Vietnam: Understanding Vietnamese Business Culture

Vietnam: Understanding Vietnamese Business Culture

Ngyyen Vu Tu Uyen (Independent Researcher, Vietnam)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8167-5.ch004


Understanding national culture has become increasingly important in this new era, when the world is more interconnected, globalized, and has fewer boundaries. Managing Cultural Diversity or Cross-Cultural Management is now a major topic of consideration for companies across Asia, especially in Vietnam. This case study aims to present insights on Vietnamese cultural preferences. The research approach is based on the Canning model, including preferences of “Relationship,” “Communication,” “Time,” “Truth,” and “Human Philosophy.” From this basis, an Expert Profile is built for Vietnam in the hope that it can become an engaging guide for any foreigner who wants to study the Vietnamese culture. This case also looks at cultural factors like being an “individualist,” the concept of “close distance,” being “effusive,” thinking “long term,” and looking at “fixed truth.” Generally speaking, the Vietnamese people come from a “group oriented,” “physical distance,” “reserved,” “short-term,” and “relative truth” culture.
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Setting The Stage

Working for a foreign company, travelling on holiday, or going abroad to work, is no longer rare for the Vietnamese. In such a rapid process of globalization and integration between Vietnamese and foreign businesses, numerous issues have arisen due to the culture gaps between Vietnam and other countries. To improve the business relationship with other countries, there is a strong demand for studying the culture of Vietnam and other countries to figure out the gaps, as there are certainly no two cultures, or indeed individuals exactly the same and “culture can be only used meaningfully by comparison (Hofstede, 1991). Here, in this case, the author is seeking to emphasize the gap between Vietnamese culture and that of other countries. The case is based on the Canning model, discussed in the book “Bridging the Culture Gap”.

Canning is a communication-training center for international business based in the United Kingdom. Their service aims at helping professional people to communicate effectively with each other across cultural barriers. Their courses are carried in 45 countries on five continents with more than 110,000 participants since 1965. This exclusive experience has helped Canning to develop a unique approach to cross-cultural training. Based on real life stories, Penny Carte and Chris Fox, two of the most experienced trainers of Canning, wrote the book “Bridging the Culture Gap: A Practical Guide to International Business Communication”. Canning carries out research across Europe and the USA as well as in some Asian countries such as Japan, China and India. The result is the Expert Profile for these countries. Vietnam is not yet on the list. This was one of the aims of the research for this case, to create an Expert Profile for Vietnam (as discussed in the Case Description).

Penny Carte has been the Research and Development Director at Canning since 1988. Carte is a modern languages graduate. She has lived and worked in France, Italy and Japan. She runs tailored courses for multinational companies in different industries and helps board directors and senior managers to prepare for specific projects. She travels exclusively throughout Europe and Asia. Chris Fox joined Canning in 1999. He also travels throughout Europe and runs courses for managers. He publishes papers and articles on cultural theory. In Penny Carte and Chris Fox’s model, the cultural preference scales were developed by Canning and have been refined over the past ten years with the help of the international course participants (Carte & Fox, 2004). The preferences are related to Relationship, Communication, Time, Truth, and The Human Psychology. On each preference, there is a pair of statements with a scale of 50 for each. The terminology used originated from the research and theories of Edward T. Hall – high versus low context communication styles, poly-chronic versus mono-chronic time systems, of Geert Hofstede – individualist versus collectivist (group oriented) societies, of Trompenaars – achievement versus ascription (achieved versus given status), universalism versus particularism (fixed versus relative truth). (Carte & Fox, 2004).

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