Business Practices in Thailand

Overview by
The Fundamental Principles of Business Culture
Relationship building is an essential factor of success in doing business in Thailand, a country where social engagement play an important role in developing trust. Relating to business contacts is often considered more important than doing business and therefore presenting and maintaining a good profile is of very important to Thais. Keeping the same person working with a specific client or partner is essential, which also require that regular detailed briefings are conducted with other colleagues in case that person change position or leave the company.


Hierarchy and seniority are important and senior officials and business people will most likely expect to meet representatives of similar positions, not their juniors. Correspondence have to be addressed to the most senior person. Thais respond well to bargaining and negotiating, a sign of flexibility and a willingness to accommodate business partners. Business qualities may be judged by the ability to bargain and reach what is considered a fair deal. Sometimes the agreement may change between the negotiation and the final signing of the agreement.

First Contact
It is important to prepare for a visit by undertaking some reading on business practices and styles of negotiations. This will help to set you up for success. While books of this kind may not be easily found overseas, they are readily available in the major bookshops in Thailand or from online services.
Thais do not traditionally shake hands. The correct form of greeting is the wai, which is performed by placing the palms of the hands together, raising them to the face with the fingertips at eye level and inclining the head slightly. There is great formality in the wai and the level at which the hands are placed have a great significance. Foreign business people are not expected to initiate a wai or even return it – a simple smile and a nod of acknowledgement is acceptable, but it may be appropriate to return a wai when you are a little more familiar with the tradition.
How to Present Yourself
Khun, to be pronounced "koon" is Thai for Mr, Mrs, Ms or Miss and preceeds the given name, always use in Thailand. For example: Khun John. Most Thais also have a nickname which they use in place of the given name. When corresponding it is important to use the correct given name but this is not so important in casual conversation if you have been introduced by the nickname.
Business Relations
Although the Thais are an extremely tolerant and forgiving people, tourists and business men and women would do well to observe proper social customs to avoid embarrassment and misunderstanding.
Exchanging gifts is a regular practice in business in particular on first visits. Gifts do not need to be expensive but a kind gesture that may help to build a strong relationship with clients and partners. Gifts are not opened when received, but later on, in privacy. 


Foreign individuals and companies can be prosecuted in their country for bribing foreign officials when overseas.

Business Communication
Thais would often not admit that they do not understand what has been said in order not to offend their foreign visitors, a factor that can create frustration and ultimatly deteriorate business relationship. Foreign business people may leave a meeting thinking they have reached an agreement only to realise that nothing further happens because a Thai person is unable to say "no". The use of an interpreter to ensure that a good communication takes place is therefore important.
Dress Code
Thai value systems regarding dress, social behavior, religion, authority figures, and sexuality are much more conservative than those of the average Westerner. In business, Thai people tend to follow a formal dress code. Casual wear should not be worn for business meetings: a business shirt, tie and proper footwear are essential for men.
Visiting Cards
Business cards are always used in Thailand, preferably with a Thai language version printed on one side of the card.
For Further Information
Thailand Business practices
Business culture Thailand
This site provides general information about Thailand, including Thai society and culture, etiquette, customs, and business etiquette.

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