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Business Culture in Thailand and What You Need to Know to Succeed

July 20, 2015 | Sharon Cheong

Thailand is a beautiful country known for its vast natural resources and its large population of domesticated elephants. It has also become a highly profitable country where large corporations come to build an offshore presence for their brand name. The Thai economy is consistently strong in spite of global economic problems and experts believe this country could be a foremost economic power by the year 2020. 

One question that new business owners often have is about the business culture in Thailand. Many foreign countries have their own culture when it comes to business dealings. It can be just like learning a foreign language to become acquainted with these cultural idiosyncrasies. 

The Thai People 

In general, the Thai people are very hard working and productive people, but they value enjoying their lives to the fullest extent, even at work. A common expression, Mai Pen Rai literally means, "It is to enjoy." Thais are proud of their cultural heritage and are generally a very pleasant, humble people. They are careful not to do anything to cause anyone to lose face, as this is seen as a humiliating personal experience. This ideal carries over in business as well and a Thai entrepreneur should never be made to feel like he has made a bad or poor business decision. 

The Wai (Why) 

A Wai is an expression that can mean "I'm sorry," "Hello," "Goodbye," or "Thank you.” The expression is spoken with the palms placed together and fingers extended at chest level close to the body. Placing your hands higher, all the way up to eye level, generally shows respect. The higher your hands, the more respect that is inferred. Never place the hands above eye level. This greeting should never be given to children or subordinates. For instance, a waiter in a Thai restaurant might greet his guests with a Wai, but the guests should never return the greeting. 

Greetings 

One curious aspect of Thai speech is that Thais often say, "Where are you going?" instead of "Hello." The polite response should be, "Just down the street." When introducing yourself to someone, say your first name first. If you are introducing your business partner to an important Thai official, be sure to say their name before your own. It shows respect for your business partner(s). 

Names and Titles 

Address a Thai by their title and first name. In a business setting, you might say, “Hello, Supervisor John.” Last names are rarely used and in fact have only come into use in the last 50 years. When addressing foreigners, Thais will usually say, “Miss Jane” or “Mr. Joe”. They don't mean to be too familiar, but find it hard to pronounce last names. Honor is important and so are titles and rank and they should be included in introductions. 

Corporate Culture 

Thailand's business people are very sharp and astute, but they take their time to make big business decisions. Thai businesses are often owned and run by an entire family and the head of the company may be an older male family member. In first meetings, the mood is generally kept light with some humor and polite conversation. It is very rare during a first business meeting, to actually arrive at any concrete or important decisions. It will take several meetings to actually accomplish anything of weight. Thais respect important people and powerful connections. They also honor degrees, such as doctor, attorney or professor. Degrees and training from prestigious universities are given additional significance. 

Do You Need an Impressive Address in Thailand? 

If you sometimes find yourself in need of an upscale place to meet with foreign investors, advertising executives, or potential customers, then a serviced office space is an excellent solution. Servcorp Serviced Offices have office spaces in many sizes, along with board rooms, which are fully furnished with beautiful decor. You can get an impressive address in Thailand for your business with amenities like a dedicated reception, phone and internet service, for one low monthly price from Servcorp. Please call +66 2 231 8100 if you would like a free quote on office space or meeting rooms.