So, you’ve made contact with a prospective supplier. And now you’re on your way to meet them in their homeland, Thailand. It’s a vast and colorful country full of opportunities. But, you’ve just realized that the first thing your supplier wants to do is take you out to lunch or dinner. Not that you were going to panic, but you might be wondering if there are any customs or social etiquettes you should know before going in. If you already feel pretty confident about how to do business in Thailand, here’s a breakdown of what to do at a Thai dinner.
The Left Hand
Old Thai superstition suggests that the left hand is bad luck and, in some extreme cases, evil. You probably won’t meet many people who are sensitive toward this belief, but it’s probably a good precaution to avoid doing things with your left hand. An example of this would be passing someone something, or handing out a business card. If you’re left handed, we think the Thai people are willing to excuse such an old tradition.
People in Thailand eat with a fork and spoon rather than a knife and fork. They use the spoon in their right, which is the dominant, and the fork in the left. The spoon is used to shovel things into the mouth whereas the fork is for pushing things onto your spoon.
Once the food arrives, wait for the host to invite you to start eating. If you’re in a restaurant, it’s likely the person who invited you. Your order will probably come on platters or communal plates for people to take from. Help others by passing around plates of food. If you’re the youngest at the table, allow everyone else to take rice before you. Take from the side of a platter rather than the center as well.
When everyone starts talking, avoid bringing up business until the host mentions it. If you’re building a business relationship they will want to get to know you as a person before discussing any deals.
When You’re Done
To show you enjoyed the meal, scrape every last bit from the plate. We figure this shouldn’t be too hard considering Thai cuisine is utterly delicious. If you have scraps like bones and skins push them to the side of your plate. Try not to leave clumps of rice, it’s considered wasteful. Finally, place your fork and spoon in the 6:30 position. This is similar to western culture so it should be easy to remember.
Offer to pay for the meal. The host will turn you down, but it’s always considered polite to offer. Make sure to say thank you, this is a staple in any outing no matter the country.
You Did it!
Congratulations on nailing your first Thai dinner! It’s a crucial aspect of doing business in any part of Thailand. Now that you have that business deal in the bag, the next step involves money.
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