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Country profile - Thailand


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Information about Thailand. The dos and the dont's, business etiquette, general information about the country. The document was created for the project Info4migrants. Project number UK/13/LLP-LdV/TOI-615

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Country profile - Thailand

  1. 1. Info4Migrants THAILANDCountry profile Project number: UK/13/LLP-LdV/TOI-615
  2. 2. AREA 513,120 km2 66,720 mln POPULATION GDPper capita CURRENCY $ 5,675 Language THAI Baht (฿) (THB) 2 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  3. 3. COUNTRY BACKGROUND Official name: the Kingdom of Thailand. The country’s official name was Siam until 23 June 1939, when it was changed to Thailand; it was renamed Siam between 1945 and 11 May 1949, after which the name Thailand was once again adopt- ed. Location: Southeastern Asia, bordering the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, southeast of Burma Capital: Bangkok Climate: tropical; rainy, warm, cloudy southwest monsoon (mid-May to September); dry, cool northeast monsoon (No- vember to mid-March); southern isthmus always hot and humid Ethnic Make-up: Thai 75%, Thai Chinese 14%, other 11% (Malay, Mon, Khmer, mountain folks) Religions: Buddhism 94%, Islam 4.6%, Christianity 0.7%, Hin- duism 0.1% National Flag National emblem THAILAND Bangkok CAMBODIA LAOS BURMA 3 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  4. 4. THAILAND FACTS Languages The Thai language is comprised of 44 consonants, 32 vow- els and five tones in Thai pronunciation, along with a script that has Indian origins. The Thai language, belonging to the Tai family, is the main language in Thailand, although there are several regional dialects as well. Other languages spo- ken in Thailand are Chinese, Lao, Malay and Mon-Khmer, while using English is becoming more prevalent in govern- ment and commerce. English is also being taught as a sec- ond language in secondary school and universities, which means that an English-speaking visitor in Thailand has little trouble conversing. Siamese cats Siamese cats are native to Thailand. In Thai they are called wichen-maat, meaning “moon diamond.” A 14th-century book of Thai poems describes 23 types of Siamese cats; today only six breeds are left. Giving a pair of Si Sawat cats (a type of Siamese cats) to a bride is supposed to bring good luck to the marriage. Buddhism Thailand is a stronghold of Buddhism. Buddhists believe that life does not begin with birth and end with death, but rather that every person has several lives based upon the lessons of life not yet learned and acts committed (karma) in previous lives. Buddhists believe that selfishness and craving result in suffering and that compassion and love bring happiness and well-being. The true path to peace is to eliminate all desire, a condition which Buddhists define as ‘nirvana’, an inde- scribable state free of desire, suffering, or further rebirth, in which a person simply is, and is completely unified with his surroundings. 4 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  5. 5. THAILAND FACTS Unique flora and fauna One of Thailand’s most curious creatures is the mudskipper, which is a fish capable of walking on land and climbing trees. It uses its fins to “walk” and can absorb oxygen through its skin and lining in its mouth. It spends most of its time out of the water, eating the algae in tidal pools. More than 1,500 species of orchids grow wild in Thai forests. Thailand is the world’s number one orchid exporter. Thailand is home to what may be the world’s longest snake, the reticulated python. The length of the largest one ever found exceeds 10 metres. The country is also home to the world’s longest poisonous snake, the king cobra. The cobra can be over 6 metres long, and one bite from it can kill an elephant. The world’s smallest mammal, the bumble bat, also lives here. National Emblem The national emblem of Thailand is called the Phra Khrut Pha, literally “Garuda as the vehicle” . The Garuda was of- ficially adopted as the national emblem by King Vajiravudh (Rama VI) in 1911. However, the mythical creature had been used as a symbol of royalty in Thailand for centuries. The Garuda is depicted on seals, which are used by the King of Thailand and the Government of Thailand to authenticate official documents and as its primary emblem. The Garuda is a mythological beast in the Hindu and Bud- dhist tradition. According to Hindu mythology, the Garuda is the vahana (vehicle) of the god Vishnu (more commonly known in Thailand as Narayana). The ancient kings of Thai- land believed in divine kingship, and considered themselves the incarnation of the god Narayana. Thus the Garuda came to symbolize the divine power and authority of the king. 5 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  6. 