Dos and don'ts of doing business in Thailand

Do you want to do business in Thailand? The Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland (RVO) has a few tips.

On its Thailand country page, RVO gives information on doing business in Thailand. Here are some tips.

Before getting orders in it is important to maintain intensive contact with your business partner.

Do you want to make a first appointment or bring attention to your product? Rather than sending a fax or email, send a letter. The Thai appreciate this more.

Business contacts
  • A business man or woman would do well to dress formally for business meetings.
  • Your Thai business contact will greet you with a (weak) handshake. Leave the initiative to your business partner.
  • The Thai greet one another with a 'wai'. This is a traditional gesture in which people bring their palms together and bring them to their face.
  • It is usual to address someone by Mr/Mrs/Miss and their first name. You can also use the Thai prefix Khoen for both men and women. It is unusual to address a Thai by their often long and difficult surname. People also often have a short nickname that you will learn after a few social meetings. You can then address them by this name.
  • Due to the Buddhist influence the Thai are generally warm and friendly people. They are known for their tolerance and hospitality. Don't be fooled into jovial behaviour by this and preferably do not touch your conversational partner in a friendly manner.
  • Negotiating in Thailand requires patience, self control and perseverance. Be advised on the relevant laws and regulations before contract discussions. Lack of knowledge can seriously weaken your negotiating position. A deal isn't a deal until it is set in a lawful and signed contract.
  • Thai society is very hierarchical. This is why it is important to indicate what position you have within your organisation. Ensure you have sufficient (English) business cards, with a clear indication of your function. The cards are usually left on the table during the conversation. It shows little respect to immediately put them away without looking at them. Also, do not use them to take notes, people see it as an insult if you don't take the cards at the end of the conversation.
  • Speaking a few words of Thai creates sympathy among the Thai business partners. Try to build a personal relationship with your counterpart. There is opportunity for this during lunch, dinner or golf. The Thai have an indirect method of communication. They sometimes have difficulty with the direct Dutch manner of approach.
  • The Thai appreciate a small gift. To avoid any 'loss of face' to the giver, the presents aren't opened in front of you. Typical 'Holland' souvenirs are desirable.
Social aspects
  • The king has a very important place in Thailand. Negative remarks and jokes about him and the royal family are 'not done'.
  • In a mostly Buddhist country the orange clad monks are a striking view on the streets. Women are not allowed to touch a monk at all. Both in the host country and the Netherlands it is advisable to treat images of Buddha with respect.

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