The work culture in Ho Chi Minh City
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Updated 7 months ago

One of the most unique struggles some expats find with moving abroad is adapting to their new country's work environment and culture. While some may not find it a hard time transitioning into the foreign company culture, its not always a streamlined process. There are a few aspects regarding the work environment in Ho Chi Minh City that expats should be aware of prior to their big move.

Vietnam is currently undergoing lots of changes

Just a few decades ago, Vietnam was the centre of a tumultuous war with a faltering economy. Despite its challenges, Vietnamese people persevered, which is now why the nation is one of the world's leading top economic performers with no signs of stopping. As a result of the changes, there are some unattractive qualities to it despite Vietnam's economic potential. For instance, the banking sector has been negatively impacted by bad loans from the past; this is changing for the better as time goes on. Being patient with its growth is pertinent for success and happiness in Vietnam.

The hours are similar to the West

Unlike nearby nations such as South Korea and Japan, Vietnam's office hours are usually from around 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM. It's worth knowing in advance that many important businesses such as the bank are often closed during office hours. Across the nation, Vietnamese people tend to have more extended lunches and take a nap for 30 minutes to an hour following the meal. It's quite common to see people napping at their desks!

The work-life balance is manageable

According to a few expats interviewed by Vietcetera, one of the perks of working within Vietnamese companies is that there seems to be a high work-life balance in comparison to some of their home countries. Expats from Korea and China both expressed feelings of gratitude for the increase in free time as well as the opportunities they're presented by living and working in Vietnam. Although the rules of the office might be a little bit more laid back than at home, expats should first gauge their management's ways before making this assumption.

There's a hierarchy system in place

Although it may not be as strict as other Confucianism-focused cultures, Vietnam's work culture will undoubtedly include a system of hierarchy. If expats find themselves in a room with a group of people in a business setting, they should always shake the hand of the eldest first, and make their way down in age. This shows a sign of respect for the oldest or those in the highest position. One thing to keep in mind is that a loose handshake isn't a sign of disrespect, but instead because the Vietnamese person is not familiar with handshake culture. Always bear in mind that you're dealing with people from a completely different culture and have patience.

If you're speaking to a younger person, it's best to call them 'em' or 'anh' before their name. People slightly older than you will be addressed as 'chi' if they're a woman, 'ong' if they are a man. You may also omit the pronouns and simply address them by their full names while still maintaining respect.

The attire tends to be a bit more relaxed than in the West

In many parts of the West, business people choose to dress a bit more conservatively. While people in Vietnam definitely keep things professional, the tropical climate comes into play when it comes to the work attire in Ho Chi Minh City. Suit jackets and blazers are often omitted from an outfit in favour of simple dress shirts and pants. In fact, many men only wear a tie and suits in serious business situations. Women in Ho Chi Minh City dress a bit less conservatively than those residing in Hanoi, but they often wear skirts or dresses that reach their knees and cover their shoulders in the workplace, nonetheless.

Knowing these few key traits to the workplace will definitely help newbies who are wondering how to prepare themselves for the big cultural shift. Don't be too afraid of making any mistakes along the way, the locals - especially in the more relaxed Ho Chi Minh City - will be just as patient with you as you are with them!

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.