Top 10 DO’s and DON’Ts to Doing Business in Vietnam (在越南做生意"一定要"和"一定不要"的前十件事)

------------------------ Top 10 DO's (一定要的前十件事) ---------------------

1. DO handle business cards with two hands 一定要用雙手奉上名片
When presented with a business card, always receive it with both hands. Vietnamese view business cards as representation of the individual so treat the cards with some respect. Don’t stuff it hastily in your pocket. Do spend a few seconds observing the card. If you are sitting in the meeting, place the business card neatly in front of you. Respect is a big deal in Vietnam and more often, the handling of a business card is the first chance you get to show it. Try not to carry the cards loose in your pockets or allow them to become soiled. You might want to store them in a discreet card case. By the way, do remember to bring plenty of business cards along on your trip.

2. DO dress conservatively for business meetings 一定要謹慎保守地穿著參加商務會議
There is no "business casual" in Vietnam so dress conservatively. The South is a little more casual than the North. During the hot summer months, you might be able to get away with attend a meeting without a jacket. However, when it comes to first meetings or meeting with senior management, a suite is a must.

3. DO expect an element of corruption and bribes 一定要預期會有貪污索賄的情況
The Vietnamese government is actually doing a pretty good job at curbing this problem and it is definitely less prevalent now than it was 3 or 4 years ago. Some Vietnamese feel that this the way business in done in Vietnam. Some foreigners feel that this is the cost of doing business in Vietnam. However you look at it, it's still a part of doing business in Vietnam. You need to be aware of it and be prepared in advance to deal with payoffs, kickbacks, and “gifts” requests. Do keep in mind that anyone convicted of corruption can be sentenced to death or face long prison sentences.

4. DO remember that age is still highly value 一定要記得年紀仍然高度受到重視
Vietnamese show a great deal of respect to their elders. The respect is expressed through gestures such as bowing and through language such as putting certain words in front of each spoken phrase to indicate respect. All Vietnamese has to select the appropriate personal pronouns when addressing someone older.

5. DO expect the traffic to be pretty crazy 一定要預期交通狀況會讓人抓狂
If this is your first trip to Vietnam, you WILL be overwhelmed with the traffic especially when crossing the street or riding on the back of a motorbike taxi. It is best to hire a personal driver to take you around and do give yourself plenty of time to get to important meetings. Take a look at some images on Google to get an idea of the insane traffic.

6. DO be polite 一定要有禮貌
Vietnam is a polite society and they don’t tolerate rudeness well. In Vietnamese, when you want someone to do something for you, it is best to say, “If it is only convenient for you, may we stop by the market on the way to my hotel?” Most Vietnamese would be happy to comply whether it is convenient for them or not. Vietnamese often use the phrase, ‘xin phep’ meaning ‘to seek permission’ before contributing to a discussion. Therefore, when you are at a business meeting, remember to always use the phrase, ‘May I suggest something’ before presenting an idea.

7. DO bring your own interpreter to business meetings 參加商務會議一定要帶你自己的翻譯
The value of a private interpreter is not so much in doing the interpreting but also to tell you afterwards the hidden meaning behind some translated responses. No matter how well government officials or potential business partners appear to speak English, do not assume that they fully understand you or that YOU understand them. Sometimes, a “yes” may not mean “yes”. A good interpreter (a native Vietnamese) should be able to catch and point out instances where a "yes" meant "maybe" or even "no".

8. DO remember the reverse order of names 一定要記住反向方式的姓名稱呼
First and last names are said in reverse order from English. The family name always goes first, then the given name. Introductions are said in the following order: Mr. surname, middle name, given name. Since many Vietnamese share common surnames, people are addressed with Mr., Mrs. or Miss and their given name. For example, when someone is introduced as Mr. Nguyen Van Long, you should address him as Mr. Long (his first name) and not Mr. Nguyen (his last name.)

