Fun Team-Building Activities in Ho Chi Minh City

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Ho Chi Minh City is the business capital of Vietnam. It is no wonder that it has become a popular destination for corporate travel. To supplement the business done on these trips, companies often look for fun team-building activities in Ho Chi Minh City. 

Group shot in Saigon
It’s too hot for suits, but Ho Chi Minh City is a premier spot in Asia to work hard and play hard. (Photo: inmotionasia.com)

TABLE OF CONTENTS

(Click on the links below to jump directly to the section you would like to explore)

  1. What Makes a Good Team-Building Activity
  2. Effective Team-Building Activities (Cooking Classes, Scavenger Hunts, Team-Building Puzzles)
  3. MICE Travel in Ho Chi Minh City
  4. Group Food Tours as a Team-Bonding Activity

What Makes a Good Team-Building Activity 

The skyrocketing popularity of corporate team-building activities in Vietnam definitely helps employees and staff from different teams -through play- get to know one another better. Here are a few guidelines that successful activities adhere to.

    1. Imposing a common goal — In a workplace setting, teams need to be able to contribute their individual skill sets and work together towards a common goal. Corporate team-building activities should mirror that.

      Teamwork for work teams
      In a good team-building event, everyone must work together to win. (Photo: didww.com)
    2. Making memories It’s part of human psychology that people who share memorable experiences will feel a closer bond to each other. Workmates who share a bond work more productively together. Ho Chi Minh City excels at this aspect of corporate team-building because it is loud, it’s bright, it’s friendly, it’s exciting… in a word, it’s memorable. 
    3. Giving everyone a turn as leader — Leadership skills are important for everyone in the workplace. Even someone who does not normally have to take charge benefits from knowing how to do so if required. And when placed under pressure, even the most passive participants instinctively take charge. Letting everyone try leading in your corporate team-building activity improves leadership skills and ability to follow orders in your entire work team. By ‘playing’ as a leader, all team members can gain valuable leadership skills.
    4. Getting people out of their comfort zones — When someone does something they are not completely comfortable with in front of others, it builds trust. This, in turn, allows for freer discourse, which builds communication skills. For example, singing or acting may push people out of what is comfortable for them. Through play, people learn to see themselves in a different light.                                                           
      Team-building experiences in HCMC
      In Ho Chi Minh City, just a stroll through the local market can yield unforgettable shared experiences for your work team. (Photo: homeiswhereyourbagis.com)

      Being in Ho Chi Minh City offers a myriad of opportunities for people to try new things since it is such an accessible but “foreign” destination. Something as routine as a trip to the market or a stroll around the block will be an eye-opening adventure to most work teams. They will frequently find themselves challenging themselves with activities they would never try back home, such as:

      • Trying “strange” street foods.
      • Haggling over handicrafts with vendors at the local market.
      • Learning to navigate the chaotic Ho Chi Minh City traffic.
    5. Modeling activities after the company structure — Have the structure of your corporate team-building activities reflect the structure of your organization. For example, if the company is very focused on taking orders, institute a clear leader. If it is based on collaboration, have everyone be equal in the activity.

Do your research to find a good organizer who will tailor your corporate team-building activities to your company’s needs. They will keep these guidelines in mind and deliver something that will boost workplace efficiency.

Exploring Ho Chi Minh City by Bike
If you feel comfortable, try renting some bicycles to see more of the city in a shorter period of time. (Photo: vietnamembassy-southafrica)

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Effective Team-Building Activities 

Listed below are a few types of team-building activities in Ho Chi Minh City that can incorporate all of the guidelines mentioned above if organized well. 

Cooking Classes

Best Time of Day: 2 hours  before lunch or dinner time.

Average Time Taken: 3 hours

Usually led by an instructor or chef, cooking classes in Saigon are a great way for corporate teams to work towards the same goal while learning together. They will provide a memorable cultural experience because Vietnamese cooking techniques and dishes are distinctly different than Western ones. As an added bonus, cooking classes serve as an authentic Vietnamese meal in addition to a team-building activity.

