Understanding work culture in Hanoi

The work culture in Hanoi
Updated 2023-11-19 10:07

Working in Hanoi understandably brings up a lot of questions. Thoughts like, what is the work culture like? Or, what is the work-life balance expectation? Even more importantly, how do I immerse myself without embarrassing myself? In reality, things are nowhere near as bad as your nerves may be projecting. If you do not speak Vietnamese, rest assured your employers will speak English during work-related discussions or social gatherings. Colleagues are usually eager to help you learn Vietnamese and will enthusiastically help you try new foods.


Don't make direct comparisons between the work environment of Hanoi and your hometown. It could be taken the wrong way.

What workplaces look like in Hanoi

As Hanoi is still developing, even compared with other Vietnamese cities, it is important to remember that facilities here might not be as sparkling as those in your home country. Some local schools have minimal budgets and, therefore, still use blackboards rather than any fancy electronic equipment. Startup companies will not yet have the pennies for air conditioning and will often maintain a simple fan system. Rather than complaining about this, buying a handheld battery-operated fan or carrying tiger balm from the pharmacy will help to keep you cool.

The dress code in Hanoi

Dress code issues depend on the employer and industry, but it's best to lead with common sense. Make sure to dress sensibly, and if you have specific questions, reach out to your employer or HR team. They will give you a direct answer as to what is acceptable. If you have personally been to your place of work already, what were your soon-to-be coworkers wearing? Take inspiration from other people in a similar role. As a general rule of thumb, if you are working in the education or management sectors, you will be expected to dress semi-formally. On the flip side, if you are working in a creative role, a casual approach to dressing is normally fine. But you need to double-check with your employer, colleagues or friends in Hanoi to be on the safe side.

Office etiquette and punctuality in Hanoi

It is also important to note that management in many businesses in Hanoi does not always comply with Western standards. Organizational errors are commonplace, and this can take a little getting used to. You will gain the respect of your team by being early or staying late, especially in your first few weeks. After you have proven your work ethic, coming in on time or leaving on time will not ruffle any feathers. However, if there is a big project for a client, it will be all hands on deck and a great opportunity to bond with colleagues.

Socializing in Hanoi

Drinking culture is so important in Hanoi, and the quicker you get invited to drinks or celebrate a team dinner, the quicker you are to gain the trust of your colleagues. Always accept invitations unless you have something truly urgent that cannot be put off. Denied invitations are not normally re-issued until a formal team dinner. The exception is if you are a parent, but we highly encourage you to try and attend one of the first social excursions. Also, keep in mind Hanoi is small. You will likely run into colleagues, and it would be rude not to acknowledge them outside the office.

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