For foreigners coming to Thailand to do business and build a network, there are a few key points to observe and remember. Following these simple guidelines will make it easier for you to impress local business partners, forge strong relationships and achieve the goals you have set for yourself and your company.
Everyone visiting Thailand knows locals practice the traditional wai greeting. For this, the hands are raised in a prayer position and the head is slightly bowed. Depending on how high the hands are raised and how far the head is bowed, you are showing more respect to the person you are greeting.
A general rule to remember is that the junior person offers the wai and the more senior person responds. As a foreigner, it is best to see which greeting you are offered and respond to it, rather than initiate the wai.
In many western countries business cards are treated very casually. Not so in Thailand and many other places in Asia. Here it is very important to show respect for the business cards given to you as they are seen as an extension of the person offering them.
When handing out a business card, always do so with both hands. If you have bilingual cards, hold the Thai side facing up and present it with the characters facing the other person. When you receive a card, take it with both hands and spend a moment looking at it. It is considered polite to make a positive comment about it. This could be remarking on the nice design or the convenient address of the office.
Importance of Hierarchy
Hierarchy, both in the family and in professional settings is very important in Thailand. Showing the appropriate respect for a person and their status is a key aspect to building successful relationships.
To know where to place you in the hierarchy, Thai people will often ask you a series of questions when they first meet you. For foreigners, these questions can seem very personal at times. It’s important to note that people are asking these things not because they are nosy, but because they want to know where to place you in the hierarchy and consequently how to treat you.
Courtesy and Communication
Courtesy and politeness are a cornerstone of Thai culture. It is extremely important to be courteous and friendly at all times and you should absolutely avoid being rude and inconsiderate. Showing anger and criticizing another person publicly is considered very inappropriate. Although you will probably not be called on it, it will make a very bad impression and you will lose face and the respect of people around you.
In Thailand, being modest, self-effacing and respectful is an essential part of good behavior. If people experience embarrassment or awkwardness they often laugh or smile to minimize this feeling. When you notice people you’re speaking with are laughing without any apparent reason, it could be better to switch the subject. In turn, if you feel embarrassed about something, laughing or smiling about it will help get past it and on to a new topic.
Importance of Relationships
Relationships are central to doing business in Thailand. If you want to build a network and have strong partnerships here, you need to invest time in relationship building. Being personally present and engaging your connections are indispensable. Just having a video conference or Skype call every once in a while, will not be enough.
The best way to build these relationships is to take people out for drinks or a meal and get to know them and have a good time together. Many foreigners prefer to get straight to the point where business is concerned, but in Thailand it is important to establish a personal connection first. When you go for a business lunch or dinner, wait until business topics are raised instead of bringing them up yourself.
Confirming the meeting a day before and showing up on time is very important when dealing with Thai business partners. It’s a sign of respect and courtesy to honor your engagements and failing to do so can make a bad impression.
Especially in you are in Bangkok, traffic can easily make good timing very difficult. Congestion in many downtown areas is bad throughout the day and can quickly turn a short trip into a long journey and lead to significant delays.
Appearance is very important in Thailand. Thai people dress very fashionably and classy, so make sure to do the same, all while being somewhat conservative. For men, a dark suit and tie are fitting. For ladies, pant suits, skirts and blouses or dresses are fine. For a casual setting, it is acceptable to wear jeans and shirts or blouses.