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Cultural Differences in Business (Thailand)

  • Date Submitted: 02/13/2014 06:13 AM
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Cultural Differences in Business

What is culture? Culture is a shared system of symbols, beliefs, attitudes, values, expectations and behavior norms.   It is learned by instruction or observing someone else.   Prior to visiting another country where the culture is more than likely different from what you are accustomed to, it is imperative to conduct research.   Knowing how to greet someone properly in their native language is a good start.   The primary language spoken in Thailand is Thai.   Chinese, Lao, Malay and Mon-Khmer are also spoken, while English is taught as a secondary language.   In the business environment in Thailand, it is important to know what language the person you are conducting business with speaks.  
When greeting people in this society, especially elders, you must perform a Wai (pronounced why) which is the official greeting of the people of Thailand.   In America, in a business setting we usually greet one another with a handshake, but here it is done completely different.   The wai also shows a sign of respect to someone of seniority or of a certain social class.   The proper way to conduct a wai is to raise both hands with palms touching as if clasping hands together for prayer, very gently touching the body between the chest and forehead.   The height at which the hands are placed and how low the head is bowed in order to touch the thumbs on both hands displays respect and courtesy towards the person on the receiving end of the wai.   This greeting can be done while sitting, walking or standing.   A wai will not be returned if the social class between the two people is significantly distant which is in keeping with the hierarchical structure that is in place in Thailand.  
In the Thai culture, business and personal relationships are based on a hierarchical structure of superiority.   A supervisor is superior to a subordinate, a parent is superior to their child and the elderly are superior because of their age.   It is common practice for...

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