The work culture in Hanoi

The work culture in Hanoi

Coming to Hanoi for work might be inspiring a few question marks to hover over your head. What is the work culture like? Are they slave drivers here? How do I immerse myself properly? The list goes on. But in reality, things are nowhere near as bad as your nerves may be projecting. If you are from a foreign country, you will probably be expected to speak English during any work-related discussions, but also at social gatherings too. Everything else will inevitably present itself to you.


Don’t make direct comparisons between the work environment of Hanoi and your home town. It could be taken the wrong way.

The workplace

As Hanoi is still developing, even compared with other Vietnamese cities, it is important to remember that facilities here might not be as sparkling as those in your home country. Some local schools have minimal budgets and therefore still use blackboards, rather than any fancy electronic equipment. Startup companies will not yet have the pennies for air conditioning and will often maintain a simple fan system. Rather than complaining about this, buying a snake balm from the pharmacy will help to keep you cool.

The dress code

Regarding the dress code, this will vary depending on the sector and individual company. There are numerous things you can do to avoid coming across as daft, firstly being, use your best judgement. Would you rock up to your first day of a management position dressed to walk onto centre court? Of course not. However, if you are unsure, ask your employer as soon as you have been offered the job. They will give you a direct answer as to what is acceptable. If you have personally been to your place of work already, what were your soon-to-be coworkers wearing? Take inspiration from other people in a similar role. As a general rule of thumb, if you are working in the education or management sectors, you will be expected to dress semi-formally. On the flip side, if you are working in a creative role, a casual approach to dressing is normally fine. But double check with your employer, colleagues or friends in Hanoi to be on the safe side.

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It is also important to note that management in many Hanoi businesses does not always comply with western standards. Organisational errors are commonplace, and this can take a little getting used to. Locals are more laid back in many sectors here, and bad punctuality is not subject to the same military scrutiny as you are probably used to back home. Arriving a few minutes late won’t likely inspire the same ‘Drop n’ give me twenny’ raised eyebrows that are prevalent in the working culture a formal British bank.

Socialising with coworkers in Hanoi

From time to time, you will be invited out for dinner or drinks with your colleagues, and if you are really lucky, your boss will pay for the whole shebang! If you are a parent or have other responsibilities, that is fair enough, however, do try to attend one of the first social excursions. This simply reassures management that you are committed to the team.

Hanoi, like many other cities in Southeast Asia, is gradually modernising and at the moment, most working sectors adopt a similar dress code to what you would expect in the western world. Attitudes, customs and practices remain slightly different, but if you are ever uncertain of anything, simply reach out and ask your superiors. Should you make any mistakes, remember that you are a foreigner and you will generally be forgiven.

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