WORKING WITH THE LOCALS IN VIETNAM
Relocation Vietnam is a company offering relocation services to companies wishing to settle in Vietnam, to their employees or to individuals desiring to come and live here. In order to answer their questions, especially professional ones, our team was eager to know the expatriates' opinions on their work with the locals. What are the obstacles that a manager or a manager must be prepared to face? What are the most recurring difficulties? Conversely, why is it so interesting to work alongside them?
Around fifty participants completed our survey (thank you!). A very large majority of them are European (more than 80%) men (more than 70%) with an average age of 36 years. Most of our respondents are managers (55%), sent by their company to Vietnam (20%, first answer) or co-opted by a friend (17%) or recruited via websites (17%). Thus, our typical expatriate is a European man, close to 40 years old, sent by his company and living in Vietnam for less than three years or more than five years.
The culture is specific to each country, even to everyone: “Having different perspectives offers new opportunities”, considers one of our respondents. It can be seen as an obstacle or a strength depending on the situation and the field. The figures show the ambivalence that the culture shock engenders. When we ask if culture is seen as an obstacle 50% of respondents think so. Conversely, to our question "Does the cultural difference seem to you tu be a a strength? "70% of people agree.
Let's take communication, a revealing criterion of our survey: more than 60% find it complicated to communicate with the Vietnamese. Indeed, the Vietnamese language is a language of interpretation. One word can describe many. It is then complicated to make oneself understood and to be sure that the recipient has understood the same message. To remedy this, we must take this problem into account and be aware that misunderstandings are common: nearly 50% of respondents confirm this. It generally makes sense to put everything in writing.
The different ways of communicating should also be considered. In Vietnam, communication “is indirect and non-confrontational”. It is not customary to ask for extra help when instructions are not understood. The Vietnamese prefer not to say anything, even if it means not doing anything, as one of our respondents testified: “if I ask my staff to do something and they answer 'yes', it does not mean they will do it and know how to do it”. For example, “a simple task could take them days to be completed”.
Another element is pointed out: “Vietnamese people won’t tell to someone older than him that he or she is wrong”. Hierarchy is highly respected there, 80% of the interviewees confirm this. Not wishing to admit their lack of knowledge, the Vietnamese prefer to leave the company rather than show their weaknesses. Therefore “most of them quite the job after a few weeks or months without saying anything before”.
Concerning work, 60% of expatriates find that the Vietnamese are quite dependent and more than 80% regret their lack of long-term vision. But this vision has its faults as well as its qualities. For the majority, this would make follow-up difficult: “there is no follow-up once a task has been accomplished”, says one respondent. For some, the opinion is more nuanced: “I would say that the vision is rather short-term for the Vietnamese. Quality is not their priority, for example. On the other hand, because it is short-term, they move fast and are really good salesmen, because they are not afraid of losing the customer”, as another person said.
The Vietnamese are also popular for “having a good team spirit”, more than 60% agreed with our statement. They are “curious in general” and “willing to learn, and to learn quickly and well”. The atmosphere within the company is therefore particularly appreciated. “The Vietnamese people are authentic, welcoming, and joyful for most, which makes the country very agreeable. Authentic means that they either like you or do not, they don't try to fake it.”
Culture is therefore an important aspect to consider when relocating, especially in the professional field. Many expatriates consider that “usually, the intercultural aspect is poorly managed or left out, even when people are aware that it needs to be taken into account”. Therefore, it is recommended to find out about the country's culture beforehand to be more comfortable, prepared, and ready to adapt to it.