8 Tips on Saving Face in Vietnam’s Business Culture
December 13, 2017
What is “face?”
Imagine that you’re having a business dinner with two clients. The first client tells a story that embarrasses you, but compliments the second client. In this scenario, you end up losing face while the second client builds face.
Face is an individual’s social standing, and is a key part of Vietnamese business culture. You should avoid causing someone to lose face at all costs, as it’s often unforgivable.
How “face” affects your business?
Relationships are important in Vietnamese business culture. Understanding how to “save face” will help you build a strong reputation in Vietnam, and in other Asian countries as well.
Understanding how to 'save face' will help you build a strong reputation in Vietnam, and in other Asian countries as well
Here are eight tips on how to save face while doing business in Vietnam:
Sincerely thank your Vietnamese business partner for meals and gifts. It’s a proven way to build face for everyone involved.
Dress for the Occasion
Dressing casual for business meetings will make you look casually interested. You should dress formally to show that you value the Vietnamese business opportunity.
Everything you receive from Vietnamese business clients should be handled with care, including business cards. These should be accepted with both hands, read for a few minutes and placed down in front of you during meetings.
Say No First
You should politely refuse gifts first, before graciously accepting them with both hands
Giving gifts is common in Vietnamese business culture. You should politely refuse gifts first, before graciously accepting them with both hands. This matters when Vietnamese business clients try to pay the bill during meals as well.
It’s important to build face for everyone in Vietnamese business meetings, but especially for those who are older or hold a higher rank. Vietnamese culture holds elders and bosses in high regard, and you should too.
Accept All Invitations
In Vietnamese business culture, there are many events before and after meetings, including dinners and parties. Rejecting a Vietnamese business client’s invitation will cause them to lose face, especially if done in public.
Rejecting a Vietnamese business client's invitation will cause them to lose face, especially if done in public
No Physical Contact
Avoid touching your Vietnamese business partner, even though it’s common in Western culture when telling a joke. Business negotiations are treated with great respect and honor in Vietnam, and casual behavior makes it seem like you’re not taking the meeting seriously.
Don’t Call Out A Liar
Bending the truth is common in Vietnam, but that doesn’t mean that calling someone a liar is okay. Shaming Vietnamese business clients in front of others will cause them to lose face, and cause you to lose business.
Keys to Success for Doing Business in Vietnam
It can be hard to understand saving face as a foreign business, especially if you’re used to Western culture. However, it’s essential to conducting business in Asia.
These tips on saving face can be used in countries outside of Asia as well. Whether you’re in Houston or Hanoi, treating your business partners with respect and dignity, dressing formally to show your interest and commitment, and complimenting your hosts and business partners can help your business thrive in any country.
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