In Thailand’s relationship-based business culture, regular informal meetings beyond the conference room play a decisive role—both in the initiation of business and in the subsequent cooperation between partners.
It’s all about getting to know each other personally. The first priority is always you as a person and not the business project. Consider each activity as an excellent opportunity to invest in the relationship and act accordingly. Follow the Thai principle sanuk: Be happy together and have a good time. This also applies to business events.
Lavish meals are an important part of Thai life. As a foreigner, you will be invited to the best restaurants and your hosts will be delighted if you are impressed by the tasty cuisine. Praise the food, the atmosphere as well as their hospitality, just relax and enjoy everything.
All dishes are placed on plates in the middle of the table, from which you can serve yourself. The western order of appetizer, main course and dessert does not exist in Thailand.
The food is eaten with a spoon and fork, with the fork in the left hand pushing the food onto the spoon. You then use the spoon to put the food into your mouth. You don’t need a knife for Thai food, but occasionally the right hand is used, for example for chicken legs. Attention: Chinese dishes are often eaten with chopsticks.
Let your hosts explain local specialities to you and do try everything. If you don’t like spicy food, tell your hosts in good time. But as a rule, foreign guests will not be served too spicy food.
Your host will pay the bill discreetly. Thank them for the invitation and issue a return invitation right away.
After dinner, you will often go to a bar with your business partners. In Thailand, especially among businessmen, people like to indulge in strong spirits. If you don’t want to drink, cite health reasons. Otherwise, it will be hard to make excuses…
After work socializing
It is not uncommon in Thailand to do something privately with business partners or colleagues after work. Large companies often foster a good working atmosphere by offering various sports and leisure activities. As a guest from abroad, they would, of course, like to show you all the sights of their country.
A mixing of professional and private life is normal in Thailand. You should join in and not keep to yourself too much. Particularly if you are alone without your family, it is hard for group-oriented Thais to believe that people like to spend their evenings alone on the sofa. Just accept that they only want to take good care of you.
Private invitations to your Thai business partner’s home should be seen and accepted as proof of trust. Take many nicely wrapped presents – maybe even from your home country – and remember to take off your shoes at the entrance.
You will be offered many different dishes throughout the afternoon and evening, which you should all try and praise effusively. All in all, get-togethers of this kind are a happy affair. There will be many family members and perhaps also other guests present, so it goes without saying that business topics are completely not discussed.