Thailand Business and Workplace Culture

As in the popular analogy “When in Rome…” it is no different when working or teaching in Thailand. It is important to understand that respect equals success in Thailand and a good way to earn the regard of your associates and employers is to act within the accepted business and workplace culture and ethics of this country.   Here are some guidelines for accepted behaviour in a business environment.

  • Be respectful, polite and formal at all times and make sure that your dress and body language follow suit.
  • Be aware that Thai people dislike saying no – any body language on their part which indicates embarrassment means you are pushing too hard.
  • Make appointments well in advance (about a month is the norm) and don’t be late.
  • After entering a meeting, wait for an invitation to be seated before doing so.
  • Disrespectful behaviour towards women is not tolerated, even though women are seldom promoted to senior positions in the workplace they are still acknowledged and respected in the workplace.
  • Decisions take a long time in Thailand and involve several lengthy discussions before a resolution is reached.
  • At a first meeting, little will be accomplished as this is seen more as an opportunity to get to know each other.
  • A second meeting is expected to include a meal – and it will most likely take a third meeting to reach a decision on business matters. Long-term planning is not common.
  • Always make small talk before discussing business, ignoring the pleasantries is considered extremely rude.
  • Understand that management is often family and that family comes before business.
  • Learn to speak Thai; it is the preferred language for conducting business.

Education is important in Thailand, and it is considered the norm to display your degrees and accolades on your business card which you would hand over to the most senior person at your initial meeting. Knowing people in high places is also greatly valued. Do not miss an opportunity to network or advertise your qualifications.

As a teacher in Thailand you will be expected to behave in a dignified, composed and approachable manner at all times. Your dress should be respectable and spotlessly clean and your shoes as clean and polished as your manners.

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