Ho Chi Minh City’s networking etiquette
Moving to a new city and country can be a daunting and overwhelming challenge. Pair this with adapting to an entirely foreign business and cultural environment, and it can feel downright gruelling. Although there are plenty of networking opportunities for expats relocating to Ho Chi Minh City, they may find themselves wondering how to carry themselves in professional networking situations.
Overall, most of the etiquette is similar to many cultures throughout the world, but there are a few slight differences. Here are a few things expats should know before stepping through the door of a networking occasion.
The primary cultural aspect expats should be aware of is the prominence of ‘keeping face’ in Vietnam. Similar to many parts of Asia, the idea of saving face is significant to Vietnamese culture and can be detrimental to interpersonal business prospects and how they play out in social and professional scenarios. It pretty much goes without saying, but a good example of this is to avoid proving someone wrong in front of others or arguing in public about an idea or concept. Public reputation is everything here, and even though there may be some culture clashes regarding the Vietnamese way of approaching things, never confront this in a public space.
Avoid touchy topics
Another thing to watch out for is to ensure you are not offending the locals by dredging up the past. Again, this can be said about pretty much any nation, but Vietnamese people are quite nationalistic and proud of their country. Mentioning French colonialism or the Vietnam War era might offend some people and create tension. This can sever business ties that otherwise would have been maintained had there not been for the awkward cultural faux pas.
When expats are introducing themselves, it is essential to remember there is a hierarchy culture in Vietnam. What this means is that when introducing yourself to larger groups, always approach the eldest member first. This shows a sign of respect and ensures you are staying well within the bounds of the culture. It’s okay to shake hands like most parts of the West, but when doing so, expats should be conscious of giving a slight bow at the same time. Understand that some women may prefer to simply bow rather than shake hands; extending a hand to assess the situation is recommended.
The dress code
When planning an outfit for a networking event in Ho Chi Minh City, be mindful of the fact that Vietnamese culture is a bit on the conservative side. Women should generally wear skirts that are below the knee. Although Ho Chi Minh City is far more relaxed than Hanoi, they should avoid wearing tops that reveal cleavage or their shoulders. Depending on the seriousness of the event, men should wear suits; jackets are not always required, though.
Overall, one thing that all cultures have in common is respect for others. When conducting business discussions, know that Vietnamese culture generally requires everyone to be on board with a decision. This may not always flow as quickly as it does in the West, so remain patient and respectful of the culture.