There are certain aspects of Thailand that you need to be aware of in order to successfully carry out your business activities in the country. Culture shock affects everyone, including businesspeople, but adequate preparation should give you an idea of what to expect. Doing business in Thailand can be highly rewarding, but it could equally become frustrating.
Learn the business culture
Most Thais want to see their nation become fully developed and are very keen to learn about Western technology and practices. However, in some aspects, Thais can be very stubborn, refusing to change the way they live and reminding you that you are in their land. For instance, most companies only work half day on Saturdays, and it is generally not advisable to request for a business meeting on a Saturday.
Doing business in Thailand will require that you earn the respect of those you will be interacting with. Thais generally do business with people they respect and it could take a while to develop healthy business relationships to your advantage. In Thailand, a person’s rank is vital, and in some cases, this is based on age. When preparing for a business meeting, ensure that you send the list of those who will be in attendance as well as their credentials. In addition, when interacting with a social group, it is important to revere the eldest member in the group.
It is important to arrive for meetings on time even when you are unsure about the punctuality of those who will be in attendance. Although punctuality in Thai is a personal trait, it signifies respect for the person you are meeting and you will earn more respect if you are on time regardless of the other party’s sense of punctuality. It is also important to send the meeting’s agenda prior to the meeting in both English and Thai and then allow sufficient time for preparation. Ideally, an appointment should be made one month in advance.
During a meeting, remember to be patient and remain standing until you are asked to sit. The attire for both men and women should be conservative, especially because Thais will judge you based on your clothing and accessories. If you have business cards to distribute, ensure that you do this after the initial greeting or handshake and begin with the most senior person. The exchange of business cards is generally considered a necessary opening ritual when doing business in Thailand and other Asian countries. It is also advisable to have one side of your business card in Thai.
Always remember to be courteous and respectful, and note that non-verbal and formal communication is generally considered more important than verbal communication. For instance, since Thais find it difficult to deny requests, it is important to pay attention to their non-verbal communication. If you sense hesitance, it is advisable to retract your request. You should also watch your own body language when communicating with Thais as this is more believable than your words. When doing business in Thailand, your willingness to learn and adjust to the new culture will ensure your success.