Every country is different in how social relationships are built and function. Whether you are working with a simple business like food vendors, or a niche one like concrete estimating, having a knowledge of that business’ differing customs is essential. As a person working in business in Thailand, you need to understand such cultural differences and be able to present yourself correctly in the right environment
Thailand is no different. It has a unique society with customs and traditions in line with other Asian countries surrounding it. Yet, Thailand still has its own unique traits. Hence, here is the ultimate guide to business etiquette in Thailand.
Overview of Business Etiquette in Thailand
Compared to many other countries, Thailand has a very relaxed culture. In other words, people will often be more direct about asking you questions, even if they may seem personal to you. This is a way to get to know you better; in return, they will be open and upfront with you when you ask them questions. This openness is essential for building strong and long-lasting business relationships.
Thai people prefer to develop business relationships after first establishing a personal relationship with you. They want to trust you and expect you to trust them too. This is why your first meetings could be arranged in a friendly setting where you talk, eat, and even enjoy entertainment. Talk about the things they are interested in and show your own interest in them. Be a sociable and friendly person. In addition to that, here are some more tips:
- Small gestures like simple courtesies and giving gifts are quite appreciated. Hold doors, offer drinks, and bring a token gift to your first meeting.
- Use both hands to show respect when giving gifts or handing over things.
- Don’t touch their head or hair, and don’t pass objects over their heads. The head is considered sacred, so such actions disrespect the Thai people.
- Respect Thai people’s Buddhist religion – don’t take selfies with Buddhist statues, respect religious holidays and objects, etc.
- Eat with your spoon rather than your fork.
Hierarchy in Thailand creates the structure on which all relationships are built – both personal and professional. This is why you should respect a person appropriately based on their status. Thai people usually ask several questions to understand where someone stands in the hierarchy. These questions may seem too personal, but this is just a way for Thai people to get to know you better.
Because of the hierarchy that is so fundamental to Thai society, relationships are critical for Thai people. To do business successfully, you must develop and invest in such situations. You need to be present personally and engaged in all meetings. Video conferences are not an option. The best option is to go out together for meals to get to know each other better. Instead of getting straight to the point, you must enjoy yourselves together first and establish a personal connection with your business partners.
In Thailand, the so-called wai is a traditional Thai greeting. You must raise your hands in a praying position and bow your head slightly for this greeting. The wai greeting can also help you show a specific amount of respect. By raising your hands and bowing your head lower, you can show more respect to the person you greet. Likewise, Thai people will use this greeting to show respect to you.
Usually, the junior person offers the wai greeting and the senior response. You should wait because you are a foreigner instead of initiating the wai greeting yourself. See what greeting you are offered, and then respond accordingly. By the way, you can also smile and nod slightly when performing the wai greeting. This will show an additional degree of respect.
If you don’t want to answer many questions that Thai people will likely ask you to place you in the hierarchy, you can simply prepare a business card. Business cards are very common in the West but aren’t as popular in Thailand. That being said, they are still helpful as a means of introducing yourself. Moreover, because of their rarity, they are treated with more significance and are seen as an extension of the person offering them.
As mentioned earlier, you must use both hands when handing over things – this rule also applies to business cards. If you have bilingual cards, offer them with the Thai face up and the writing facing the person you are giving it to. When receiving a card, take it with both hands, look at it for a moment, and make a positive comment about it. All of this is a way to show politeness and respect.
Speaking of politeness is one of Thailand’s most essential elements of communication customs. You must be courteous, polite, and friendly at all times. Avoid being inconsiderate or rude, even unintentionally. Don’t show anger or criticize other people publicly. Try to be modest and respectful of others. If you embarrass yourself or do something awkward, smile and laugh it off. If people around you are laughing for no reason, switching the subject is best.
You can use the term Khun when addressing someone – it is equivalent to the English Mr., Mrs., and Miss. Don’t interrupt others; don’t tease or playfully mock those you are talking to. Don’t correct others’ mistakes. If you make a mistake yourself, laugh it off and move on. Avoid saying negative things about Thai politics. Confirm meetings a day prior and show up on time. If you are in Bangkok, be mindful of your time, as traffic can become a real issue.
People in Thailand love dressing in a fashionable and classy way, so make sure to do so yourself. That being said, remain somewhat conservative in your clothing. Men should wear dark suits and ties while women should wear pantsuits, skirts, blouses, and dresses. It is okay to wear jeans with shirts or blouses if you have a casual meeting.
In general, try to stick to darker shades rather than bright colours. However, don’t wear black as it is only worn to funerals. Women can wear more colours but should still avoid red. For fabric, you can try something breathable like cotton or silk as the temperature can become quite high. If it does get too hot, you can take off your jacket and hold it over your shoulders.
To summarize, Thailand is a beautiful country with a unique culture that you must respect and understand. Use this guide to help you do business in Thailand successfully.
About the Author:
Tiffany Porter is an expert writer who creates various training and professional upgrade courses, materials, manuals, and reviews for Best Essays Education websites. She also likes travelling and speaks German and French.