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Understanding Vietnam cultural patterns (Hanoi)


Those tips are based on ‘HR Solutions Vietnam: HR Survival Guide for Foreigner Managers in Vietnam’ (Eurocham Vietnam, Protected content .

Part I: Understanding Vietnam cultural patterns

Saving face: It is very important for Vietnamese to save face. Being criticized in front of others might drive an employee to resign. Similarly, losing your temper or shouting may cause you to lose ‘face’ and is deemed a demonstration of less maturity.

Meaning of ‘yes’: nodding affirmatively, smiling or saying “yes” often means “I have heard you”, but it doesn’t always mean “I understand” or “I agree”. If you are uncertain, politely ask the worker to repeat what they have agreed to do, so there won’t be a misunderstanding.

Hesitant to say ‘No’: Like many Asians, the Vietnamese will try to avoid conflicts and direct confrontation. They prefer to harmonize personal interactions instead of discarding. A negative answer or direct refusal is regarded impolite, crude. Being reluctant to say ‘No’ often leads the employers to think there’s agreement among their Vietnam workforce. From a Vietnamese perfectible, this isn’t deemed untruthful; it simply refers to maintaining a harmonious relationship and saving face.

Indirectness: For saving mutual face and maintaining harmony, the Vietnamese, instead of hitting to the point, often beat around the bush when it comes to the negative issues. The listener has to perceive the hidden meaning rather than what is directly stated. When employees have complaints, they would rather avoid face-to-face talks with the managers. They tend to confide in team leaders, peers or make written anonymous complaints to management via Suggestion Boxes.

Greeting Culture: The Vietnamese are sincere about the greetings, and will feel slighted when they aren’t greeted. Forms of greetings in Vietnam aside from saying ‘hello’ can be a smile, a nod, a handshake, or a question ‘Is everything ok?’, ‘where are you going’. The different forms are associated with different levels of intimacy, social position.

In greeting, Vietnamese always says “hello”, smiles and shakes hand

Informal vs. Formal talks: Vietnamese people consider informal talks more important than formal meetings as they tend to develop trust and voice their ideas during the small talks. In the official meetings, no one tends to disagree with their boss.

Frequent communication: Just like cementing a good relationship with your friends, family, relationship fostering in Vietnam is largely related to frequent communication. In the case of foreign managers, talking frequently to Vietnamese workers will help you see them better, faster and get rid of risks for uncertainty, misunderstanding and suspicion at the working place.

Private questions: The Vietnamese often ask about age, marital status at the first meeting to help to understand the terms of relationship. The meaning of the pronoun ‘you’ is different relying on age, gender, etc.

Source: Protected content

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