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How to ensure effective intercultural communication for doing business in Vietnam

Doing business in Vietnam : develop strong intercultural communication

November 2023

Communication is the key to any project. Indeed, it enables the easy exchange of ideas, laying the foundation for strong relationships and smooth operations. Businesses have plenty of opportunities when they venture into Vietnam’s growing market. However, success mostly relies on effective cross-cultural communication.

In an interview hosted by Zach Herbors for Business Way TV, ALTIOS Vietnam’s Country Coordinator Thuy Minh Giang explores key tips and best practices for successful business interactions in Vietnam.

Overcome Communication Barriers

Communication is greatly influenced by cultural differences. Some words that have neutral meanings in one culture might mean something else in another.

For example, “ambition” or “being ambitious” is viewed differently in Vietnam and Europe. In Europe, ambition is usually positive; it is seen as a trait leading to success and personal fulfillment.

In Vietnam, however, there are two words for ambition, each ones carriying a different meaning. On the one hand, one is positive, like in Europe, while the other suggests competitiveness or even ruthlessness.

Here are some tips understand cultural differences in business:

1. Learn Vietnamese and build personal relationships from scratch

Getting to know people personally makes communication easier and shows a sincere interest in the local culture. Vietnamese partners are more likely to feel at ease and transparent when speaking to you in their mother tongue. Speaking in their native language helps build trust and stronger business relationships.

2. Show Adaptability and Cultural Sensitivity

Effective intercultural communication requires having an open mind and developing cross-cultural awareness, that is to say, being aware of cultural differences. It is important to embrace diversity and recognize that what may be customary in one culture may not hold the same significance in another. By respecting local customs and traditions, you will build credibility and trust.

3. Be clear in your statements

Misunderstandings can happen in any cross-cultural situation. However, in order to minimize it, you should always ask questions and seek clarification. By being proactive, you can prevent potential misinterpretations and develop a transparent and productive working relationship. Clear communication guarantees that everyone’s goals and expectations are in line.

4. Call on a mediator for smooth communication

Sometimes, despite best efforts, there may still be challenges. In this kind of situation, finding a trustworthy mediator can be very helpful. A mediator with expertise in both cultures can assist you in comprehension problems, and help you and your Vietnamese partner communicate effectively. By doing this, you will be sure that both understood messages correctly and that any possible disagreements or inconsistencies are resolved right away.

Three Impacts of Cultural Differences

1. Language barrier

The language barrier can be a real problem, due to the structure of the Vietnamese language. Unlike Latin languages, the Vietnamese language does not use tenses. This fundamental difference in grammar can make it hard to understand nuances.

Also, varying levels of English proficiency among Vietnamese people can also make communication harder. Thus, it requires patience.

2. Working hours

Some Vietnamese people work on weekends. Sometimes, they might send urgent requests or inquiries during this time. This is an aspect of the Vietnamese work culture that you have to take into account, in order to find mutually agreeable solutions when facing these time-sensitive issues.

3. Legal documents

Legal documents are often sent via platforms such as Whatsapp or Zello. While these methods offer convenience and speed, they may not be as secure as conventional methods. Extra precautions are needed to protect sensitive data.

Watch the full interview with Thuy Minh Giang for Business Way TV:

Want to learn more?

If you are interested in reading more articles about doing business in Vietnam, check out our article about how to choose a manufacturing site in Vietnam.