her hand, bow slightly.


Eating & Drink

An inevitable part of living as well as doing business in Vietnam is that dining. Eating, and drinking are a very important cultural feature for Vietnamese people. A relationship is an important factor for determining the success of cooperation between two parties in Vietnam and dining experiences build relationships. There are countless Vietnamese dining etiquette protocols to master, too many to cover here. However, toasting should be mentioned because of its important role in business dining. Wine and beer are indispensable in such meetings. The toast helps to establish close on both personal and professional levels. Visitors should drink only after the toasting procedure has taken place, not just the first time but every time when drinking wine or beer. The cup will be raised with your right hand and supported with your left hand. When toasting, people will make a short statement for the cause of the toast or state short sentences like “Tram phan tram” (mostly for men) or “Chuc suc khoe” (for both men and women). These phrases mean drink 100% and “good health”.


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A beautiful tradition of Vietnamese people is that of hospitality and gift-giving. They are extremely popular cultural expressions, especially during important occasions. For Vietnamese people, the gift is not as important as the heart you send in it. For business relationships, a gift is usually not exchanged at the first meeting, but a small souvenir from your home country, a small gift after dinner, or a gift at a special moment will show that you are a very interested person.



Language is a big barrier for Vietnamese people. However, most Vietnamese people are very polite. They always listen, smile, and slightly nod their head to agree with you even though they may not fully understand what you say. They will always create a relaxed and positive atmosphere with their partners. However, if you laugh at the wrong time or in the wrong place, it might cause a backlash. So visitors should feel free to relax, enjoy peaceful and pleasant exchanges, and experience many moments to be grateful.


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