Bangkok is quickly becoming a wonderful place to take up business deals, and was recently placed 18th in the world for the best places to do business. As with any country steeped in culture and history, Bangkok is full of traditions and etiquettes that may not be immediately apparent to foreigners. It is important, when making business deals, to understand and attempt to follow the traditions and customs of business culture in the country you are doing business in. Bangkok’s business customs can be hard to navigate, and we have set up 3 key tips for traversing Bangkok’s business culture in order to make it easier for you to find success in the business world of Bangkok.
Country and King
In western culture, it is generally accepted that people can have their views about the state of politics and there’s nothing anyone else can do about that. Often you will come across people that openly oppose the current government, and sometimes it’s a great way to build rapport with a potential business client or partner to take them out for a drink and have a gripe about the state of political affairs. This is not the way to go about things in Bangkok. To be clear, insulting or speaking badly of their king or their country can be highly offensive to Thais, and will almost certainly stop any chance of building a good business relationship with the person you just inadvertently offended. However, offense and lack of a successful business deal would be the least of your concerns, as if the person offended decides to press charges against you, you can face up to fifteen years imprisonment for defamation of the king.
Build Personal Relationships
It might seem like the go-to idea to build a personal relationship with a business partner only if you get along with them and genuinely enjoy their company. Many western businesses build personal relationships between themselves as a result of their business dealings, not the other way around, however in Thailand it is the reverse. A business deal will go ahead once a personal relationship has been formed between the two decision-makers, and many business meetings will be had before any headway can be made on actual business. Entertainment is very important in making business deals in thai culture, and taking your clients out for drinks or food is generally well received, however it is important to have someone with you who can interpret the needs of your Thai clients. In western business discussions, smiling or laughing is usually a sign that the meeting is going well, however in Bangkok a person smiling or laughing is usually embarrassed, and the topic of discussion should be changed quickly.
Finally, the way a person presents themselves is of great importance in Thai business culture. Men are usually required to wear a long sleeved shirt with suit pants and a tie to business meetings, whereas women are expected to wear something to cover their shoulders, and a skirt of knee-length or lower. For more important business deals, a dark suit is expected for men, and similar attire is expected for women. Dressing in this way shows adherence to Thai business culture and a willingness to take the business deal seriously. Another thing that is well received is the state of a person’s office building. A grand building in an important part of town is a highly respected symbol, and can indicate the prosperity of your company, and companies like Servcorp provides virtual offices in Bangkok to allow for that level of impression without the dollar value usually attached to such an office space.
When followed correctly, the business world of Bangkok isn’t too difficult to navigate, and can provide you with many business opportunities not available in the western world, and luckily foreigners are given some leeway with their etiquette, as Thai business culture allows for time to learn the ins and outs of business in Bangkok.