6. THAILAND FACTS Nest soup Swiftlet nests are made from strands of saliva from the male swiftlet bird. Swiftlet nests collected from Thai caves can costmore than $900 per pound. It is one of the world’s most coveted and expensive food items. The nests used in bird’s nest soup are composed almost entirely of saliva with little or no plant material. The soup is made by soaking and steaming the nests in water and is said to be an aphrodisiac and to have various medicinal qualities. The nests can gain high prices and many colonies are har- vested commercially. Flag The national flag was introduced in 1917 by King Vaji- ravudh (Rama VI). Its two horizontal red stripes symbolize the land and its people. The white horizontal stripes rep- resent the purity of Buddhism, the nation’s main religion. The wide blue band across the center stands for the monarchy. Before 1917, the flag had a picture of a white elephant against a red background. Name Thailand’s name in the Thai language is Prathet Thai, which means “Land of the Free.” It is the only country in Southeast Asia that was never colonized by a European nation. Thailand has had several names over the centuries. For hundreds of years, it was known by the names of its dominant cities, such as Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, and Thon- buri. Since the 1800s, it has repeatedly switched back and forth between Siam (Sanskrit meaning dark or brown) and Thailand. 6 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  7. 7. 1 January: New Year’s Day Celebrates the start of the solar and Gregorian year. 1st day of the Chinese calen- dar (February): Chinese New Year Observed by Thai Chinese, usually celebrated for three days. Full moon, 3rd Thai lunar month (February): Magha Puja Buddhist observance com- memorating the Buddha’s teaching of Ovada Patimok- kha. 6 April: Chakri Memorial Day Commemorates the establish- ment of the Chakri Dynasty and the founding of Bangkok by King Buddha Yodfa Chu- laloke in 1782. 13-15 April: Songkran Festival Traditional Thai New Year, and the major holiday of the year. Many people return home for family reunions during this period. 5 May: Coronation Day Commemorates the corona- tion of King Bhumibol Adulya- dej in 1950. Moveable date during May: Royal Ploughing Ceremony and Farmer’s Day Ceremonial blessing of the country’s farmers. Full moon, 6th Thai lunar month (May): Vesak Buddhist observance com- memorating the birth, en- lightenment and passing of the Buddha. Also observed as National Tree Day. Full moon, 8th Thai lunar month (July): Asalha Puja Buddhist observance com- memorating the Buddha’s first discourse. First waning moon, 8th Thai lunar month (July): Beginning of Vassa Buddhist observance marking the beginning of Vassa, also known as Buddhist Lent 12 August: Queen’s Birthday Commemorates the birthday of Queen Sirikit in 1932; also observed as National Mother’s Day. 23 October: Chulalongkorn Day Commemorates the passing of King Chulalongkorn in 1910. 5 December: King’s Birthday Commemorates the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 1927. Also observed as Na- tional Day and National Fa- ther’s Day. 10 December: Constitution Day Commemorates the promul- gation of the first permanent constitution in 1932. 31 December: New Year’s Eve The last day of the Gregorian year. Moveable day during winter: Eid ul-Fitr Muslim holiday celebrating the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Moveable day during winter: Eid al-Adha Muslim holiday commemorat- ing the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismael as an act of obedience to Allah. PUBLIC HOLIDAYS 7 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  8. 