Understanding Business Culture for Your Internship in Vietnam
ABROADER November 09, 2022 5 minute read
Traveling to another country for an internship is not just about improving your knowledge of your major. It is also about observing the country’s cultural and business settings. Essentially, adaptation to the country’s business culture is one of the most crucial skill sets to gain while doing your internship in Vietnam but also the less talked about. So today, let’s find out about it in this blog!
In Vietnam, we are opening ourselves to abundant opportunities for foreign investments and business cooperation. That means more and more graduates and undergraduates will have the chance to work or find an internship in Vietnam. With the economy going through its most exciting phases, now is a great time to come to Vietnam to get a head start on your future professional career. To make sure the best internship experience, adaptation to the country’s business culture is one of the most crucial skill sets to gain while doing your internship in Vietnam but also the less talked about. This often results in misunderstandings, frustrations, and sometimes, awkward situations.
Vietnamese is the official language of business. While most business circles are in English, informal conversations are often in Vietnamese. One thing to keep in mind is that not all Vietnamese office workers are fluent in English. However, they are very open to having the chance to practice. While the language barrier may be a considerable difficulty for interns trying to adapt and blend into the social scene of their new office in Vietnam, it is always helpful to start the conversation with your Vietnamese colleagues as they would be more than willing to talk to you in English once they know your interest.
Hours of Business
Monday to Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. Some businesses nowadays still require work on Saturday or Saturday mornings (especially businesses in the hospitality and culinary industry).
Depending on the type of business you are in, they will require you either to wear a uniform or business attire. Business attire should be formal or smart casual and not too revealing. As Vietnam is increasingly becoming a scene of startup companies, the requirements for business dress in many places have been loosened. So make sure to check with the host organization of your internship in Vietnam for further information.
More than the business dress, there is something you need to prepare before an internship in Vietnam, right in this link.
Relationships and Networking
Networking is incredibly important in Vietnam. In the Vietnamese business culture, businesspeople prefer to work with those recommended by a friend or business contact rather than approaching directly. Personal relationships are considered to be critically important to successful business partnerships. Therefore ex-pats should expect to invest a considerable amount of time in getting to know colleagues.
If you are on an internship in Vietnam, sometimes they will ask you out for dinner with alcoholic drinks. We often call it “nhậu”- a social activity loved by the Vietnamese to release the stress of work and maintain business relationships after work with your employer or fellow employees. You should take this as a chance to expand your network and enjoy the atmosphere of the informal social setting. These types of meetings are often very crucial. Because even they often make the most important business deals informally on the occasions of these social outings.
The concept of face is very important in Asian culture in general and in Vietnamese business settings in particular. The face often means one’s pride in the public and saving face means avoiding publicly humiliating someone. Vietnamese people will try their best to avoid embarrassing themselves and their colleagues during business proceedings. When disagreement happens, people would remain quiet or move to a private space to not cause a loss of face. Therefore, silence in a heated discussion sometimes isn’t necessarily a sign of impoliteness. This face-saving culture, however, is starting to change. As Vietnamese employers and employees are being more and more exposed to Western business culture and etiquette. Therefore direct and constructive criticisms in the working space are becoming increasingly welcomed.
The Vietnamese are very flexible in many aspects of life and including time and plans. A sudden change of plans with little notice is not uncommon in Vietnam’s business setting, especially in smaller companies/organizations. Sometimes these changes occur because the organizer or the employer comes up with a better or quicker way to do the job. Since Vietnamese people are flexible, they expect their employees to always be ready to change plans. It is helpful to keep in mind that, most of the time, changes in plans with little notice occur because employers want the best for the team or organization. Make sure you are aware of this cultural difference and do not mistake flexibility for irresponsibility or inconsideration; otherwise, you’ll encounter a lot of frustration.
Seniority is very important in the country’s business setting especially if you are doing an internship in Vietnam with a State owned or government institution. 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 Doctor (name), Director (name), or Manager (name). Always give special respect to higher ranking staff or your senior.
You may find out more about seniority in Vietnam in this video.
Vietnamese business contacts are better done through referrals; normally a business relationship is struck based on another business associate’s recommendation. The best opportunities often come from a strong recommendation. Therefore, finding an internship in Vietnam placement would be easier done through an organization with a strong network of contacts with businesses from many industries like ABROADER.
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