Thai Culture

Business Culture


  • Formal business meetings in Thailand are preceded by a written invitation that is often followed up by a phone call.
  • At a business meeting, punctuality is expected, and formal attire (suit and tie) should be worn. In Thailand, it is often thought that the way one presents oneself correlates to their professional standing.
  • It is common to make small talk before a Thai business meeting, with conversation about family, age, hobbies and education being usual topics.
  • Give and receive business cards with your right hand or both hands, and consider the details of the card you receive before storing it away.
  • Relationships are an important part of Thai business culture and it is considered rude and abrupt to begin talking business without small talk first.
  • Initial meetings in Thailand are often to establish rapport and not many results are achieved until subsequent meetings.
  • During a meeting, you should address the most senior person with whom you have a relationship. If senior officials are present at a meeting, the expectation is that they will meet with someone of a similar ranking in the other organisation, not juniors.
  • Avoid filling in periods of silence as it is common for careful consideration to be made before a response is given.

Business Communication

The concept of plays an important role in business interactions as people seek to maintain the reputation of themselves, their business and others. Sensitive or difficult conversations are expected to be initiated from those of higher authority or status, and refusals are often avoided. In terms of listening in a business setting, Thais are often docile listeners and will rarely interrupt a speaker. When interacting with your Thai business counterpart, be conscious of what emotions you are displaying and how they may be received. Nonetheless, acting as one typically would in business interactions in Australia – a respectable, patient and calm manner – is a good approach.


Sanuk’ refers to the attitude of striving to enjoy and be satisfied in whatever one does. It is a guiding principle in a business and work setting, meaning Thais will generally seek to make work a pleasant and enjoyable experience. Often, the distinction between work and life is blurred, with social affairs being a welcome topic of discussion during work hours or meetings, and for business-related matters being discussed in social events. Moreover, whilst punctuality is respected, the Thai approach to time is generally relaxed and deadlines are not strictly adhered to. For more information about the attitude of sanuk, see Sanuk in ‘Core Concepts’.


  • Small token gifts are frequent and often an appreciated gesture.
  • Due to the emphasis placed on relationships in Thai business, your business connections are often as important as what you know.
  • Thais place great value on Western tertiary education. It is common to be asked about your studies and the prestige of your Western degree.
  • Generally, Thais tend not to be competitive and, at times, are reluctant to initiate change.
  • Often, blame is passed upwards in business settings towards higher-ranking persons rather than juniors.
  • On the (2017), Thailand ranks 96th out of 180 countries, receiving a score of 37 (on a scale from 0 to 100). This perception suggests that the country’s public sector is somewhat corrupt.

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