People Respect and love each other in Thailand
Thais are tolerant of individualism, but find comfort and security in being part of a group. Mai Pen Rai (never mind) is the Thai expression which characterizes the general focus of life – “it is to enjoy.” Thais are productive and hardworking while at the same time happy with what they are and what they have materially. They are smiling, pleasant, humble and patient people who laugh easily, speak softly, are slow to anger, and never try to cause anyone to lose face. Thais are very proud of their cultural heritage and enjoy talking about it with visitors. Thais are proud that they have never been ruled by a Western power.
Meeting and Greeting
When being introduced or greeting someone, men say Sawatdee-krap and women say Sawatdee-kah.
Thais greet each other with a “wai.” Foreigners are not expected to initiate the wai gesture, but it is an insult not to return the wai. If a wai is not offered to you, shake hands with men and smile and nod to women. A Thai businessperson may shake hands with a foreigner. Offer a wai only to a person of equal or greater status. Subordinates should offer a wai first.
Wai (why) – a person places the palm of his or her hands together, with their fingers extended at chest level close to their body and bows slightly. The higher the hands are placed, the more respect is shown. Subordinates might raise their fingers as high as their nose. However, the tips of their fingers should never be above eye level.
A wai can mean “Hello,” “Thank you,” “I’m sorry,” or “Goodbye.” A wai is not used to greet children, servants, street vendors or laborers. Never return a wai to a child, waiter, clerk, etc. Simply nod and smile in response. Monks do not return a wai.
Thais say “Where are you going” rather than “Hello.” A polite response is “Just down the street.”
Introductions are common only in a formal situation. Introduce yourself by your first name. Feel free to introduce yourself or ask for someone’s name. When introducing your business partner to an important Thai, mention your partner’s name first.
The inferior or lower-status person is always addressed first in an introduction. Thus, a child is introduced before its parents, a secretary is introduced before her boss.
Names and Titles
Thais address one another by first names and titles and reserve last names for very formal occasions and written communications. Last names have been used in Thailand for only the past fifty years and are difficult even for Thais to pronounce. Two people with the same last name are almost certainly related.
Foreigners are often addressed by their given names because it is easier for Thais; it does not imply familiarity. Thais will probably call you Mr. Joe or Mrs. Mary.
Titles, rank, and honor are very important. Introductions require only the given name and title. Mr., Mrs., or Miss + family name are appropriate for visitors to use in formal situations.
Thai given names are preceded by Khun (Mr. Mrs. or Miss), unless they carry a higher degree, such as a doctor. Khun is used for men and women, married or single. If you don’t know a person’s name, address them as Khun. Example: Anuwat (Given) + Wattapongsiri (Family) is Khun Anuwat.
Correspondence: Use Dear + Khun + given name. Example: Dear Khun Mary.
Nicknames are common in Thailand
Thailand has a pro-business attitude. Business decisions are slow. Decisions pass through many levels before being decided upon. Planning is short-term. Top management is often family. Who you know is important. Powerful connections are respected.
First meetings generally produce good humor, many smiles, polite conversation and few results. The second meeting should include a meal invitation. Meetings begin with small talk. Discussing business before becoming acquainted is impolite. Degrees, especially from prestigious universities, bring status. Thais may list these on their business card. Thais respect foreigners with powerful connections.
Negotiations may be lengthy. The process takes precedence over content. Slow information flow may delay discussions and decisions.
Thais prefer to work later in the evening rather than early in the morning. Business is kept separate from work. Family comes first before business.
Frankness is not appreciated. Be subtle in responding with a negative reply.