Business in Thailand
Upon your arrival in Thailand, you may feel pretty disoriented. Join the crowd. A new culture on what may be the other side of the world for you can be disconcerting. Naturally, you’re going to experience a great deal of anxiety about settling in, particularly when you got to rent a new apartment for the first time, deal with the assault of new sights and sounds, . After you take a bit of time to settle in and re-tain your equilibrium, you will probably want to get down to business. Here are a few things to remember when it comes to doing business in Thailand.
First, let’s cover the basics. Approaching an interview in Thailand is much the same as anywhere in Western Culture: appearance matters. Don’t take your new laid-back surroundings as an excuse not to present your best foot forward at an interview. Dress for the occasion in business casual at the very least. Chances are you are one of many foreigners that has been interviewed for this position and should outshine the others at every opportunity. Pressed pants, a nice tie, and a conservative white shirt should do the trick. Also make sure that your documentation is very neat binder and is concise and to the point. Don’t take shortcuts by trying to present yourself solely online--bring your documentation.
Since Thailand is a pretty modern country and is used to doing business world-wide, they do not expect foreigners to know their customs to the degree that they do. Therefore they are pretty forgiving when it comes to mistake in etiquette. However, it is a good idea to get on YouTube or another online resource and learning a few things, such as the wai, the all-important greeting among Thais. Much like the bow in Japan, the wai communicates status as well as respect. The wai is always started by the youngest person in the room.
Since status is important in giving the wai, you may receive a request who is going to be at your meeting and what their particular standing is--and you will be expected to send a list yourself after you make your appointment. You can ask for instructions about the wai at your hotel or from any fellow expatriates you encounter. Appointments are usually made about a month in advance, and between now and then, be sure and get your business card printed in Thai on one side. Appointments are generally made a month in advance. As stated earlier, make sure you send the information about the meeting’s participants in an email to your business contact. In between now and then, have your business card printed in Thai on one side.
When scheduling your meeting, do what everyone else in Thailand does: take into account the traffic. This is why Thais usually only schedule meetings at 10 and at 2 and try to do no more than two meetings a day. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to make it. If you are a bit late because of traffic, the Thais will understand. Sometimes meetings are switched to either the phone or an online video conference due to traffic. Yep--it’s that bad.
Once you arrive, you will be greeted with a handshake and/or the wai. Once this is done, business cards will be passed out. Try to give your business card to the oldest person in the room first. Of course, sometimes it is hard to tell people’s ages and Thais know this so you will be forgiven a faux pas in this instance. Be sure when giving out your card to present the card Thai-side first using your right hand.
Once that is over with, take the business cards offered to you and look at them closely before you put them in your wallet. A comment upon the card--even if it is something mundane such as the address--shows that you have read it and considered the person who gave it to you. This is a standard practice across the orient and is a business habit that will serve you well all over the Far East.
When your meeting ends, remember that Thais do business with people they respect. If you are meeting them for the first time, remember that relationships in Thailand don’t fall immediately into place as they do in more casual Western cultures such as America. You may have a couple of meetings before any real business gets done.
In the meantime, remember whenever you are doing business with Thais to show enormous respect for the royal family, never touch their heads (the most sacred part of the body) and to not pass documents or other items over a person’s head as this is considered bad manners in the extreme. The feet are considered dirty, and never interact with your environment with your feet such as pointing or turning on an item (such as a fan with pushbuttons on the floor) with your toe. If you see shoes outside the door, then take off your shoes. If not, wear them inside.
With these few things in mind, your business meetings should go well. Remember Thais place a high value on manners and respect. If you demonstrate a good attempt at Thai-style manners, then all should go well.