Most senior staff in large and international companies will speak English but it is not common in smaller companies. It is essential to make appointments for business meetings and to exchange business cards.
Vietnamese are quite likely to present visitors with a gift, such as laquerware, so visitors should take along a small gift from their home country in order to reciprocate. It is important to realise that the Vietnamese do not like to say no to any request, so arrangements and contracts should be checked and rechecked.
Vietnamese business people are gradually becoming more formal in their dress, as contact with international business increases. However, because of the extreme heat, it is quite acceptable, and practical, to dispense with the wearing of a suit jacket.
Offices tend to open between 0730 and 0800 and close around 1700 or 1800 with a long lunch break between 1130 and 1400 hrs. Some offices are also open on Saturdays.
The economy of Vietnam was devastated by 30 years of war up to 1975, after which policy errors and a USA-enforced trade boycott combined to stifle development. Since the government's economic liberation policy, known as doi moi and the end of the boycott in 1994, and the introduction of liberalising and deregulating measures by the government, the Vietnamese economy achieved significant annual growth until the world economic downturn in 2008.
Despite the global economic and financial crisis Vietnam's GDP grew 6.8% in 2010, a three-year high. The year in general was positive for many market sectors with growth in exports for rice and garments. There was positive growth in consumer confidence and the trade deficit reduced. However, inflation increased to 9.19% in 2010 and foreign investment was still down. There was a slight reduction in the unemployment figures for 2010.
US$102 billion (2010)
Crude oil, clothing and footwear, rice, rubber, tea and coffee.
Machinery and equipment, refined petroleum, steel, cotton and grain.
It is expensive to call home from hotels but international calls from post offices are much better value.
Roaming agreements exist with some international mobile phone companies. Coverage is available throughout large parts of the country. It is possible to buy competitively priced sim cards for use in the country.
Internet cafés are widely available throughout the country and they are good value. High-speed connections are only available in major towns and cities.
The Vietnamese postal service isn't the most efficient so allow around 7-14 days for post to arrive in the UK and US. Send mail from the post office in main towns and cities. Postal services can be slow. Airmail to Europe can take up to three weeks.
Post office hours:
Post office hours and days vary from town to town but many can be open from early morning until late evening.
The media is controlled by the Communist Party. Newspapers straying beyond restrictive government reporting guidelines are shut down and journalists fined. Internet access is tightly controlled. Web content is subject to government approval and sites deemed unacceptable are blocked.
The main daily English-language paper is the state-run Vietnam News. Vietnam Television is also state-run and VTV broadcasts from Hanoi. Some weekly versions of British newspapers are available.
Daily and weekly newspapers in Vietnam include Lao Dong, Nhan Dan (The People) and Quan Doi Nhan Dan. The Vietnam Economic Times, Vietnam Investment Review, Saigon Times and Vietnam News are published in English. Le Courrier du Vietnam is published in French.
VTV is the national TV service. Regional stations also exist and some foreign cable channels are broadcast.
Voice of Vietnam (VoV)is state operated. VoV 5 broadcasts programmes in English, French and Russian.