Purpose – to offer a framework of structural and contextual influences on knowledge transfer of foreign management ideas to vietnamese academic and managerial colleagues. It addresses four factors: stage of relationship between vietnamese and foreign counterparts; participative competence (i.E. Knowledge, experience, and motivations of those sending and receiving knowledge); atmosphere within each side’s organization; and conduit conditions, or factors that facilitate transmittal or translation of knowledge. Design/methodology/approach – the paper draws on an ethnographic study from 1994-2003 of the creation of vietnam’s first international standard business school, within the national economics university (neu), in hanoi, which included participant observation, semi-structured and informal interviews with over 60 vietnamese faculty members, managers, university administrators, and foreign visiting professors and administrators, field notes, documentation, and archival records. Findings – the paper concludes that long-lasting knowledge transfer is not straightforward in its flow; must be bi-directional for the primary transfer (i.E. Of western business knowledge) to succeed, and moves from primarily explicit to both explicit and more tacit knowledge transfer. Research limitations/implications – the paper calls for additional research on perceptive competence, organizational atmosphere, conduit conditions, and turning points in relationships. Practical implications – a toolkit for managers on key aspects to consider in knowledge transfer and exchange within developing countries and within multinational firms. Originality/value – the paper expands existing models and adds new components regarding the relationship between parties, and the notion of bi-directional interactions. Emerald group publishing limited.