Heading to Thailand - Business etiquette or customs and things to do
December 17, 2010 8:32 PM   Subscribe

I am going to be traveling to Thailand to on business for an a while and need advice on business etiquette and also fun things to do and the best places to see. I know there are guidebooks and yet I really enjoy off the beaten track scenes and local color. Should I be worried about safety as an American? This seems silly but bear with me, I just found out today and am trying to digest this....
posted by sfts2 to Travel & Transportation around Thailand (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
>worried about safety as an American?

Sorry, but what do you mean, "as an American"? In Thailand, you'll just be a farang (foreigner). All non-Thais are farang, but non-Asians are MORE farang. No one cares if a farang is American or British or whatever.

Are you male or female? There's less rape in Thailand than in some cultures, but naturally it exists. There's also far more street crime than is reported, but it's usually non-violent. Purse-snatchings are common and a woman did die last year from injuries sustained when she was knocked down while being robbed. But, you know, that shit happens everywhere.

If you're male, regardless of your age or how hideous you may be, there will always be a few ladies on hand to try to part you from your dollars. Many gentlemen visit Thailand for just this experience.

Feel free to PM me, I lived in Bangkok for years and still travel there frequently.
posted by cyndigo at 10:20 PM on December 17, 2010

If you're coming to Chiang Mai, I say great! It's a fun, funky, safe place - a place that's very easy for anyone to get around, eat, shop & enjoy. Learn your Hello/Goodbye & Thank you - good in almost any situation (Sa-wa-dee Ka & Krap-kun-Ka for a woman; for a man, end each word with Kup instead of Ka). Give a Wai (hands folded prayer style in front of you) or a little nod/bow to anyone, esp if they give it to you, and smile! Thailand is the land of smiles. Be prepared to take your shoes off when entering a house - tho that isn't necessary in most public places. Watch what other people do. Many Thais speak or at least understand a little English, or will find someone who does in a jiffy. It's a wonderful, exciting, easy place to be. If you're going to be here for New Years Eve, it'll knock your socks off!!

As to the business etiquette side of things, I'm sure there are lots of details others can help you with. I hope you have a great time!
posted by jsslz at 10:25 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Where are you going to be in Thailand? It is hard to make recommendations without knowing where you will be.

In terms of safety - I lived in Bangkok and always felt very safe there, I would walk home alone late at night. There are scams that I have heard of other people getting involved with, but these generally revolve around the 'nightlife', card games, or gemstones. It is best not to get into heated arguments with people, best to walk away. I think a companion was drugged at a beach bar in the south. If you see political rallies, move away from that area. Road safety should be your biggest concern. Wear seatbelts where available, and don't jump on motorcycle taxis, even if you are in a rush to get somewhere. Always look both ways, as motorcycles frequently travel down one way streets the wrong way.

There are good opportunities in Bangkok to get away from the tourist scene and enjoy places where you get a good mix of Thais and foreigners (and not just the high society stuff) - if that's where you'll be.

Wai-ing is one of those things that you can overdo as a foreigner if you don't understand who, when and why, so I would go with smiling and a small nod until you understand it. Do pay more respect to those elder to you and in more senior positions than you, than you might in a more flat hierarchy society. In return, there are expectations on such people (which could be you) to share the benefits of their position (ie pay for lunch). In my office, we would rarely go out with more senior people, as they would have to pick up the bill if we did. Be respectful of the Royal family - probably best to avoid the topic if you don't know the people you are talking to well. Also, politics is probably not a good casual topic of conversation. If you can, get a business card that is written in English on one side and Thai on the other. Thais do seem to do gift giving more than I would, but I don't entirely understand it. If you are working in an office and travel somewhere, it is common to bring back a food specialty to share with your colleagues (ie. a special type of cookie only from that area, or duty free chocolates!).

Food and eating are a big part of Thai life. You will constantly be asked whether you can eat Thai food, and whether you can eat spicy food. Even if you say you can eat spicy food, it will usually still be tamer than what your Thai colleagues would eat. When eating Thai food, it is usual to get a lot of dishes to share. You should only take a spoonful or two of food from one of the common plates to put onto your rice at a time - don't load it up from all the different dishes at once.
posted by AnnaRat at 2:27 AM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi everyone, thanks for the input. I'm male, 6'5" not worried about rape...I'll be in Bangkok, working at the Stock Exchange, so I want to be somewhat 'sophisticated' about my behavior. I'll be working with mostly senior people I expect. Is the gift thing a good thing to do when meeting people for the first time? I'd like to make a good first impression obviously. I don't want to especially partake of any of the seamier sides of the city, not sure all I've heard was true, but I expect that I'll be going out a bit and entertaining myself and others. Areas with a lot of ex-pats?
posted by sfts2 at 7:35 PM on December 20, 2010

I wouldn't do more personal gifts, but if you're coming to work regularly in one office, a big box of sweets will go over well. (They need not be American, but foreign is good.)

There's a hierarchy on wais that's subtle and tricky. You'll need to observe others. Don't go off waiing willy-nilly and don't initiate wais to people who are less senior than you. Also when you're waied to, watch how high the person raises their hands, and follow suit. (You'll wai slightly higher to senior people.) Mostly, people will give you a break as a farang, but they always laugh at the backpackers waiing the counter girl at the 7-11.

Are you staying at a hotel or will you be getting an apartment? You'll want to be close to the SkyTrain, either on Sukhumvit or Silom lines. I'm partial to Silom, but that's just me. (I lived across the river and commuted on a ferry to the nearest SkyTrain station.)
posted by cyndigo at 9:16 PM on December 20, 2010

« Older What kind of medicated chewing gum might a...   |   The Artist's Dilemma? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.