Vietnam Country Manager
MBA in Grenoble Business School (TOP 6 French Business School)
5 year experience in Quality Control industry
Multiple languages speaking (French, English, Spanish, Mandarin)
Jan 15, 2020
The trade war between the US and China is still ongoing. But more than that, labor cost is rising tremendously in China and many importers are considering (or have even started) importing from other Asian Countries.
As a reader of our blog, you are probably a skillful importer in China with many years of experience in the Middle Kingdom. However Vietnamese customs and Vietnamese business culture are still very different. This article will help you better understanding these differences.
This article is definitely subjective. We are sharing this from our local experience in both countries, these are only opinions and not “facts”. As the V-Trust Vietnam country Manager I worked for almost 2 years in Vietnam and over 4 years in China. V-Trust today has local offices both in China and Vietnam.
Chinese business owners or sales are usually very pro-active, willing to help and conclude business opportunities. A Chinese factory may not be able to provide you the exact product but they will usually not simply say “no”, they would try to recommend another partner, try to subcontract, and try to see if they can provide another products. Yes they may take a small commissions out of it, but at the end of the day who cares as long as they provide you with a solution.
On the other hand, Vietnamese will very bluntly say “no” if it does not match their core business, their MOQ, their design, etc. Vietnamese are very very very proud people, but proudness and business usually don’t make a good mix. Ego never filled in a plate. More than often, if they believe they are right, they will refuse to grant anything even if it means losing the business opportunity. If they have decided it’s not worth it, they will not come back on their decision. This is especially true with the current trend where the demand (from importers trying to import from Vietnam) is higher than the supply (number of factories there). Do not get frustrated over a very direct “no” without any reason given and do not take it personally, simply try to discuss it over and understand the reasons.
Chinese are very responsive, they would often answer you late and on week end. Vietnamese staff tend to be more laid back (at first sight) but they are also generally more careful and detail oriented. This slower response rate may be frustrating at first, especially when moving from China where everything goes extremely fast. One advice would be to download “Zalo” application which is the Vietnamese Wechat. Vietnamese people tend to be very fast when contacting them on this instant messaging app.
Competition to find the right partner and staff is extremely fierce in Vietnam at the moment, making it harder to keep the right employees who can find numerous job opportunities if they have the right profile and attitude. Vietnamese staff know about it and are less entitled to stay with the same company as their Chinese counterparts. This is a real challenge for any manufactures in Vietnam, a high staff turnover can seriously affect the quality of your productions and communication with your supplier.
In many aspects Vietnamese are more opened to the world than Chinese. Do not get me wrong, Chinese are extremely curious about foreigners, but that’s precisely because they have only been recently opened to the Occident. On the other hand Vietnamese have been directly (and usually by force) exposed to the western world either by the French colonization or by the American influence of the 60’s in the South.
Vietnamese mentality share some cultural reference, some background and mindset with the western world. Of course, the Vietnamese culture is widely different from the Western one, but in many aspect the western mindset is much closer to the Vietnamese one compared to the Chinese one.
As such, many importers find it actually easier to build business relationship in Vietnam with less effort required to adapt to this new business culture.
To conclude, although the 2 countries are neighbor and share a lot of similarities, one should not assume that they are the same. Be respectful to the Vietnamese culture and adapt to the local business culture, just as you did in China when you first stepped in!