What’s Your Number One Culture Tip for Working with Thailand?October 8th, 2012 by Dean Foster | Discuss This »
We’ve been getting great responses to our “What’s Your Number One Culture Tip for Working with …” questions, and one of this week’s responses from Jose Ignacio Diaz, speaks volumes for working with not only Thai, but many neighboring Southeast Asian Indochinese cultures.
I would say two [tips], in my experience:
Don’t let people “lose face.” For many Western employers and managers it sometimes is a little bit hard to follow, but it is critical. Tough messages should be transmitted in a “Thai way,” meaning, positive and never in public. It requires many times a very creative mind and an important dose of patience, but it pays back.
And smile. Thais are not used to falangs smiling. It takes them aback and is always welcome. Smiling in Thailand doesn’t mean “we are happy.” It is just a polite way to behave.
Sr Diaz’s recommendations are pithy and true, and totally appropriate for work in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Myanmar. Follow this advice to the letter. It’s been my experience that any variation from the effort to always maintain smooth and harmonious relationships with smiles and conflict-avoidance will only cause more difficulty. I cannot think of more important cultural advice than the following.
P.S.— Jose refers to falangs in his post, and that word, or farangs, as it is sometimes translated, means “foreigner” in Thai, and is a term usually referring to Westerners.