Intercultural business communication is difficult even at the best of times, but when there are distinct differences in cultural realities, communication can be made even more difficult. Intercultural business communication and the difficulties associated with it can obviously also be made more complex by past conflicts between that nation and other nations. Vietnam, for instance, was embroiled in a bloody conflict with the United States for a number of years, and that conflict still influences Vietnamese-American relations today. Canada’s history with Vietnam is less problematic, but there are still issues that take place within cultural exchanges that cause problems for those involved.
Intercultural communication, particularly in business, is an issue that is rife with trouble. Vietnam and the western world interact frequently at the bargaining table, but communication can be extremely strained at times. Despite these sometimes-problematic relationships, Vietnam has been able to actively expand its external relations towards diversification and multi-lateralization. In total, Vietnam now has diplomatic relations with 169 countries and trade ties with 224 out of 255 countries and territories. Vietnam has also established a framework of friendly, long-term and effective relations with neighboring and regional countries, making worthy contribution to the maintenance of regional security for the benefit of national economic development. Since 1973, Canada and Vietnam have maintained a good relationship-- indeed, Canada’s relations with Vietnam are expanding, particularly through rapidly-increasing trade and investment and a prominent development assistance presence.
Vietnam, as a country, has changed a lot in recent years. The GDP of Vietnam is growing significantly, and will continue to grow according to most estimates. As the GDP of Vietnam continues to grow, so too will the purchasing power of the country. Indeed, Vietnam’s presence in the international trade organizations is relatively new-- Vietnam is a member of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), the Asia-Pacific Economic Community (APEC) and the ASEAN - Europe Meeting (ASEM); Vietnam has been a member of the WTO since 11 January 2007 (Countryreports.org).
The geography and population size of Vietnam makes it a perfect place to find cheap labor for the international business sector. While China is still the go-to for many businesspeople, Vietnam’s participation in the international business world has been increasing for a number of years. Most experts suggest that it will continue to grow at least until 2025 (Countryreports.org).
Participation in certain trade groups has been fundamentally important for international Vietnamese relationships. While Canada has had an open and amicable relationship with Vietnam for some time, it has been a relatively short time since Vietnam truly joined the international community. The Vietnamese government is still a socialist republic, making it more difficult for Vietnam to integrate into an international community that favors democracy and democratic republics. There are also a number of different issues with human rights abuses that have served to keep Vietnam from truly joining the international community. As these things are addressed, Vietnam becomes more and more a part of the international business community as well; as things progress, more western businesspeople will be faced with Vietnamese companies and individuals in the workplace. Communication between individuals of different cultures is difficult, but can be navigated successfully.
There are a wide array of different types of intercultural communication, and all must be considered when considering the issue of intercultural communication in business relationships between Canadian companies and Vietnamese countries. According to Shankar, “In defining intercultural communication, we only have eight components of communication to work with and yet we must bridge divergent cultures with distinct values across languages and time zones to exchange value, a representation of meaning. It may be tempting to consider only the source and receiver within a transaction as a representation of intercultural communication, but if we do that, we miss the other six components—the message, channel, feedback, context, environment, and interference—in every communicative act. Each component influences and is influenced by cultureCulture is represented in all eight components every time we communicate” (Shankar 16). In terms of Vietnamese-Canadian relationships, these different aspects of intercultural business communication are very important, as they allow a businessperson to most amicably approach someone of a different culture.
One thing that must be avoided at all costs when considering intercultural business communication is the issue of ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism, according to Shankar is, “the tendency to view other cultures as inferior to one’s own. Having pride in your culture can be healthy, but history has taught us that having a predisposition to discount other cultures simply because they are different can be hurtful, damaging, and dangerous. Ethnocentrism makes us far less likely to be able to bridge the gap with others and often increases intolerance of difference” (Shankar 12). Business and industry are no longer self-contained or particularly geographically-contained entities. Because Vietnam is such a large market for cheap labor, Vietnamese companies have become and will continue to be integral to western companies and industries.
Vietnam’s geographics and demographics make it an interesting case study in the realm of intercultural business communication. In addition, Vietnam’s recent engagement in a number of international trade unions, including the WTO, has made it much more accessible for foreign businesses. Cheap labor and cheap products are two of the main things that draw international business to Vietnam; but international businesspeople must be careful to avoid the pitfalls of human rights abuses that still happen in the production sector in Vietnam. Avoiding these issues can be an exercise in communicative skills for an individual from the west, which is why it is so fundamentally important to engage with foreign businesspeople with care and respect.
An individual skilled in business communication will be able to cross cultural barriers in a way that someone unskilled or unaware will be able to. Learning a language is not necessarily fundamentally important for becoming skilled at intercultural communication, but it can be a fantastic way to build rapport, especially with individuals from countries that have largely been marginalized by the western world. Understanding the proper channel and feedback can also be an excellent way of building rapport in a business communication context.
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National Geographic,. 'Vietnam Facts, Vietnam Flag'. N.p., 2014. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.
Schlight, John, and Stanley Karnow. 'Vietnam: A History.'. Military Affairs 48.2 (1984): 101. Web.
Schwenkel, C. 'Beyond The Battlefields Of Vietnam'. Diplomatic History 37.5 (2013): 1183-1187. Web.
Shankar, J. 'Intercultural Communication For Business'. Business Communication Quarterly 69.4 (2006): 464-467. Web.