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Major Elements and Dimensions of Culture in Vietnam

Vietnam is an agriculturally rich nation located in Southeast Asia. It is one of the world’s leading producers and suppliers of rice the official language is Vietnamese and though the country is officially a Socialist State the pre-dominant religious practices follow Confucianism doctrines. After the Civil war Vietnam has evolved into one of the major business and financial hub of Southeast Asia. The country now is politically stable and is structured as a single-party socialist republic.

Though the country remains socialist communist fervor and adherence to political ideology has paved the way to a more concerted effort to develop the nation’s economy. The Vietnamese have continued to develop and reform their country since the end of the War. Doi Moi or reform has been part of Vietnam’s economic policy since the 1980’s. These reforms bought about substantial growth in the country’s economy However to achieve this growth, Vietnam had to make a drastic shift from a centrally planned economy to a Socialist-oriented market economy.

This resulted in the economy experiencing rapid growth in the shortest period of time. Vietnam slowly grew in stature as a leading agricultural exporter in the region (Kokko& Sjoholm, 2000) In recent years, an economic boom has attracted many investors and business companies in setting up operations in Vietnam. Investors from Europe and North America looking to venture in South Asian markets have been attracted by the potential that Vietnam offers in terms of business growth and profitability. In 2009 the country had a nominal GDP of $92. 439 billion and a nominal GDP per capita of $1,060.

(International Monetary Fund. 2008) A forecast conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2008, predicted that Vietnam would become the most rapidly growing economy among emergent nations by 2025 with an expected growth of 10% per annum. It was also predicted in the report that by 2050 the country’s economy would swell up to represent 70% of the size of the UK economy. (Price Waterhouse Coopers 2008) Let us conduct a cultural Analysis of Vietnam to determine how conducive this environment is in accommodating overseas operations and forming new business

Having been under Chinese rule for 1000 years Vietnamese culture derives heavily from Chinese culture the adherence to Confucianism beliefs and the practice of showing reverence towards ancestors is a reflection of Chinese culture on Vietnamese society. (Denney, 2006). After Chinese rule ended, Vietnam was colonized by France. The French culture influenced the development of the local culture and can still be seen in the verbal and non verbal manner in which people communicate in Vietnam. After its independence from France, the communist insurgency in the country was the catalyst for a bitter civil war.

The civil war was more than just internal strife it was a battleground on which the cold war for the supremacy of capitalist versus communist doctrines was fought Though the civil war destroyed Vietnam’s land it did not succeed in destroying the country’s social and cultural fabric. For years before the war Vietnamese society was governed by a system of values and codes rooted in a strong adherence to yin and yang beliefs. These beliefs suffused the Vietnamese society with a coherent system of meaning which held the social fabric together.

(Denney 2006). In Vietnamese society, family relationships are important models for social relationships. An integral part of family life is the notion of respect and piety known as hieu. Children from an early age were taught to obey respect ad honor their parents. Younger brothers are expected to respect, support and obey their elder brothers and sons were taught to give unfailing respect and devotion to their fathers. This notion of respect is extended to the dead and everyone believed in honoring the dead with a proper burial ritual.

The remembrance of ancestors and the dead is also an important traditional practice (Vietnam-culture. com 2010) This proper code of conduct and a rigid sense of duty are instilled in the Vietnamese people since infancy. Children are taught to adhere to this behavior and follow this framework of values at home and at school. These notions of respect and social obligation are pervasive through out the society and formed the basis of a social system that served Vietnamese people for hundreds of years. Vietnamese culture is dominated by three very important factors.

The first one is the strict adherences to Confucianism. This doctrine is based on the teachings of the early Chinese philosopher Confucius in the 6th century BC. The Confucian teachings emphasize the power and importance of relationships, responsibility and obligation. This is a central and dominant concept in Vietnamese society and pervades all business dealings and interactions. (Communicaid. com 2008) The second important concept in Vietnamese culture is the notion of saving face two instances in which people might loose face in Vietnam include breaking a promise or by criticizing someone in public.

The Vietnamese people place a strong emphasis on preventing a loss of face in social interactions. It is this notion that often results in the Vietnamese avoiding confrontation and giving in easily to demands rather than raising issues and disputing them publicly. The third important dominant cultural factor in Vietnam is the element of Collectivism. Vietnam essentially functions as a collective society in which the needs of a group are catered achieve priority over the needs of an individual Family and community always assume a greater importance and should be allotted a higher priority than an individuals personal concerns.

Family in particular is allotted a very important position in Vietnamese culture. Ties to family can pay an important role in the individual’s personal and business decisions and also alter an individual’s behavior and lifestyles. In Vietnamese households family commitments and ties often result in several generations of a household living under the same roof (Communicaid. com 2008) Hofstede’s cultural dimensions can be referenced as a framework for understanding the cultural aspects of the Vietnam (Gibson, 2003, 55-58,)

• Power Distance: this is the extent to which the culture accepts unequal distribution of power. A higher power cultures, indicates a wider gap between the powerful and the powerless. This is true and can be witnessed at the vast disparity of living standards and wealth among the rich Vietnamese who operate the small to medium business enterprises in Vietnam’s new economy and the low paid socialist workers who work in these companies • Uncertainty avoidance: the extent to which the culture tolerates ambiguity and uncertainty.

In Vietnam there is high uncertainty avoidance which leads to low tolerance for uncertainty. In a socialist society as is present in Vietnam the notions of uncertainty and ambiguity have no place as society is structured according to a certain sets of rules and doctrines • Individualism: This determines how individuals or closely-knit social structures such as the extended family become the basis for forming social systems. Individualism often results on the reliance on one’s self and a focus on individual achievement rather than the society’s achievement.

This is not true in Vietnam which adheres to the notion of Collectivism and where a family and community needs often take priority over an individuals need. • Masculinity: This can be defined as the extent to which assertiveness and independence from others is valued. In Vietnam high masculinity has lead to a high sex-role differentiation with men taking the more assertive and responsible roles and the females being relegated to more traditional and supportive roles (Gibson, 2003, 55-58,)

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