Thailand has an economy that’s on the rise and is home to plenty of opportunities. If you’re a small to medium sized business looking to do some trade in Thailand, it could help to know what the Thai people do that westerners don’t. Our business and social culture is quite different in many ways. Knowing these differences can come in handy for understanding what to do and what not to do.
No Shoes in the House
Thai people focus on cleanliness and much of that revolves around feet.
Thai people focus on cleanliness and much of that revolves around feet. In Thai culture, it’s offensive to enter another person’s home with your shoes on. Some public places can have the same policy like cafes or restaurants. With that in mind, if you’re the type whose toes get chilly, you can ask for a pair of slippers. Keeping yourself warm isn’t considered a crime.
Never too Direct
Americans are the type to say what they mean when they want something. It’s rare that we dance around our desires, no matter the setting. But, the Thai would rather avoid conflict than to communicate the American way. Often they will say something like “that service is unavailable right now” or “maybe later” which usually means no in general. Americans will voice their likes and dislikes whereas Thai people will not.
If a waiter served your order with onions when you didn't ask for any, you would send it back. In Thailand, they would eat it anyway.
For example, if a waiter served your order with onions when you didn’t ask for any, you would send it back. In Thailand, they would eat it anyway. Try applying this to a business conversation with a potential supplier. If you’re getting vague responses and feel like you haven’t gotten a definitive answer, it may be time to try a new approach.
Thai folk are very sensitive to those around them and will tend to be soft spoken. They will even cover their mouth when talking on the phone so as not to disturb other people. In the US, you can usually make out what a person is discussing in a call near you. Often when we become passionate about a topic our volume will increase and our gestures and tone will become excited and can take off with our gestures, and tone. Thai people tend to shy away from such styles of speech and prefer to keep to themselves in that way. So, if you’re planning on trying to make a good impression, it’s worthwhile to tone it down.
They tend to be far more relaxed and aren’t in a big hurry to get anywhere as opposed to their American counterparts.
Imagine you’re on your way to work when you hit a red light that lasts for ten minutes. A pretty annoying and nerve wracking situation, huh? The Thai people would say otherwise. They tend to be far more relaxed and aren’t in a big hurry to get anywhere as opposed to their American counterparts. Things like lines, traffic, and waiting don’t seem to bother them. If you’re stuck waiting in Thailand, take the opportunity to chat to your business partner or those around you. This could be a golden opportunity to deepen a relationship, which will give you big points with any Thai person.
All in all, Thailand natives understand you’re foreign and that many of their customs are unfamiliar to you. If you mess up here and there we doubt anyone will think less of you because of it. However, it never hurts to try. We’re not saying you should change everything about yourself, but small gestures like taking your shoes off at the right time and staying relaxed in a long line can go a long way.
A thing you should never be laid back about is your money. We at Veem know how hard small businesses work and how little time they have. When making international payments, don’t settle for the run around the bank will give you. Veem can help you not only save money, time, but maybe even your business.