Adapting your business to the culture you are operating in is always crucial, it fosters good business relationships as well as a better image for the company.

In Thailand there are strong cultural aspects to know and to consider while doing business. Through this article, you will discover every cultural specificity that you need to be aware of to be able to build a business suited to Thai cultural norms.

Relationships based business method

It is important to know that Thai business partners truly value the business relationship you create when collaborating. This is why it is mandatory to build relationships before starting talking about business.

You may sometimes not even mention the main business purpose you have meetings for before the second or third meeting. Small talks are crucial when dealing with a Thai counterpart, you have to ask simple questions about daily life topics, such as their hobbies, their family, their education, etc. 

You should avoid some sensitive subjects such as politics, the royal family or negative opinions about the country itself. While talking so much about family, education, etc. can be perceived as intrusive it is very common in Thailand and useful when doing business. Speaking too frankly is not appreciated, you should be careful with the words you are using as well as how you phrase them. 

Hierarchy & Respect

When attending a business meeting in which 2 or more people are invited, you should always greet older people first. It is a sign of respect, that, if you do not do it, may make both older and young people uncomfortable about the situation. 

Usually, when doing business with foreigners, Thai people use handshakes to greet them, however it may occur that someone uses a wai to greet you. The wai is a way of greeting people in Thai culture, you join both your hands in front of the chest and bow your head a little bit. It is usual that foreigners are not completely aware of the wai and its rules, this is why they will not be offended if you make a mistake doing it.

Do not greet with a wai if you are not sure on how to do it properly in this situation. You can either just greet the person with a handshake or if the person starts the wai, you should respond with a wai as well.

When negotiating with someone, you should always be sure that you have the same rank in your company as your counterpart. As a matter of fact, one expects to do business with someone on the same level, and will not be comfortable dealing with someone who is not his equal counterpart.

The concept of “face”

There is a key element of Thai culture to be aware of in order to manage, deal or negotiate with Thai people, it is the concept of “face”. This is a quite common concept in Asian culture in general, it means that no one should never make someone embarrassed, even more when it is in public.

There are 2 important points to get if you want to work well in this environment.

The first one is to avoid conflict or confrontation, in Thailand, as said before, you need to be careful with your words, you should not be too direct, and you should definitely not be seeking confrontation in order to solve a situation, it will just make it worse. In addition, you should always be careful to not raise your voice.

The second point is that you should not notify one’s mistake, especially in front of other people, one would feel ashamed and humiliated. The outcome of such a situation would never be positive, do not be too direct, avoid frankness. You should do all this to preserve one’s “face” or dignity. This concept is crucial in order to maintain a good relationship whether it is professional or personal. 

In the end, some cultural aspects have to be considered if you want your employees, business counterparts, coworkers or any other people included in your professional framework to feel comfortable and for you to maintain good relationships with them. 

As it was said previously, business relationships are mandatory when working in Thailand. You cannot avoid building relationships or else you will not be as successful as you could be. Some cultural traits have then to be known and taken into consideration when working with Thai people to build those relationships. The high importance of hierarchy and respect is one of the main points to be aware of in order to understand people, their reactions and how you should behave with them. Lastly, the concept of “face” is crucial as it is an everyday matter to have when working with Thai people.

At Gorioux-Siam we are very aware of the differences between cultures as we are a local branch in Thailand of an international group that operates all around the world. We will help you build your business so that it is successful in Thailand and suited to the culture you will implement your company in. 

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