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Business culture in Thailand

Aim high by contacting high executive decision makers in the organization and try to find the right middle ground in negotiations.

How do you greet and speak to each other?

Greet by shaking hands. Business cards are handed over with respect, but it is not necessary to receive it with both hands. Use the word “Khun” (Mr, Mrs, Ms) followed by the first name. Keep in mind the noble and academic titles. Ministers, Vice Ministers and in some cases, high executives are addressed as "Excellency".

Are there any special dress codes?

For man applies suits with a tie and for women applies suits (not trousers) or dress.

What should you think of during business meetings?

In the first contact or when trying to book a meeting, try to aim for more senior decision makers in the company. They can after that guide and advise you to a more approciate contact person. If you take contact with an employee at a too low level in the company, it can, later on, be more difficult to reach higher decision makers in the company. Meetings always start at the agreed time. The opening is formal, business is never discussed immediately. Plan to be in time for the meeting. Nevertheless, in Bangkok, the tolerance level is relatively high for delays due to the traffic in the city.  

Are there any specific negotiation techniques that work?

Consider the following:

  • Business discussion is often in English, but since not all Thai people master the English language well, it is important to get assure yourself that the message is clear and understood.
  • Finding a common middle ground that fits both parties is the most appropriate approach in most of the situations. Be careful to say no immediately and avoid making a Thai person lose their face.
  • Thai people want to have a good amount of time to make a decision and it can require many visits to the country to seal a deal.
  • Orally agreed agreement are not always valid, everthing should be in written format.
  • Agreement should be precise and detailed. Get help from a lawyer when making an agreement. 

What other codes should you be aware of?

  • Personal contacts are of high importance deals can go through.
  • Gestures should not be excessive.
  • Thai people are smiling for many different reasons. A smile can basically mean anything. 
  • Do not criticize the Kingdom, Thai people have tremendous respect for it.

Source: “Oskrivna regler” (2003) from Industrilitteratur and Business Sweden in Thailand