Understanding The Concept of Saving Face in Vietnamese Culture

Asian were born with a very unique culture called as “Saving Face culture”. From typical Japanese business etiquette to wet market transaction in the smallest village in central Vietnam, this social culture is still applied in everybody’s daily life. If you make someone losing face even not on purpose, this infraction is rarely forgiven.

The Concept of saving Face

First of all, let’s describe the concept of “face” in Vietnam. It’s a combination of reputation, social standing, dignity and individual honors. “Losing face” is an action to cause someone look down in front of their friends or community and “building face” is the process of making someone feel good in front of others. This is totally different compared to Western cultures which is very outspoken towards any matters. However, in Vietnam, building face will come first during early stage of business meeting before proceeding to the real deal.

Making Noise

Shouting or arguing in public is strictly prohibited. This scene will actually make the person lose face toward bystanders through embarrassment. Even when you feel frustrated, it is better for you to calm down and be patient until both parties get a solution. For Vietnamese, at least a small compromise can be considered as a solution.

By understanding the concept of saving face, it will give you an advantage when traveling and doing business in Vietnam. Example, when you buy something in market and negotiating price with the merchant, you remember that you cannot make the merchant lose face by making them desperate to sell. It is normally happened in Ben Thanh market and you will see some seller just ignore you when asking for an unreasonable price. You can strongly bargain, but it is advisable to give a little from your price or optionally, you may offer to buy something else smaller and you already save their face among their peers.

Tips for Saving Face

Vietnamese Saving FaceThere are several tips for saving face in your daily life.

  • You need to avoid pointing out someone’s mistake in public.
  • Always give a sincere complimen when necessary.
  • If offered, just let your host to pay for your dinner or drink. In many business meeting, most of my Vietnamese partners offer to pay for the drink and you will do the same at other meeting.
  • If your Vietnamese partner is offering any gift, you need to refuse at first, but eventually you may receive it in both hands.
  • Bending the truth is common in Vietnam, but pointing out that someone is actually lying is totally making them lose face.

As saving face is taken into account during daily life in Vietnam, you should watch your mouth and have a self-respect and sensitivity when communicating with your colleagues, friends, neighbours or family members.

Huge thanks to vietdungbk1984 on Flickr for the photo available under Creative Common Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Licence (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Note for Expatriate Bosses: Ideal Working Environment for Vietnamese

Everybody has their ideal working environment and this will be one of their consideration factors before accepting any job offer. Local Vietnamese do have their own consideration no matter what generation they come from in determining their career path.

State Enterprise or Private Business

According to research by a market research company Cimigo Vietnam, among 1000 Vietnamese in Saigon, 6 in 10 Vietnamese women choose to work in state enterprises and 6 in 10 men choose to work in private businesses. Most of them are definitely looking for job security and satisfaction. For women workers, the workload in state enterprise is normally lesser and it’s come with a standard salary system. Meanwhile for man, working in private business is more promising with a higher pay which is important for them to support their family monthly expenses and needs.

Salary Stability & Incentive

It is okay for Vietnamese to earn a low stable salary with lower risk instead of facing a high risk with high salary for their career. In other situation, minimum wages with higher commission does not really attract Vietnamese towards employment as they prefer to have security and stability. Most of matured employees choose to have a stable normal salary without any commission.

Job Mobility & Outside Communication

There are numbers of Vietnamese that prefer to work with less travel requirement. This might be happening because of early marriage and having small children will make traveling is inconvenience for them. The cost to send children to child care centre is increasing and many parents will feel it as a financial burden. However, the trend will slowly change when the children grow up and the family is more independent.

Computer Based Work & Indoor Job

Majority Generation Z’s workers prefer to do computer based work such as online business, market research, analysis, accounting & administration work. Different situation happened to mature workers who prefer fewer computers related job and more into communication based job such as outdoor sales and meeting up with customer in coffee shop for dealing the business.

The same happened to indoor based job which is in top list of young generation’s career of choice. Some says that, hot and raining season with pollution in the city is one of the reasons for fewer people choose to do outdoor jobs.

The Spirit of Entrepreneurship

According to the same research by Cimigo Vietnam, three-quarters of Vietnamese prefer to work by themselves. You can see many young company directors and CEOs in Vietnamese business market. The factors such as low capital needed to open company, higher education capabilities and influence from global entrepreneurship growth encourage local Vietnamese to have their own business instead of working with others.