There are lots of venues for cooking classes in Ho Chi Minh City. For example, there’s HCM Cooking Class, which takes place in the city’s agricultural village and which is especially good for “green” work teams. There’s Vietnam Cookery Center, located inside a colonial-era concrete building in District 1, and offers higher-end cooking classes with wine included.  In our opinion, GRAIN is the best cooking class for businesses looking for a fun and education activity however because they offer a special “team-building” package that involves competitions stressing collaboration, time management, creativity and leadership skills. GRAIN is slightly more expensive than other cooking classes in Ho Chi Minh City because the class was designed by famous Australian Chef Luke Nguyen. 

Cooking Vietnamese Food
Together, the work team will prepare traditional Vietnamese dishes like bánh xèo. (Photo: hiveminer.com)

An example of this activity:

The class often starts off at a local market where the teacher/chef will provide a introduction to the market and how it works, then he/she will help each team buy the ingredients they need for the dishes they will make. Afterwards, the group is brought to the kitchen where fully-equipped cooking stations are laid out on several long tables. The chef then briefs the team on the traditional dishes they will be preparing. The team return to their work stations, and the professional chef answers any questions they may have during preparation.

As they finish preparing each meal, the team members get to try their dish or share with those around them.

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Scavenger Hunts

Best Time of Day: Morning, when it’s still cool and most businesses are bustling.

Average Time Taken: 6-8 hours

An urban scavenger hunt involves traveling around the city and completing goals as a team. For example, buying specific items or taking group pictures of specific monuments. The best goals on this type of scavenger hunt make employees work in teams of 5-10 and complete memorable tasks. The tasks should be engineered to take advantage of the location. In Ho Chi Minh City, for example, fun and memorable goals that utilize what the city has to offer might include:

  • Trying street food, which is exotic, delicious, and 100% safe if bought at the right place.
  • Exploring the city’s small, winding alleys.
  • Discovering local business culture, which is quickly evolving in Ho Chi Minh City
  • Navigating local markets, which can be hectic but are always authentic.
  • Visiting and learning about Vietnamese historical monuments.
  • Experiencing Ho Chi Minh City’s distinct coffee culture.

    Saigon Landmark
    Each work team will find their way to iconic locations like the Reunification Palace. (Photo: hanatourist.vip)

HCMC is a huge city with endless possibilities for team-building locations. The easiest way to plan a truly authentic urban scavenger hunt that takes full advantages of the city’s charm is to enlist someone with local knowledge. You’ll find that Ho Chi Minh City has a variety of tour operators that provide team building services. The best tour operators will be able to tailor the scavenger hunt itinerary to the needs and structure of your company.

An example of this activity:

The participants are split into multiple groups and each group is assigned a “leader” who will rotate every two tasks completed. Over the next 4-6 hours, the teams will try to complete each task on their list. Each task will end with a piece of evidence the task was completed, such as a group photo at a certain spot, a handmade item from a local market, or a receipt from a carefully-chosen street food restaurant.

The day ends with a large group meeting at a designated restaurant or cafe where evidence of goal completion will be shared and a “winning” team will be determined.

Reading scavenger hunt clues
(Photo: teambuilding-hongkong.hk)

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Team-Building Puzzles

Best Time of Day: Anytime your work team needs a quick pick-me-up.

Average Time Taken: 45 minutes

Splitting the participants into separate groups and having the teams work together to solve a puzzle is a great corporate team-building activity. Puzzles like these are mentally stimulating, fun, and build rapport among the team members. They are also quick compared to other popular team-building exercises, so you can insert one into the middle of a conference schedule to give employees a quick break.

The best team-building puzzles combine learning (mental stimulation), physical activity, and teamwork. For example, you can let the teams go over a pamphlet or video showcasing Vietnamese history or culture. They can then combine what they learned to solve a puzzle by getting physical in some way. Ho Chi Minh has such an interesting and unique history during the past few decades that you will never run out of fascinating material. Some activities to engage in include:

  • Visiting a museum and gathering historical clues in preparation for a game show-style quiz.
  • Watching an informative video and taking notes as a group.
  • Touring historical monuments and reading about them on-site. Teams pool their recollections later.
  • Organizing a “murder mystery dinner” that is themed to the location.

