Thai Tips
Business Hours > Corporate Structure > Negotiation > Making Contacts > Business Meetings


Knowing People

Business Meetings

Business Hours

Corporate Structure

Agreement & Negotiation

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    Knowing People
  • When greeting a Thai, use the word Khun (pronounced coon) in place of "Mr." Or "Mrs." And the personís first name, which is listed first on his or her business card. For example, a Westerner with the name "Peter Moore" would be called "Khun Peter". Among Thais, family names are not usually used. Most Thais refer to each other by their first names only. Never refer to yourself with the word Khun; simply say your first name. Thais will probably address you by using "Mr." or "Mrs." and your first name.
  • Introductions: foreign companies may write directly to Thai companies, although introductions will always facilitate a firmís credibility and acceptance.
  • Although many Thais have been educated in the U.S., Britain, Canada or Australia and speak English well, speaking and understanding a conversation on a telephone is often the most difficult part of mastering a foreign language. Because English telephone conversation may be difficult to understand for the Thai, it is best to write. This also gives the Thai company more time to think about a response and may be a better means of communication considering time differences between Thailand and other countries.
  • If there is any question about the comprehension of English by the people you are meeting, always use your own translator or interpreter.  Do not rely on the other organizations translator or interpreter.  They work for the other side and are more likely to protect their business interest and to focus on their interests not yours.  Also, meet with your interpreter prior to the meeting and make sure they understand you and your company.
  • Most Thais greet someone by bowing slightly forward them while bringing their hands to a praying position in front of them between the chest and forehead. The exact location of the hand depends on the level of respect being offered Ė the height and depth of a personís bow indicates social status. This gesture, known as a "wai", can be used when greeting someone on arrival and departure, and also when saying "I am sorry" or "thank you." Do not wai secretaries and clerks.
  • Thais enjoy combining business and pleasure. Business lunches and dinners are very common. As a general rule, whoever extends the invitation pays for the meal and the entertainment. If it is unclear who has extended the invitation, then the oldest member of the group usually accepts the "honor" of paying.
  • As a result of the leisurely way of life in Thailand, spontaneity and often informality is acceptable and appreciated. Sometimes it is all right to schedule impromptu meetings. However, this is not advisable on your first visit to Thailand.
  • Foreign business would be wise to hire a representative or agent with local connections, especially if they intend to buy from or sell to Thailand. Assess any local representative or partnerís political relationship as the government is still very much involved in the private sector. Networking with government officials and/or correct authorities can be the key to doing business successfully, especially if your firm intends to do a major project. Although a local representative is often the best choice, monitor your representative closely and require measurable performance.
  • Keep in mind that in most of Asia that dates are shown in day/month/year format, ex.  5/12/99 means December 5, 1999.  To avoid confusion, you may want to use the full date in correspondence.

  • Bring a large supply of business cards and advertising material.  You may meet many more people than expect.  Asians view the exchange of business cards in particularly as a very necessary opening ritual.
  • If a Thai person gives you a compliment, be polite and deny it.  Modesty is considered a blessing in Asia even more so than in other regions.
  • Be respectful of local culture but don't expect that you have to know everything.  Most Thais will make allowances for foreigners.
  • Try to learn a few words of the local language.  This show's to all your interest in the country and its culture and is considered another demonstration of your cultural sensitivity and good breeding. (see keyword in Thai from Homepage)

    Business Meetings:
  • Avoid business visits during the New Year Festivals (both the Chinese and Thai ones).
  • Foreigners are expected to be punctual, but do not expect Thais to be on time.
  • Heavy traffic is the most common excuse for tardiness. Whenever possible, avoid scheduling meetings after 3:30 pm because locals often leave their office early to get a head start on evening rush-hour traffic.
  • First meetings should be held in offices, restaurants, or hotel lobbies. Men may be invited to "member clubs" Thais are often impressed if you stay at an expensive hotel; luxury suggests that you represent a very successful company.
  • Business cards are always exchanged at the first meeting. It is important to carry a sufficient quantity; failure to offer a business card may make Thais suspicious of your position and authority. Be sure your card indicates your position and responsibility, as Thais are impressed by titles.
  • Begin initial meetings with casual conversation on such topics as your travels, the beauties of Thailand, and your counterpartís overseas experiences.
  • Avoid topics relating to politics, the royal family, and religion. Be generous in your praise of the country and the Thai people and refrain from boasting about your country and yourself.
  • Gifts are not required for early meetings. If you wish, you can present sample products from your company.
  • Never touch or point with your feet. It is consider rude to cross your legs and point your feet to someone.

  • Thais place a great importance on appearance and politeness. Be conscious of this and respond accordingly.

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