Thailand – Always Respectful in Business
The Thai language, belonging to the Tai family, is the main language in Thailand although there are several regional dialects as well. Other languages spoken in Thailand are Chinese, Lao, Malay and Mon-Khmer, while English use is becoming more prevalent in government and commerce. English is also being taught as a second language in secondary school and universities, which enables the English speaking visitor in Thailand to have little trouble conversing.
Meeting Etiquette The wai is the traditional form of greeting, given by the person of lower status to the person of higher status. The wai adheres to strict rules of protocol and is the raising of both hands, palms joined with the fingers pointing upwards as if in prayer, lightly touching the body somewhere between the chest and the forehead, is the standard form.
Thais generally use first rather than surnames, with the honorific title Khun before the name. Khun is an all- purpose form of address that is appropriate for both men and women In general, wait for your host and hostess to introduce you to the other guests. This allows everyone to understand your status relative to their own, and thus know who performs the wai and how low the head should be bowed.
Thais respect hierarchical relationships. When Thais meet a stranger, they will immediately try to place them within a hierarchy so they know how they should be treated. This is often done by asking what might be seen as very personal questions in other cultures. Status can be determined by clothing and general appearance, age, job, education, family name, and social connections.
Business Meeting Etiquette Appointments are necessary and should be made one month in advance and it is a good idea to send a list of who will be attending the meeting and their credentials so that Thais know the relative status of the people attending the meeting and can plan properly. Arrive at meetings on time as it signifies respect for the person you are meeting.
Send an agenda and material about your company as well as data to substantiate your position prior to the meeting and allow sufficient time for the material to be reviewed and digested. Written material should be available in both English and Thai. Remain standing until told where to sit. The hierarchical culture has strict rules about rank and position in the group. You must be patient.
Dress Etiquette Business attire is conservative. Men should wear dark coloured conservative business suits. Women should wear conservative business suits or dresses. Women need not wear hosiery. Since Thai’s judge you on your clothing and accessories, ensure that your shoes are always highly polished.
Business Cards Business cards are given out after the initial handshake and greeting. In theory, you should give your card to the most senior person first. It is advisable to have one side of your business card translated into Thai. Using your right hand, deliver your business card so the Thai side faces the recipient.
Look at a business card presented to you for a few seconds before placing it on the table or in a business card case. As in most Asian countries, it is polite to make some comment about the card, even if it is only to acknowledge the address.
Doing business in Thailand will be a delight as long as respect forms the cornerstone of all interactions.
Have you a Thai business experience to share?