The puzzles do not have to be about history. Blindfolded puzzles, trust-building exercises, and obstacle courses are all classic types of team-building activities. Quality HCMC organizers will be able to combine these old standards with the distinct character of Vietnam while keeping them fun and productive. For example:

  • Frostbite, a game where a team’s “leader” is unable to move. The rest of the team is blindfolded. The leader must shout out orders to get the team to complete a task. This activity builds trust and leadership.
  • Circle of Questions, a game where two circles of people (an inner and outer circle) rotate in opposite directions. The pairs ask each other certain questions to learn about each other and are quizzed at the end. This activity helps everyone in the business get to know each other.
  • Slideshow, where one team member tells a creative story out loud and the rest of the team acts it out as it is being told. This builds creativity and makes the team more supportive of each other.
  • Team Obstacles, where team members have to work together to cross the obstacles lain out in front of them. This builds synergy and teamwork.                                                         

    Trust-based team-building
    Activities that build trust between workmates are a staple of effective team-building. (Photo: micds.org)

An example of this activity:

The team is first split into smaller groups. Each group is led into a conference room and shown a 20-minute Youtube video about Vietnamese street food culture on the room’s TV. The teams have to take notes on the information presented.

After 30 minutes, the teams are led into an auditorium, where a mock game show is held. In the style of Jeopardy, the team members are quizzed on the information presented in the video. 30 minutes later, a winning team is crowned and a prize is awarded.

Note: Engaging in charity as a form of team-building exercises is popular in many Western countries. Unfortunately, many of Vietnam’s local “charities” are actually exploitative and do not donate most of the money or items they take in.

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MICE Tours in Ho Chi Minh City

MICE travel activities
(Photo: une-bonne-idee.ch)

MICE (meetings, events, conferencing, and exhibitions) travel is popular in Vietnam and increasing in number every year. Although the primary purpose of MICE travel is to gather information to be used in business, it is also a great opportunity to improve workplace rapport. Team-building exercises are the most effective and entertaining way to do just that.

Because MICE travelers are very busy, they will not have time to navigate the ins and outs of a very foreign culture like the one in Ho Chi Minh City. Luckily, there are experienced tour operators like XO Tours that can help organize fun MICE Tours for businesses that come to Ho Chi Minh City.

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Food Tours

Exploring Saigon on scooters with the XO Tours on the XO Foodie Tour

A food tour can be a fun team bonding activity for companies and MICE groups.

Team-building activities offer a great way to strengthen relationships within a company, but sometimes employees just need an opportunity to cut loose and socialize without any “rules.” A great way to do this is to join a guided street food tour tour of the city like the world-acclaimed XO Foodie Tour. XO Tours specializes in women-led scooter tours in Vietnam, and has 10 years of experience running tours for large universities and international companies like Nike, Reebok, Autogrill, etc. and can accommodate groups of up to 50 people on the tour.

The “XO Foodie Tour” will allow you and your team a chance to explore 5 unique districts in Ho Chi Minh City and eat numerous and delicious local delicacies.  You will get to tour each of the districts from the back of a motorbike and hear about the distinct cultural landscape of each one. The overwhelmingly positive feedback for The XO Foodie Tour notes that the female guides are extremely safe drivers and will help you to gain a deep understanding of Ho Chi Minh City’s rich street culture. Unlimited food and beer is included in the tour price, so everyone is bound to leave full and happy!

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SUMMARY:

Regardless of what kind of corporate team-building activity or event you choose, organization is best left to a professional. Team-building activities can be boring or even dangerous if prepared sloppily. The street food in Vietnam is not always hygienic and if you are not aware of the opening and closing times of places like local markets, museums, etc. you may waste a lot of time better spent doing other things.

There are many local Vietnamese companies that organize cheap team building activities however, a reputable tour operator with a passion for Vietnam like XO Tours can provide an experience on par with international standards. Keep in mind that designing great team-building activities are a huge undertaking and can takes weeks of planning, so we recommend contacting the tour operator or event organizer at least a couple of months before the date you want the team-building activity or event to be held. 

 

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