Poles have been cooperating with the Vietnamese for many years and enjoy a good reputation among Asian contractors. However, it should not be forgotten that the business culture in Vietnam, like in China, is different from the European one and there are many obstacles.
This culture highly respects adherence to etiquette, hence the counterparties do not speak ill of their partners. However, this does not mean that the absence of the word "no" will be a positive signal. For the Asians, it is unacceptable to "lose face". Therefore, in line with the Confucian principle of striving for harmony and consensus, the Vietnamese are trying to find a solution instead of concentrating on shortcomings. It is also worth noting that the Vietnamese market is underdeveloped and strongly dependent on the state. Although it is not fully nationalised, the administrative apparatus plays a very important role here. Moreover, this is a country where bargaining is a regular occurrence and goods practically never have fixed prices.
Bureaucracy and... corruption
Trying to do business in Vietnam, we will surely quickly notice that the structure of bureaucracy is an outdated one in which the officials have a superior position. They are often arrogant and incompetent. They are also susceptible to bribery. The Vietnamese, who are used to such a system, also often handle things in this way, and it is often the case that without a "strong argument", you will not achieve anything. Therefore, counterparties expect that the larger the company we represent, the greater the "remuneration" should be. This phenomenon is so common that the powerful Western cosmetic or food companies have conquered the Vietnamese market exactly in this way. Here, everyone is willing to accept bribes and their amounts also depend on the nationality of the counterparty.
What should you know before a meeting?
Greetings in Vietnam consist in a handshake at the beginning and at the end of the meeting. According to Asian culture, the handshake can be made with both hands, where the left hand will support the right wrist. When going to a meeting, it is worth preparing business cards in advance. It would be in good taste to prepare them in the local language or double-sided and translated into English and Vietnamese. If we have such a version, we should give the business card with the Vietnamese translation facing up. Business cards should be handed out with both hands during all formal meetings. When you receive a business card from your counterparty, take a moment to read it and then put it in your business card holder or another elegant case. This will be seen as a sign of respect, to which Asians pay particular attention. It is also good to know the order of Vietnamese names and surnames. On your counterparty's business card, you will find their surname first, then second name and first name. You should address your business partner by their first name, preceded with the academic title provided on the business card.
It is also good to remember that not all Vietnamese speak fluent English, so it is better not to use sophisticated specialised or technical vocabulary in communication if you are not sure that the other party has as wide a range of vocabulary as you. However, you should avoid talking to a younger person who speaks better English if there is an older, senior representative present at the meeting. Such behaviour may be considered offensive. If, on the other hand, an interpreter participates in the meeting, you should have a conversation with the counterparty, keeping eye contact with them, rather than talking to the interpreter.
As far as dress code is concerned, it is worth sticking to the basic and formal rules. Especially at the beginning of establishing relationships. Although the Vietnamese climate is warm, in winter the temperature drops to just a few degrees, so it is good to take warmer clothes too.
What should you kept in mind during negotiations?
Before you even enter the meeting, pay attention to the hierarchy of people representing the Vietnamese partners. The oldest people should enter the room first, followed by the others. The Vietnamese like to know what the agenda will be, so at the meeting, it is good to provide the agenda, bilingual brochures (e.g. English-Vietnamese) and product descriptions so that each participant knows what will be discussed. As for the negotiations themselves, the Vietnamese, like other representatives of Asian culture, are afraid of losing face so they will not say the word "no" outright. Silence will be the expression of dissatisfaction.
You also have to be aware that establishing relationships in Vietnam takes quite a long time, so be prepared for a series of meetings before you reach your goal. It is also worth remembering that in Vietnam no gifts are given during the first meeting. However, they are welcome during a meal with your counterparty. What gift should you give? It will be a good idea to buy a gift connected with our country, as well as chocolates or high-quality alcohol such as cognac. If positive negotiations are celebrated with alcohol, you should wait for a toast, during which it would be in good taste to say "Phan Tram Phan Tram" (Bottoms up!) or "Chuc Suc Khoe" (Cheers!).