8. Ko Tarutao Ko Tarutao is one of the 51 islands that belong to the Tarutao National Marine Park archi- pelago in southern Thailand. One of Tarutao’s greatest attractions is its wildlife; the island and its surroundings are home to sea turtles, whales, monitor lizards, crab-eating ma- caques, mouse deer and others. Ayuthaya Ayuthaya was founded in 1350 AD by King U Thong as the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai. Throughout the centuries, the ideal location between China, India and the Malay Archipelago made Ayutthaya the trading capital of Asia. By 1700 Ayutthaya had become one of the largest cities in the world with a total of 1 million inhabitants. In 1767, the city was destroyed by the Burmese army, resulting in the collapse of the kingdom. The city was re-founded a few kilometers to the east of the ruins, which now form the Ayut- thaya historical park. Most of the remains are temples and palaces, as those were the only buildings made of stone at that time. Ko Chang Located near the border with Cambodia, Ko Chang is the second largest island in Thailand and the biggest in the Ko Chang Marine Park archipelago. Ko Chang is one of Thailand’s most beautiful islands with several waterfalls, thriving coral reefs, rainforests and long white sandy beaches. The island is also home to a wide range of wildlife, including birds, snakes, deer and a number of elephants. Grand Palace The construction of the Grand Palace started in 1782 when the capital of Siam was moved from Thonburi to Bangkok. The Grand Palace covers a wide range of architectural styles, ranging from a pure Ayutthayan style of the temples to a blend of Thai and Western for later structures. It also includes the Wat Phra Kaew, home to the Emerald Buddha, one of the oldest and most famous statues of the Buddha in the world. Similan Islands The Similan Islands in the western Andaman Sea are considered the best diving destina- tion in Thailand. The archipelago consists of nine islands covered in tropical jungle with white sandy beaches. The views under the water surface are even more impressive. There are two different kinds of diving spots around the Similan Islands. Diving sites facing east consist of gently sloping coral reefs while diving sites facing east feature massive granite boulders, covered with hard and soft corals. POPULAR ATTRACTIONS 8 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  9. 9. Chiang Mai Night Bazaar Chiang Mai is one of the top Thailand attractions. The famous Night Bazaar sprawls along several city blocks along footpaths, inside buildings and temple grounds. It has handi- crafts, arts, clothing and and imported products of all descriptions, and a number of large, well-appointed modern shopping centers. At first, the market was owned by Chinese mer- chants, but since it grew in size as more commercial buildings were built, it was no longer owned by a single group of people. Instead, there are many owners, and most of them are Thai. Railay Railay beach (or Rai Leh) is a small peninsula that is only accessible by boat due to the high limestone cliffs cutting off mainland access. These cliffs attract rock climbers from all over the world, but the area is also a popular attraction in Thailand due to its beautiful beaches and quiet relaxing atmosphere. Accommodation ranges from inexpensive bunga- lows popular with backpackers and climbers, to the renowned jet-set resort of Rayavadee. Phang Nga Bay Phang Nga Bay is one of the top attractions in Thailand and one of most scenic areas in the country. It consists of beautiful caves, aquatic grottoes and limestone islands. The most famous island in the bay is a sea stack called Ko Ping Kan (more commonly known as James Bond Island) which was featured in the James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun”. Koh Tao Koh Tao, literally Turtle Island, is a small island located near the eastern shore of the Gulf of Thailand. Around 7000 new divers get certified on Koh Tao each year, making it one of the most popular destinations in the world for learning to dive. Diving around the island reefs is easy and fun and you can see an impressive variety of marine species such as coral, turtles, lots of small fish, barracudas, and there is a very small chance of seeing a whale shark. The average visibility is around 15-20 meters. Ko Phi Phi Ko Phi Phi is a small archipelago in the Krabi Province in Southern Thailand. Ko Phi Phi Don is the largest island of the group, and is the only island with permanent inhabitants while the smaller Ko Phi Phi Leh is very popular as a beach or for diving excursions. Tour- ism on Ko Phi Phi has grown exponentially only very recently, especially after Ko Phi Phi Leh was used as a location for the 2000 movie The Beach. POPULAR ATTRACTIONS 9 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  10. 10. INTERESTING FACTS 1. In the past, all Thai young men, including the kings, became Buddhist monks for at least a short period of time before their 20th birthday. Today, fewer young men observe the practice. 