If you are travelling to Thailand for work, then you really need to understand a little about Thai culture first.
Despite its reputation as the Land of Smiles, Thai culture is relatively formal and, if you behave in the wrong manner, people can judge you negatively for failing to show the right decorum.
Whether at work or on the beach, how you behave in Thailand is important.
Although you may never know you have done something wrong, your behaviour will have you marked down as a ‘typical falang’ (forieigner).
On the other hand, those falang with a little more grace find they gain more respect from colleagues and peers.
10 Things To Avoid When Working in Thailand
Thai culture is complex and colourful, but if there are 10 things you really need to know about behaviours to avoid when you’re in the country, well here’s our top 10.
1. Dress properly
Thailand is really relaxed in terms of dress code but there is a time and place for everything. A man walking down the high street without a t-shirt on is going to be judged in the same way as someone who turns up to a business meeting in shorts – it’s disrespectful and uncouth. Dress to impress in Thailand. For business engagements, you need to wear business attire and make sure you are very well groomed and presented at all times.
2. Take off your shoes
In some places such as temples, homes and offices Thais take off their shoes. No matter how embarrassed you may be about joining in, it’s better than the alternative. Refusing to take off your shoes or making a fuss about it will result in your immediate loss of face. On that note! A top tip for doing business in Thailand is to always pack your best pairs of socks!
3. Respect the monarchy
Thailand is not the sort of place you can make jokes about the monarchy, even if it is only meant as a joke. The King in Thai culture is closely wrapped into Thai identity and Buddhist belief systems. It’s sacrosanct on many levels, not just cultural. Avoid talking about the monarchy completely when in public and be extremely careful when discussing it with those you know.
4. Show patience
Thai culture is rooted in Buddhist philosophy which is itself rooted in the idea of harmony. Being calm and collected at all times is crucial to maintaining a sense of social harmony. You will rarely see people losing their tempers publicly. No matter how frustrated or emotional you may be, never ever lose your patience in front of others as your character and integrity will be questioned.
5. Watch your feet
The feet are the lowliest part of the human body and carry a taboo. Make sure you never put your feet on chairs or tables or stretched out pointing at others. Also, never keep Thai money in your socks.
6. Don’t touch people
Although Thai culture is tactile, this is reserved for friends and family only. Do not out your arms around people, slap them on shoulders, hold their arms and very importantly, never touch someone on their head as this is considered holy.
It’s called the Land of Smiles for a reason. Thais smile when they are happy, sad, mad, angry or delighted. The smile is used to mask true feelings and maintain harmony. When you find yourself in a tricky situation, need to calm a situation or simply don’t know what to do – just smile!
8. Don’t point
Pointing at people is rude. Just use an open palm to show what you mean.
9. The host pays
The idea of Going Dutch on a restaurant bill is still not done in Thailand. This is a culture where face is important and food is one way in which people give and gain face. A host pays for the bill, so remember if you invite people to eat out, they will expect you to pick up the bill at the end.
10. Stop for the National Anthem
Every day at 8 am and 6 pm you’ll hear the Thai national anthem blasted across the country through loudspeakers. Everyone stops and waits. Make sure you do the same.