Doing Business in Vietnam: Understanding the Cultural Differences

Consider the cultural diversity of Vietnam, which lies in Southeast Asia. It is one of the most vibrant countries for business opportunities with a largely untapped market but also presents challenges. This country is known as an emerging economy but has not yet fully entered into mainstream capitalism, and aspects of communist culture still remain today. Understanding some of these cultural differences can be key to successful business endeavors here.

Once at war with each other, now united under communist rule, Vietnamese survivalist nature has changed little since the pre-colonial days when people had to make their way through thick forests filled with poisonous animals and insects. Being hospitable hosts would be seen as a weakness by many citizens who are taught to place more value on survival than mutual assistance. They remain fiercely proud of their independence and may show little interest in cooperating with business partners unless they truly believe it will benefit them.

This can make negotiations more difficult as Vietnamese entrepreneurs are rarely willing to budge from their principles, but the ever-present desire for success has produced a population that is resilient, independent, and willing to work hard for what they want. With a little cleverness, this mindset can be used to your advantage during a deal.

The two main religions present in Vietnam are Buddhism and Confucianism – although most people practice a mixture of the two – giving rise to a level of tolerance not seen elsewhere. This can lead to mistakes on the part of westerners who often overlook religious differences when establishing business plans or formal negotiations. Understanding these cultural differences can be absolutely crucial to working with partners here, so it is best not to make assumptions that everyone shares your behavior or beliefs.

Many business people will find it difficult to do business in Vietnam—the language barrier alone can prove daunting for those unfamiliar with the complexities of Vietnamese grammar and pronunciation—but the challenge of doing business in an environment that is often completely different from their own norm is also what makes this country such a rewarding place to conduct business. While rushing through negotiations may lead to some losses, learning the culture first-hand will help you develop more effective strategies.

The need for mutual cooperation has led Vietnamese entrepreneurs to take steps toward opening their economy upon a global; they are aware that basic infrastructure is lagging behind many of their foreign competition. This means that technologies that are beyond the reach of most locals due to expense or availability, such as software management systems and modern business practices, can be introduced without much resistance.

While Vietnam is still in some ways an emerging economy where communism has not yet fully died out, this country offers great opportunities for doing business. Understanding some cultural differences in regard to negotiation and cooperation will help you succeed in establishing working relationships with local entrepreneurs who place a high value on independence, survival, and self-sufficiency.

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