First impressions matter when it comes to business.
This makes business etiquette one of the most important soft skills you can ever learn.
Research shows time and time again that for better or worse, these impressions play a big part in our lives.
Business introductions are thus very important and crucial skill that you need to master to be successful with your internships and careers.
So, how do you put your best foot forward when you are unfamiliar with a country’s culture?
This is the first article in a series will look at business etiquette of introductions. Starting with Thailand, learn how to master introductions in a business environment.
Read on to see business etiquette with greetings, names, and business cards are handled in Asia!
Business Etiquette for Introductions in Thailand
The relaxed nature of Thai people makes it easy to be lulled into a false sense of security regarding etiquette. However, it’s still important to make an effort!
Using proper greetings will leave people with a favorable impression as opposed to a lukewarm one.
Learning Thailand’s traditional greetings, the ‘wai’ and hello in Thai is a good start.
To perform a ‘wai’, place both hands together palm to palm in the shape of a lotus flower in front of your chest. Make a small bow with your head towards the hand, without bending your waist.
When doing the ‘wai’, avoid rushing the action. Slow deliberate movements convey respect, for the person you are greeting and also Thai culture.
Of course, handshakes are also acceptable and are preferred Western expats (non-Thai nationals) working in Thailand.
Next is how to say hello in Thai. The word ‘sawadee’ means hello, but you can also use it interchangeably to mean goodbye.
To make it polite, you then add a particle added to the end of a sentence.
Women will use ‘kha’ and men will use ‘krup’. So you would say ‘sawadee kha’ or ‘sawadee krup’.
Thai language is complicated, so focus on clear pronunciation of the words.
Thai people do not expect non-native speakers to able to grasp the tones in the language, but your attempts are appreciated.
Learning how to greet Thai people like the locals do will create a positive first impression.
Thai Names and Titles
First names are widely used in Thailand, as last names have only been introduced around the start of the 20th century.
Last names are only used in very formal situations, so you can expect to be called by your first name even in a business setting.
Amongst close acquaintances and friends, nicknames are used in lieu of first names to show familiarity.
Nicknames are a big part of Thai culture and almost everyone will have one. Feel free to call coworkers by their nickname once you become more comfortable with them.
However, you should avoid being too familiar in business meetings or with people much higher in the company hierarchy than you.
While Thai names can be complicated to pronounce, but thankfully their titles are very simple.
Honorifics like Mr., Mrs. and Ms. in Thai is simplified in into one gender-neutral word: ‘khun’. An example of the use would be ‘Khun Simon’ or ‘Khun Pichaya’.
There are a few exceptions to the rule, mainly based on professions (such as teachers) that are less commonly encountered in a business environment.
For someone holds a doctorate, the honorific ‘Dr.’ is used instead, like it is in English.
You may also notice different honorifics being used such a ‘pii’, like ‘Pii Gai’. This honorific is used to refer to someone older than you.
‘Pii’ in Thai translates to older sibling and is gender neutral. It is common in Thailand to refer to non-blood relatives like you would a family member.
Much like nicknames, it is acceptable to use the honorific ‘pii’ for coworkers, but should be avoided when addressing the upper management or new business contacts.
Business Cards in Thailand
Business cards are not a vital part of Thai business culture, but they serve two very important functions.
The first purpose they serve is to establish hierarchy.
Your business card should have your job title clearly written, so the receiver knows your position within the company.
Business in Thailand follows the hierarchical structure, hence your card should have this important piece of information.
The second purpose they serve is to provide contact information.
Decision making in Thailand is slow, as it requires approval from the highest levels of management.
So first meetings are for establishing relationships more than anything else, and business is continued if the meeting is successful.
Thus making the exchange of contact information between the parties involved important in maintaining relations.
In less formal networking settings, LINE (a messenger application used in Thailand) contact information is exchanged in lieu of business cards.
There is no rigid protocol regarding business cards, except to treat the cards with respect.
Many business cards are in English, but you may receive one with some Thai or entirely in Thai.
Take your time to read the card you are given even if you can’t understand what is written.
Try to compliment the card you receive in some way, regarding the design, content or any positive attribute. For example, you could say you like the colours.
If someone offers you their business card, try to reciprocate with one of your own.
Relationships outside of the office are important in Thai culture. Take good care of the cards you receive for the future.
General Tips for Thai Business Etiquette
Business etiquette in Thailand may seem simple and informal.
However, as you dig deeper into Thailand’s business culture, there is definitely a lot more to learn once you get past business introductions.
Thai people are very forgiving of small mistakes if you demonstrate a willingness to try your best.
A little patience and politeness go a very long way.
Remember the number one rule of business etiquette: take cues from your environment around you.
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