Thailand is one of the business centers in South East Asia. Bordering Burma to the west, Cambodia in the east, Laos in the north and Malaysia in the south, Thailand's economic growth makes it a popular destination for western investors. Tourism, garment and textile industries, agricultural processing, cement, computer parts, beverages and light manufacturing industries are the main drivers of the country's economy.
The government of Thailand is a monarchy headed by the king. The majority of Thais are Buddhists, making up about 94 percent of the population. The rest are Muslims (4 percent) and Christians (1 percent). Thailand's capital city is Bangkok, which is also the country's commercial center. Other cities that are popular with expatriates are Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Chonburi, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nakhon Ratchasima, Phuket, Pattaya, Hua Hin and Khon Kaen.
Doing Business in Thailand
Understanding the country's people and their culture is one of the things that determine the success of foreigners doing business in Thailand. If you are a businessperson from the west, you may find Thailand's culture a bit too conservative. However, Thais are polite, patient and humble people, and this makes interaction with them pleasant. In addition, Thais are proud of their culture and are hardworking people. Even though you may sometimes find the cultural differences confusing, Thais are accommodating and do not get offended easily. However, doing business in Thailand requires you to know the basics of what to do and what to avoid.
Whether your business is new or is established and you are building new business partnerships, it is important to note that Thais will often first focus on building personal relationships. Therefore, it may take time and several meetings before real business begin. Additionally, many business meetings are conducted over lunch or at places of entertainment.
Generally, Thais are polite and avoid offending people or making them feel embarrassed. You should conduct yourself in a manner that is in line with the Thais' business etiquette. This includes things like the appropriate verbal and body language, dress code etc. Here are some of the etiquette tips to observe:
The form of greetings used in Thailand is 'wai' with your palms placed together, fingers pointing upwards, hands raised and head your head bowed. Also, note that Thais are class-conscious and this type of greeting is not used on servants, children, laborers etc. A smile or nod to acknowledge the greeting is fine.
When you address business colleagues, use a title of honor "Khun", preceding the person's name.
The business dress code is plain, dark business suits for both men and women. Skirts should be at knee length or longer. The dressing should not be too revealing.
It is illegal to disrespect the monarchy by joking, criticizing or writing anything considered disrespectful.
Exchanging business cards is a standard practice at meetings. Start with the most senior person when distributing the cards and use your right hand.
During introductions, people of lower status or children are introduced first.
Buddhist Thais consider the head sacred. Therefore, you should not touch a colleague's head.
When visiting a Thai's home, remove your shoes at the door.