Significant Cultural Events to Note When Doing Business in Vietnam

Posted by Written by Nhi Nguyen Reading Time: 7 minutes

Vietnam has a range of cultural events and festivals that can impact businesses operating in the country. Here’s what foreign firms should be aware of when it comes to cultural events and how they may be able to capitalize on these occasions.

Vietnam, known for its vibrant cultural heritage, celebrates a multitude of special occasions and festivals that hold great significance to its people. These public occasions not only serve as moments of cultural pride but can also impact businesses operating within the country. Specifically, the festive atmosphere and heightened consumer engagement during these events can create a unique opportunity for businesses to promote their products and services.

In this article, the Vietnam Briefing runs through a handful of the most important events and what foreign firms should know in order to make the most of these special occasions.

Cultural awareness in Vietnam

Avoiding missteps

Avoiding cultural missteps is crucial when conducting business in Vietnam. Foreign businesspersons who lack an understanding of Vietnamese culture may unintentionally engage in activities that are considered disrespectful or inappropriate. This may lead to reputational damage and/or strained relationships with consumers.

For example, one notable case that exemplifies the consequences of cultural missteps in Vietnam involved fast-food chain KFC back in 2022. KFC Vietnam faced significant backlash when it named one of its stores ‘KFC Thich Quang Duc’. This was after the street that the store was on, but also the name of a well-known, and highly revered monk, known for his self-immolation protest against religious persecution during the Vietnam War.

The use of his name by KFC Vietnam was widely viewed as insulting and disrespectful, particularly in a country with a large Buddhist following. The incident sparked public outrage and led to calls for change from the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha. The store was subsequently renamed to KFC Thich Quang Duc Street.

Seizing opportunities

However, festive occasions also present golden opportunities for businesses to thrive when approached strategically. This entails embracing cultural sensitivity and a deep understanding of customs and local nuances, thereby avoiding any misinterpretations or mishaps.

For example, data from the General Statistics Office reveals that during the Lunar New Year in January 2023, consumer spending increased to VND 544.8 trillion (US$22.4 billion), marking a 5.2 percent increase compared to the previous month and a substantial 20 percent increase compared to the same period the previous year. Understanding the cultural significance of these occasions enables businesses to tailor their strategies, marketing efforts, and product offerings to align with the specific needs and desires of the local population. By doing so, businesses can tap into the heightened consumer demand and generate substantially increased revenues.

Key Vietnamese public occasions to consider

Tet (Vietnamese New Year)

Tet or the Vietnamese New Year, holds immense significance for the Vietnamese people, encompassing celebration, family reunions, and ancestral reverence. During Tet, customs like cleaning and decorating homes to invite good luck, making offerings of food at ancestral altars, and exchanging lucky money and gift baskets are all common.

By understanding these cultural customs businesses can create compelling advertisements that resonate with the festive atmosphere and emotional connection to the season.

Notably, Coca-Cola’s Bringing Magic Home campaign was popular with Vietnamese people during Tet 2022. The campaign featured the brand’s iconic red with yellow swallow wings symbolizing Tet and spring and conveying a heartwarming narrative of neighborly and familial love, capturing the essence of the Tet season.

Similarly, recognizing concerns about cleaning and preparing homes for Tet, Samsung collaborated with singer Bich Phuong in the advertisement “When will you stop being busy?”. This campaign highlighted Samsung technology products, emphasizing how they can simplify housework and allow users to fully enjoy the Tet season without excessive time spent on chores.

Reunification Day and Independence Day

Reunification Day and Independence Day in Vietnam hold immense historical significance and cultural importance. Reunification Day, observed on April 30th, marks the end of the Vietnam War and the reunification of North and South Vietnam. Independence Day, celebrated on September 2nd, commemorates Vietnam’s declaration of independence from French colonial rule in 1945.

During these national holidays, vibrant celebrations take place throughout the country. Colorful parades, fireworks displays, flag-hoisting ceremonies, and cultural performances contribute to the festive atmosphere. Government buildings and public spaces are adorned with patriotic decorations, emphasizing unity and national pride.

During Reunification Day and Independence Day in Vietnam, businesses and offices often close for several days, allowing employees to partake in the festivities and spend time with their families. This extended break presents an opportunity for many people to travel, both domestically and internationally. As a result, the tourism and hospitality sectors experience a surge in demand at hotels, resorts, tourist attractions, and for transportation services.

Data from the General Department of Tourism (Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism) found that during the five-day break to celebrate Reunification Day and May Day holidays this year, the tourism industry witnessed a substantial 9 percent year-on-year increase in revenues, reaching VND 24 trillion (US$1.02 billion).

In addition to the tourism sector, businesses across various industries also engage in activities to celebrate these national holidays. For instance, Vietjet Air, surprised passengers by having flight attendants don costumes featuring the image of a red flag with a yellow star. Such initiatives by businesses contribute to the festive atmosphere and allow them to connect with customers on a deeper level, showcasing their patriotism and cultural pride.

