Einat Halevy Levin
Israel-Vietnam Chamber of Commerce, BDO
The Israel-Vietnam Economic Ecosystem
The Israel-Vietnam relationship is very strong and multifaceted but the cultures are worlds apart. The Vietnamese culture is very hierarchical and great pains must be taken to avoid causing the Vietnamese a loss of face. In Vietnamese, there are ten words for “yes” but no words for “I,” “me,” or “you.”
The following are among the issues discussed during this fascinating podcast:
- How should contracts with Vietnamese partners be drafted to ensure maximum enforceability?
- To what extent is Vietnam a springboard for Israeli companies to penetrate other Southeast Asian countries?
- How developed is the infrastructure in Vietnam and how reliable is the electricity?
- Which Vietnamese industries have the greatest pain points, and thus greatest receptivity to Israeli technology?
- What is expected in terms of gift giving? How should one respond to inducements to pay bribes?
- What are the underpinnings of an increasingly warm Israel-Vietnam relationship?
Einat Halevy Levin, President, Israel-Vietnam Chamber of Commerce
Einat Halevy Levin is the President of the Israel-Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and the Vietnam Desk Manager at BDO. Einat lived in Vietnam for five years and speaks Vietnamese fluently.
00:00:59 – It’s a whole different concept and culture and even the value is kind of different …
I lived five years in Vietnam. My husband was sent to a diplomatic mission over there and I went with him with two small kids and I delivered two twins after three years there. And because I was a young mother over there, it’s helped me to interact with people unofficially very fast. And it’s not very easy in Vietnam because of two reasons.
First, the Vietnamese culture, and this is very important to know, it’s very different than the Israeli culture, but also from, let’s say any Western culture. We know it’s not a democratic country.
It’s officially a communist country with a very strong Asian standing and strong Chinese influence. So it’s a whole different concept and culture and even the value is kind of different. Second, it’s very hard to interact because the Vietnamese are not always very easy for them to get along with Westerns or foreigners.
Also, the government sometimes not really encouraged. But for me, as a young mother, my kids went to kindergarten with Vietnamese kids. I need to consume services. The only mothers consuming doesn’t matter western mothers or Vietnamese mothers. So I get very easy and quick introduction with the Vietnamese culture of mother cultures..
00:09:48 – That makes me also understand the Vietnamese culture without any barriers
When I came back to Israel 2016, I realized I have a treasure in my hand. I understand and speak Vietnam quite well. I really understand the culture so fast.
I got Israeli companies to come to me and ask me can you help us? Can you work for us? Can you lead us in this process or that process? We don’t know about the business culture and stuff like that. I can tell you I work at the embassy as trade officer, but I also work out of the embassy with only Vietnamese at the UNFPA, at the VTV Seven, which is the Vietnamese education channel.
Because before that I used to work with the Israeli TV. So that makes me also understand the Vietnamese culture without any barriers because I was there alone, so I had to survive with only Vietnamese surroundings.
00:28:23 – You have to be honest and tell them the solution you have now or the process you have now.
There’s the global Asian culture that a lot of business people know from China, from Thailand or many other Asian-oriented countries. They don’t like to be embarrassed.
And you never have, even in Japan and Korea, they don’t want to lose face. So I think that’s the most important thing. And we are the Israelis and I’m an Israeli kind of we can become in a very aggressive we can become a very direct and aggressive position. Even just the opposites sometimes don’t serve us well because people who don’t want to lose faith, they don’t really want to hear the truth.
Sometimes as a businessman, you come to another company and you want to sell them a solution, technology or something like that. And you have to be honest and tell them the solution you have now or the process you have now. It’s not a good process.
And for them it’s losing faith because you insult now the boss, the chief, the manager, the workers, the whole company legacy. So first I’m saying leave behind the honesty and directness in the early phases, okay?
After that, I really recommend to be very direct because in Vietnam they are very direct too.
00:34:47 – If I meet the President of Vietnam, I don’t call him Mr. President.
If I meet the President of Vietnam, I don’t call him Mr. President. There’s no word for that. Also, I’m saying grandfather, which means in vietnamese.
Okay, big brother is and he will call me M which means young sister. And the president will call me Chow, which is a girl because the word like a child because the word you and me is big brother, big sister, young sister, uncle, father.
It only represents a gap between you and me. How many levels between you and me? I’m sorry. Okay, can you give me two minutes? That’s very important part in the culture.
00:40:16 – Also in Western culture. Listen to them, have personal relationships that they hear they’ve been hurt and they can trust you.
Maybe the manager is very busy putting his daughter or her daughter in a university right now. And this is not an easy process in Vietnam. Maybe someone is cheating in the factory and you will know it for a person or their talks. Okay? So the first level is have a chat, watch and learn.
Second thing, when you realize what is the problem and where is the challenge, you take it one by one. You speak with each one personally and hear what they have to say.
First, they want to be heard by the way that’s work. Also in Western culture. Listen to them, have personal relationships that they hear they’ve been hurt and they can trust you. And then when you really understand where is the challenges and who work with who and why, what is the thing, then you can have an operation plan, be consistent and be very clear.
Okay, this is what we’re going to do, this is how we do it. And you stick with this program after you have all the data you need, after you really have relationship with the people. And then you can do the follow up consistently with the program you built and make them feel part of this program.
00:48:46 – And disciplines go by usually in a good way, like you have bonuses or you have gifts if you work very well..
Okay. I was in Japanese and Korean factories in Vietnam. That’s scary. Okay. I don’t want to work there. One of the reason why the Vietnamese last work in Israeli owner factories is because in Israel, the discipline, naturally in Israel, although all of us went to the army, we don’t like army style discipline.
And it’s more like a personal attitude that Vietnamese like and know well. No, they don’t have this military discipline, but they do have disciplines, okay? And disciplines go by usually in a good way, like you have bonuses or you have gifts if you work very well. Also in sales, by the way, in Vietnam. And you have like once in a month lottery and night together and stuff like that.
Usually it come on a good side because there’s no reason to be army disciplines because most of the Vietnamese, they have a government supervision anyway. So they usually kind of working very good. They want to make their money and they work better if you treat them better.
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