As an expatriate employer, all the above can be determination factors for your to make your job offer competitive in order to attract local talent to work in your company. With local habits and working interest, incompatible offers might not sustain the employee that you hired to work longer in your company with high productivity.

Financial Stress: Wake up Call for Small Entrepreneurs

Financial stress may happen to small enterprises or multinational organizations. As a small business, you might have a small network and less reputation and slow business operation will result a financial stress.

Get Real about your Situation

small business vietnamYou have to get real when you are under financial stress. Detailed analysis such as current profit, liabilities & asset and current debts need to be done to see where your company stand is financially. By doing profit and loss reports, you will measure your source of income and review your expenses. From here, you may cut some of the unnecessary expenses and strengthen your financial stability.

Reset your Goal

Re-evaluation of your company’s mission and vision will bring you back on the business track. The business goal must be matched with your current situation and have a relevant time frame to achieve. You may work on a short-term goal and merge it with your long-term mission. Taking step by step action will alleviate your financial stress, and your business will be easy monitored.

Re-structure your Manpower Strength

Manpower strength can be a factor of financial stress. As a business owner, you need to evaluate your entire employees if they are giving profit or draining company’s time and money. Terminating not performing staff and hiring a new talent with fresh ideas probably will direct your business to better performance.

Hire an Expert

If lacking in financial management skill is the reason for your stress, you should hire an expert to overcome it. In house accountant or finance project manager will help you to neutrally evaluate your financial status or optionally; you may hire a certified financial planner if you intend to increase your investment profit.

Improving yourself

Once you have analyzed your problem, you may add some values to yourself by improving your financial knowledge and ability. You may register yourself to a seminar or financial networking talk in town and find out how business owners cope with their financial stress.

Maintain your Business

Finally, you have to ensure your business is continuously in the market. Having a lot of customers will ensure that there will be money will come into your cash flow. You have to plan ahead and next, your stress level will drop and you will back on your business track.

Financial stress can be a burden and entrepreneurs have to take immediate action before the stress level becomes higher.

Professional Hello to Vietnamese Business People

Vietnamese economy relies on other countries for import products such as petroleum products, vehicles, heaving engineering, and electronic equipment. In the meantime, the country did export textile, furniture, rice, coffees and many other products worldwide. This bilateral transaction had forced both Vietnamese and foreign partners to “meet and greet” in order to sustain the business relationship.

Professional Greetings

hand shakeThe first business meeting normally will start with professional greetings. Handshake is a common form of greeting when entering and leaving a business meeting. The handshake is not as firm as American type and short. It is acceptable to shake hand with women and make sure it is quick and polite to avoid from further intimidation. To play safe, when woman and man are greeting each other, you can nod to each other or let the women to initiate the handshake first.

Dress to Impress

You might be heard the term “Dress to impress.” A business suit with conservative colours such as black, navy blue and dark grey is perfect. You will observe Vietnamese businessman like to wear a white shirts matched with red or maroon necktie in many formal occasions. During summer, you may attend a casual meeting by wearing Polo T or short-sleeve shirts with black pants or khakis. Be in mind that your Vietnamese partner will spend their first 30 seconds of the meeting to screen your appearance before moving to the meeting agenda.

Be Punctual

Punctuality is important in every business meeting or event. Typically, in Vietnam, there will be some delay in most of the appointments or events, but you are advised to show up on time. You will expect a long pause between conversation, and it is impolite for you to interrupt between the talk.

Professional Business Cards

Some organizations spend thousand of dollars to ensure their business card will speak up their business. It is a must to have a professional business card whenever you attending a business meeting or networking. Hand your business card to the receivers in both hands and when receiving their business card, spend a quick time to read the contents as you need to show your interest towards their business. It is advisable to have the business card in English and Vietnamese version as you cannot assume everybody can speak English.

Business Gift

Go an extra mile by bringing a gift when meeting up with your business partner. A pack of hampers will be great and hand it with both hands. Be in mind that Vietnamese do not open the hamper in front of you and share it. A bouquet of flowers normally is for grand opening or funeral and unsuitable for formal business meeting.

“Professional HELLO” is an art to make your client comfortable doing business with you. It is a skill and you need to adapt it, especially when you are doing business in South-East Asia.

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