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Business Culture

Etiquette for doing business in Thailand

The World Bank's 'Doing Business Report' ranks Thailand as the 18th best place in the world to do business. Many Danish companies have already discovered the potential and are represented in Thailand.

In general the business culture in Thailand is formal. In the beginning the Thai culture can seem a bit complicated. The Thais are however very aware of this and accept that foreigners do not have extensive knowledge about the Thai culture and because of that are not able to follow all unwritten rules for appropriate behaviour. Foreigners who take their time to understand the culture and try to follow the unwritten rules will very quickly feel their effort is rewarded.

Business Cards

A business card is more than just a piece of paper with information printed. It is the 'face' of a person and a representation of your status. A business card of high quality is an important asset in Thailand. Business cards normally have Thai on one side and English on the other.

Business cards usually carry information about name, position, company details, address, homepage, email etc. Titles such as Dr. or Ph.D. are normally used on the card.

To show respect to the person that gives you a business card, the correct way to receive it is as follows:

  • Use your right hand to receive the business card and use your left hand for support placing it under the right arm's elbow. You should always give and receive with the right hand as the left hand is regarded dirty.
  • Look at the card to show respect for the importance of the giver and try to pronounce the first name.
  • Store the business card in an appropriate place. This is for instance not the back pocket since the business card might get bent.

Talking to or about a person the surname is typically not used. Instead 'Khun' is used in front of the first name when addressing a person of same or higher status than yourself.


It is important to wear a suitable outfit if you want to be taken serious among Thai partners and customers. For men this means long pants, shirt with long sleeves, closed shoes and a tie for meetings. For more important meetings a suit is appropriate. Women should wear long pants or a skirt that covers the knees and a blouse or shirt.

For some events with a social character the dresscode can be 'smart casual'. For this men have to wear long pants and a shirt - either long- or short-sleeved. For women the outfit should be equally less formal than what is worn to meetings.

In some offices, in more homes and in all Buddhist temples, the shoes have to be taken off before entering. Consequently, it is an advantage with shoes that easily can come off and on.


It is general practice that meetings are scheduled in advance. Both private companies and public offices are normally built up very hierarchical. Only very little information and authority to decide are delegated away from the top management which means that informed decision makers are very busy.

The traffic in Bangkok is unpredictable why it is difficult to estimate the time of transportation. Traffic jams, roadworks. accidents and roads closed for VIPs can make a short journey very long. It is a good idea to consult a person who is living in Bangkok, the company you are visiting or an employee at the hotel before you leave. If you during the trip find out to be late it is a good idea to call and inform.


Thailand has never, as many other Asian countries have, been a colony, why English is not a natural language for Thai people. The Thai alphabet is unique and only used in Thailand, so when a Thai has to learn English a new alphabet is to be learned as well. Finally, the mandatory English teaching in the schools can be very insufficient. These are the two major reasons to why Thais have a harder time learning English than people from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and the Phillipines for instance.

The language barrier goes the other way as well of course, when Danes are trying to learn Thai.

For business people in Thailand it is an advantage knowing a bit of Thai because many receptionists, taxi drivers etc. do not speak English. Besides it gives a great deal of respect from Thais when a 'farang' makes an attempt to speak their language.

Men and women have different ways to speak politely. It does not matter to whom you are talking to, but instead which sex you are. You end a sentence addressing someone by saying khrap/kha (men/women). It is used when saying hello, thank you or full sentences and questions. It is profound impolite not to end the sentence as such.