Improving Business Etiquette in Vietnam

Hanoi Vendor

When I attended the Robert H. Smith School of Business–They keep asking for donations, I thought I’d give them a plug instead–at the University of Maryland, my statistics teacher brought in a business etiquette coach.

“Do not slouch… Shake with your right hand… Pick up the small fork for salads…” This was some of her advice to the class.

As a visitor to Vietnam, I thought about that etiquette coach for the first time. Ma’am, if I could give you some advice: you could make a killing teaching business etiquette in Vietnam training the touts and shop owners. Ma’am, as properly as I could state this: get your ass to Vietnam.

Here are ten business etiquette tips that I’m sure she would offer to some of the vendors:

  • When someone is wearing a t-shirt with a popular logo, do not get excited and try to foist upon them the same exact t-shirt with the same exact logo. When someone is carrying nothing, but a bottle of water, try to sell them food maybe, not another bottle of water. The demand for that item has diminished. Another example would be, say, bicyclists dismounting in front of a beach. They do not need a cab to leave the beach because they just biked all the way to the beach.
  • Grabbing someone when they decide that they do not want your product is a less than optimal lure. Cursing at them when they escape your grasp should also be avoided.
  • Recognize that “No, thanks” means “No, but thank you” each time it is said.
  • Repeating “Hello, you buy from me.” or “Buy from me now!” are not effective sales pitches, unless you’re selling gas masks and we’ve just been gassed.
  • This might sound counter-intuitive, but sticking your menu against a person’s face makes it more difficult to read.
  • Grabbing train tickets out of someone’s hand when you’re dressed in street clothes is a suspicious move. Invest in uniforms.
  • When airport vans are meant to leave at a certain time. They should leave at that time and not sit around for hours until they are filled. Airport vans usually go to airports where people have scheduled flights.
  • Hiring private cars is meant to be less stressful that public transportation, so honking every ten seconds and passing on blind turns will normally receive this tip: Limit your honking and avoid passing on blind turns. Receiving no financial tip in these circumstances should not be shocking.
  • After pestering a potential customer relentlessly and convincing them to sit, give them some time to examine the menu. Standing over them will not speed things up. And if it does, the customer will be less happy. You do, however, want to pay attention to them when they want to order more drinks or dessert. Save picking your teeth for later in the evening when the customer is too drunk to notice.
  • Tour guides do not have to answer the phone every time it rings. If it’s your boss or if your wife is in labor, we understand. But if it’s a friend calling to discuss motorbikes, let it go to voicemail.

Hanoi Tout

Posted on by Noah Lederman in Travel Tips

4 Responses to Improving Business Etiquette in Vietnam

  1. Bobby

    Some really great advice. Not sure it only pertains to Vietnam. Was it the Vietnamese or the English on the sign they didn’t understand in the photo at the end.

    • Noah Lederman

      Very true, Bobby. I think they understand the signs very well just as NYC ticket scalpers know exactly how far they are from MSG every moment of their existence.

  2. Kirsten park

    Hilarious and true! I am in Vietnam now and was at a cafe training students in the hospitality business earlier today. While there I was seriously debating pulling the student waitress aside and giving her your exact advice about hovering….probably should have! Great blog!

    • Noah Lederman

      Thanks Kirsten. Let me know how the student progresses. Have fun there.

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