By Sarah Epstein
Why should you care?
Bangkok is one of many Asian cities that play an important role in our global economy. Understanding and using Thailand’s social cues can make or break a business deal.
In October I moved to Thailand to spend a year teaching English at a Thai school. Here are some communication idiosyncrasies you should heed when traveling to Thailand.
The standard greeting includes a “Wai”; meaning bow. Hands clasped together, a person says hello while bowing his head. The height of the person’s hands indicates the relative level of the two individuals. Equals bow to each other with hands at chest level. When talking to one’s superiors, the inferior individual moves his hands to face level. My students, for instance, “Wai” me at nose level but I accept the Wai at chest level to indicate my higher rank.
Saving Face/Losing Face
“Saving face” is a very important principle in Thailand. A person should do everything in his or her power not to embarrass his friend or call attention to a friend’s fault, as this causes the person to lose face with his peers.
The King is respected without question and any insult to the king can result in jail time.
The Result for You:
A western businessperson hoping to make a deal or open up a branch of business in Bangkok should be able to Wai effectively. Comments about colleagues that could embarrass somebody should be avoided and mention of the King should only be positive. Failing to abide by these customs could result in lost business opportunities.