by Tom Senkus
Are you wondering what it’s like to do business in Thailand? In this article, we’ll take a look at how entrepreneurs should conduct their business and handle their professional matters in Thailand.
The business dress code in Thailand is conservative. Men are expected to wear dark suits, white shirts, and a tie, and women should wear plain conservative dresses or suits. For business casual circumstances, men should wear slacks and shirts, while women should choose skirts and blouses. Jeans can also be worn casually by both sexes.
Thailand is home to 68 million people, but a majority have moved from rural locations to seek opportunity in big cities like Bangkok (population: 8 million). This means that many foreign executives are often stuck in traffic or have to be adaptable to changing meeting times. That’s why many meetings are frowned upon among the Thai people. Instead, many Thai business people conduct meetings from their vehicles via cell phones, laptops, and other mobile devices instead of face-to-face encounters. And if you’re looking to add scenic views to your morning commute, a popular method of avoiding Bangkok’s big city gridlock is commuting by ferry boat.
If you like rain, you’ll love Thailand. Joking aside, it should be noted that between July and October, Thailand experiences monsoon season, where rainfall can put a damper on the reliability of travel and the overall spirits of Thais. Ferry boats, particularly in the southern regions of the country, stop running during monsoon season; instead, those who want to reach more remote locations are forced to fly. For those not used to what monsoon season brings, it can be a major impediment to doing business and ward off those who don’t like sheets of rainfall from out of nowhere, causing flooding, and creating a semi-permanently very humid climate.
Understanding the Religious Culture
Many Westerners are unaware of the religious culture of Thailand. While the country is predominantly Buddhist, there are portions in the southern part of the country where many people are practicing Muslims (4 – 5%). Therefore, entrepreneurs should be careful to keep their business dealings religiously neutral and anticipate the possibility of cultural clashes, especially since there have been separatist movements and mistrust between ideologies. Additionally, since most Buddhist holidays are celebrated in April and May, it can be hard to reach locals who take vacation during these months. Instead, entrepreneurs should focus on November through March as the optimal time to do business in Thailand.
What to Avoid
Entrepreneurs should be careful to avoid faux pas and controversies when in Thailand. For example, business should focus solely on business affairs and not stray into political realms. Therefore, any negative comments about the King of Thailand and the country itself should be avoided. In terms of religion, it should be noted that pointing one’s feet toward images of the Buddha is a form of disrespect, as the feet are seen as symbolically “dirty.” This same sentiment goes towards royal images.
Other customs include never pointing with one finger or passing anything with your left hand (including business cards). Additionally, it’s a common formality to remove shoes before entering a Thai home (much like in other Asian countries, like Japan), as Thai people are very conscious about cleanliness. Remember that overall, the general etiquette of Thailand is very similar to other Asian countries. Courtesy is very important in Thailand, as well as acting polite to maintain good relationships with new acquaintances and established business contacts.
An Alternative: Thailand Virtual Phone Numbers
If you’re still on the fence about whether your business should open up a branch in Thailand, there’s a less risky alternative than leasing property or allocating resources that may compromise your business: virtual phone numbers.
Subscriptions for Thailand virtual phone numbers are readily available from service providers, like Global Call Forwarding. Virtual phone numbers, in essence, are phone numbers that route calls from one number to a destination number. For example, if you purchased a Bangkok virtual phone number, calls made to this number can be routed to a call center that you may have in India. Likewise, when Thai people receive calls from your virtual phone number, it shows up as a phone number that matches the country code and location. This helps build authenticity and trust in new clients, where other options using foreign phone numbers may alienate potential customers.
On a similar note, if you’re still testing your business’ viability in Thailand, a virtual phone number can be a way of testing the waters to see if your business gains traction. If so, you can expand to the country by following its process for foreign nationals. If your Thailand effort fails to take hold, you only have to pay a fraction of what it would cost in time, money and resources via traditional methods.
Author Bio: Tom Senkus is both a world traveler and a freelance writer. Having visited 16 countries, Tom shares his insights on these experiences with curious readers. For more info, visit tomsenkuswriter.com