9. DO try to eat what you’re served 一定要嘗試去吃一下他人為你服務的食物
Whenever you are presented with food that is not so good (that is not good to you), never say so, be gracious, and always thank your host. If you don't have an adventurous palate, why not change your thinking from, “I am afraid to try it this new food” to “Hmm...this dish looks interesting, I am curious to see what it tastes like.”Do this and you will have a much better time. Who knows, you might even enjoy some of the food. Also, an offer of tea at a reception or business meeting is a form of hospitality and should not be refused. By the way, when dining with acquaintances or business partners, don't pick up the last piece of food on the plate. It is meant to be left on the plate. The only time you would eat the last piece of food is when someone else picked it up and put it on your plate.

10. DO expect hotels to be very clean 一定要預期旅館酒店相當乾淨
Most hotels are very clean, equipped with hot water, toiletries, and satellite TV with business channels including CNN, CNBC, and Bloomberg.

--------------------- Top 10 DONT's (一定不要的前十件事) ------------------

1. DON'T be late to business meetings 參加商務會議一定不要遲到
You may have heard that Vietnamese are casual about punctuality when meeting with friends or attending various social events. There is even a term called "gio day thung" meaning "rubber band time" that is often used as a joke among Vietnamese. However, when it comes to business meetings Vietnamese are very punctual and you’ll need to be on time--it’s a huge sign of disrespect when you are late although they might not tell it to your face.

2. DON'T talk about religion, politics, or the Vietnam War 一定不要談論有關宗教、政策或者越南戰爭
If these topics are brought up by others, resist the temptation to join in. It might be best to gently change the topic.

3. DON’T say anything to offend the Vietnamese government 一定不要提及任何得罪越南政府的言論
There may be times when foreign press (or the local press) may ask you for an interview. Foreign press representatives in Vietnam must follow strict guideline on what they can and cannot do in Vietnam. Make sure the reporter has been authorized by the Vietnamese government to interview you. During the interview, remember the adage, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

4. DON'T assume the current Vietnamese laws will not be changed 一定不要認為目前的越南法令將來不會改變
Vietnamese rules and regulations are constantly changing. Many foreign operators have said this is one of the most frustrating things about doing business in Vietnam right along with going through the slow application procedure dozens of times to get the necessary permits to operate in Vietnam.

5. DON'T expect to sleep in late 一定不要指望晚睡
Vietnamese start their day early (6 a.m.). Most merchants start wheeling their cargo around 5 a.m. Do expect the noise in the morning to be a little overwhelming for first timers.

6. DON’T expect to reach an agreement quickly 一定不要期望很快地就能達成某項協議
Most decisions are made by committee in Vietnam and negotiations can be quite lengthy.

7. DON’T touch a person's head 一定不要觸摸某人的頭部
It is very disrespectful to touch someone's head. The head is considered the sacred and only parents may touch the head of their young children.

8. DON'T accept an on-the-spot invitation to dinner at someone’s house 一定不要接收一個當場立即的邀請到某人的家中用晚餐
If you happened to stop by someone’s house near or during dinner time, more often, you will be invited to sit down for dinner. This is only a formality and the invitation should always be declined even if they repeat the offer the second time. Unless you know the family very well and it’s their third or fourth offer, you may accept but only eat a few bites—most Vietnamese only make enough food to consume at one sitting so there may not be enough to go around when there is an unexpected guest.

9. DON’T accept a compliment 一定不要接收恭維
This may sound strange but in Vietnam it is customary to deny a compliment. When you receive a compliment, be polite, smile, and play it down. For example, if someone said you're a good speaker, just reply, "Oh, I am not that good really but thanks." To get a feel for it, try offering a Vietnamese a compliment and see how to they turn it down.

10. DON'T cause someone to lose face in front of others 一定不要讓某人在其他人面前失去顏面
This is a big one. Vietnamese put a very high value in maintaining and saving face. Embarrass or insult someone in a business meeting (or in a social setting) and they will remember it for a long time. On the other hand, if you go out of your way to save face for someone, they will definitely know it and will remember your kind gesture.