When in Rome, do as the romans do.
The specific aspects of each country can be seen in traditions, customs and rules of communication. Whether you move in private circles in Vietnam or develop and maintain business contacts, you must observe the cultural background and a few ground rules. Here is a small selection:
Don’t be surprised if you are invited to a business meeting in a popular café or bar. It does not mean that the appointment or meeting is not important.
Even if, generally speaking, it is not particularly formal in Vietnam: for business appointments, formal business attire is required! That means two or three-piece suits with a shirt, tie and polished leather shoes. For women, a dress, suit or skirt, each knee-length, or trouser suit. Business dress shows that you value an official appointment and also that you take it as seriously as your business partner does.
Giving out business cards is – as in other parts of Asia – a special ritual: The business card is always handed over with both hands and if you get a card, don’t just put it straight in your pocket or bag. Leave the business card on the table for a while or keep it in your hand for a bit. By doing so, you are showing how interested you are in your counterpart. The business card should also not be dirty or creased.
Important contacts that should lead to long-term collaboration can be strengthened by the giving of a gift. As Germany is highly valued in Vietnam, we would recommend a present from your town or city, or something that has specific relevance to where you are from.
Eating together at a business appointment is very common – however, very little is discussed at a business meal. It is more about getting to know each other and finding a common level.
Lunches rarely last a long time, but they can be extensive. They will almost always offer you a beer. Don’t overdo it.
Evening meals last longer and more drink will be consumed; you shouldn’t avoid the drink rituals: You toast each other as usual in a circle; it can happen that individuals and key people for the business relationship will very deliberately just want to do a toast with you. After that, you should get up and drink your glass – filled with the best wine – down in one go. Following the business meal, if you get an invite to your business partner’s own home, this is very clear sign of trust. Be a good guest.
The first meeting will almost always take place in the host’s office or in a separate meeting room at the company. The guest will often expect a small guided tour of the factory and to be introduced to individual contacts or other decision-makers.
Use of the telephone in meetings
It is considered very impolite to answer the phone during a meeting. If it is very important, offer up an apology. The best thing is to put your phone on silent.
Schedule and agenda
Business appointments are often precisely planned – a specific time is arranged and confirmation of the appointment has usually already been sent out. The more important an appointment is, the more time they allocate to it. You must be on time and try to keep to the schedule. If you are delayed due to traffic, please ring the office en route and let them know what your estimated time of arrival is.
Initial appointment and follow-up appointment
The initial appointment decides whether another meeting is considered useful or desirable. It is generally a bad sign if no specific actions are agreed and only an exchange of information by email is arranged. Make sure you get a concrete result at the end of the meeting and agree the next steps for the collaboration.