Working in Vietnam

With a business culture similar to other Asian countries like mainland China and Japan, Vietnam’s economy is growing and the unemployment rate is low – so there are plenty of jobs for expats, especially in the construction and tourism industries.

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Doing business

Vietnam is developing rapidly and its business environment is dynamic, although it can still be a little constrained by old-fashioned values and over-regulation. But the economy is robust and has seen steady growth since the 1990s.

In recent years, there’s been an influx of businesses wanting to diversify their operations away from mainland China. It’s also an attractive destination for entrepreneurs looking to set up new ventures – and the Vietnamese government is trying to change legislation to make this easier.

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Business culture

To do business with the Vietnamese you have to respect the principles of Confucianism. Hierarchy and the concept of saving face are also important. Your Vietnamese colleagues and associates will be warm and welcoming if you show a willingness to understand their business culture and learn their language.

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The teachings of the ancient philosopher Confucius pervade social and business life in Vietnam. Among the ethical principles that impact on business are loyalty, integrity, kindness and honesty.

Saving face

It’s important to preserve the honour and dignity of a Vietnamese businessperson and their company. They’ll quietly cut you off if you’re overly critical or aggressive towards them.


It’s important to build personal relationships with colleagues and associates, so don’t be surprised if business isn’t discussed at all at initial meetings.

Management style

Respect for age and seniority is endemic in Vietnamese business culture. Formality is important to managers, and they like to show their superiority. But they can also be compassionate, paternalistic and understanding.

Fast facts

Business language

Vietnamese. English is spoken in most business circles. You may have to hire an interpreter in some circumstances.

Business hours

Usually 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, and 8am to 11.30am on Saturday.


Businessmen and women dress formally and conservatively – modesty is key. Dark suits are always a good option.


Handshakes are used to greet someone of the same gender. Men should wait for a woman to extend her hand first – if she doesn’t, a slight bow of the head will do. Some Vietnamese people use a two-handed shake with the left hand on top of the right wrist.


Gift giving is common at the end of a business deal or during a meal to celebrate a successful partnership. Gifts should be small and inexpensive – something with your company logo or a souvenir from your home country are good options.

Gender equality

While Vietnam has made strides towards gender equality, women remain underrepresented in business circles and it’s rare to see them in senior positions.

Expat salaries

Salaries in Vietnam tend to be slightly lower than other popular expat destinations, but this is offset by the low cost of living.

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Always remember to ensure you are aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

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