The holidays also have a significant impact on consumer behavior and spending patterns. Leading up to Reunification Day and Independence Day, there is an increase in shopping activities as people buy gifts, decorations, and traditional food items to celebrate the holidays. Retailers often offer special promotions and discounts to attract customers during this time.

Specifically, to celebrate this year’s September 2 holiday, the GO! Big C supermarket chain launched a promotion entitled “Proud of Vietnam – Celebrate National Day September 2” with a 50 percent discount valid throughout the holiday.

Mid-Autumn Festival

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival or Children’s Festival, holds significant cultural importance in many East Asian countries, including Vietnam. Occurring on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month, typically in September or October, this festival serves as a special occasion for family reunions and for children.

Mooncakes take center stage during the festival. Businesses offer a diverse range of flavors and packaging options to cater to different consumer preferences. In the weeks leading up to the Mid-Autumn Festival, the streets come alive with bustling kiosks from renowned cake companies like Kinh Do Mondelez, Maison Mooncake, and Thu Huong. At traditional establishments like Dong Phuong (Hai Phong) or Thanh Chung (a confectionery-making village in Hanoi), buyers sometimes have to spend hours queuing up to buy mooncakes.

Attention is given not only to creativity in cake flavors but also to packaging and ways to promote products to align them with the spirit of the festival. In addition to traditional mooncakes, those offered by prominent hotels, such as Fortuna Hanoi, Sheraton, InterContinental, Metropole, and JW Marriott, are highly sought after by customers, particularly for gifting purposes. These mooncakes stand out with their visually stunning box designs and intricate decorations, adding to their appeal and desirability.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is not only a time for indulging in mooncakes but also a cherished occasion for family reunions. Kinh Do Mondelez consistently captivates Vietnamese consumers with emotionally resonant campaigns centered around the importance of family. In the 2020 Mid-Autumn Festival, Mondelez Kinh Do shared stories and customs of the festival with the message: “Full of cake flavors, Bright moonlight stories forever,” aiming to preserve cherished memories and values for future generations.

Building on their success, Kinh Do collaborated with Publicis Groupe and technology support company D-ID in the 2021 Mid-Autumn season. Their objective was to revive nostalgic memories of the festival. Kinh Do introduced an AI platform on their website, allowing users to transform static images into captivating animations. By evoking strong emotions and emphasizing the significance of bonds, Kinh Do Mondelez successfully connected with its target audience and made a lasting impression on Vietnamese consumers.

Furthermore, the festival is also an occasion to show care and love to children. People purchase lanterns, masks, and other festive items to adorn homes and present as gifts. Hang Ma, a popular toy street in Hanoi, becomes extremely lively during this period with different kinds of toys. In recognition of this, certain companies have incorporated the practice of providing customers with toys for children as a means to enhance their shopping experience. For instance, when purchasing Susu & Hero milk cartons, Vinamilk allows customers to select from a range of accompanying items such as lanterns, statue sets, stickers, or 3D character assembly kits.

How to capitalize on Vietnam’s holidays

To effectively benefit from Vietnam’s cultural festivals, businesses should meticulously plan and strategize. Here are some tactics that businesses could consider for a better successful festive seasons:

Inventory planning

Businesses should analyze historical data, market trends, and consumer preferences to estimate the demand for their products or services during specific public occasions. By accurately forecasting the demand, businesses can ensure they have sufficient inventory to meet the increased customer demand without an excess or a shortage.

Custom marketing campaigns

Businesses can develop marketing campaigns that resonate with the cultural significance and values associated with each particular holiday. By doing this, businesses can create a stronger emotional connection with consumers and drive higher engagement with their brand.

Supply chain management

Businesses should establish strong relationships with suppliers, vendors, and logistics partners well in advance of cultural events. This can help to ensure a reliable supply chain and the timely delivery of products or materials during peak times when demand is high. In addition, building long-term partnerships with reliable partners can also provide businesses with preferential treatment and access to exclusive discounts.

Market research

Understanding consumer behavior during cultural events can be crucial for businesses to best utilize their resources. By identifying the ideal time of the year for a particular product or service, businesses can allocate resources, adjust pricing strategies, and optimize staffing to maximize profits during these peak periods.

Custom products and services

Businesses should consider creating special products or services that align with the themes and symbolism of each national holiday. Tailoring offerings to match the cultural context and preferences of the target audience may enhance the perceived value and appeal of a brand’s products or services.

Key takeaways

Vietnamese cultural events provide unique opportunities for businesses to connect with their target audiences and leverage the festive spirit to promote their products or services. By aligning their offerings with the cultural significance of the occasion, businesses can tap into the emotional connection people have with their traditions and customs and further enhance their shopping experience. In this way, foreign firms can further integrate themselves with Vietnam’s people strengthening their business and their brand.

For more support understanding Vietnam and its market, get in touch with the business intelligence experts at Dezan Shira and Associates.

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