2. The longest toponym in the world is the full name of Bangkok: Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. It means “City of Angels, Great City of Immortals, Magnificent City of the Nine Gems, Seat of the King, City of Royal Palaces, Home of Gods Incarnate, Erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s Behest.” 3. Bangkok was once called the “Venice of the East” because its original buildings stood on stilts above the Chao Phraya River. However, as Bangkok grew larger, most canals were filled and paved. 4. A century ago, northern Thailand was covered with dense hardwood forests. Today only about a fourth of the country remains wooded. Thailand has the second-highest rate of forest loss in Southeast Asia, exceeded only by Singapore. 5. Traffic police in Bangkok wear facemasks because of dangerous levels of air pollution. Additionally, police stations are equipped with oxygen tanks in case exhaust fumes over- whelm the officers. More than 20% of Bangkok’s police have some form of lung disease. One Thai bank estimated that Bangkok’s pollution problems cost the nation $2.3 billion annually in lost production, wasted energy, and health costs. 6. Thailand has a reputation for sexual tolerance and is considered very safe for LGBT travelers. Trans- sexuals, also known as krathoeys or ladyboys, are highly visible in society. 7. The 2004 tsunami hurtled a wall of water 30 feet high over Thailand’s coast, killing over 8,000 people (in- cluding over 2000 tourists). An estimat- ed 1,500 Thai children lost their parents and more than 150,000 Thais working in the fishing or tourist industries lost their livelihoods. 10 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  11. 11. 8. Prostitution is technically illegal in Thailand, but the law is very rarely enforced. Esti- mates of the number of sex workers vary from 30,000 to more than 1 mil- lion. 9. A century ago, more than 100,000 elephants lived in Thai- land, with about 20,000 of them untamed. Now, there are about 5,000, with less than half of them wild. 10. Thailand’s and the world’s longest reigning mon- arch is Bhumibol Adulyadej, who became King Rama IX in June 1946. He was born in the U.S. in 1927 when his father was studying medicine at Harvard. He owns a patent on a form of cloud seeding and holds a degree in engineering from Switzerland. 11. World-famous golfer Tiger Woods is the son of an American father and a Thai mother. 12. Bangkok is one of Asia’s top tourist destinations. In 2005, more than 11 million foreign tourists visited in the city. 13. The Ramakien is the national epic narrative of Thailand and has influenced everyday Thai life for hundreds of years. The story is actually the Thai version of Ramayana, a poem first told in India 3,000 year ago. 14. Thailand has attracted many expatriates from developed countries. 15. The brothers who gave the world the term “Siamese twins” were born in 1811 in a village near Bangkok. The twins Eng and Chang were joined at the chest and left Thailand for the U.S when they were 17 years old. Each brother married, and between them they had 22 children. In 1873, Eng caught pneumonia and died. Chang died a few hours later. 16. The first case of HIV/Aids was reported in Thailand in 1984. Thailand currently has the highest prevalence of HIV in Asia. INTERESTING FACTS 11 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  12. 12. Thai cooking places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic compo- nents and a spicy edge. It is known for its complex interplay of at least three and up to four or five fundamental taste senses in each dish or the overall meal: sour, sweet, salty, bitter and spicy. Thai cuisine and the culinary traditions and cuisines of Thailand’s neighbors have mutually influenced one another over the course of many centuries. Regional variations tend to correlate with neighboring states (often sharing the same cultural background and ethnic- ity on both sides of the border) as well as climate and geography. Thai food was traditionally eaten with the right hand while seated on mats or carpets on the floor, which is still the case in the more traditional households. It is now generally eaten with a fork and a spoon. An import- ant concept with Thai dining etiquette is khluk: mixing the flavors and textures from the different dishes with the rice on one’s plate. The food is pushed by the fork, held in the left hand, into the spoon held in the right hand, which is then brought to the mouth. Tom yam This herb-forward broth is often re- ferred to in English-language menus as ‘sour Thai soup’. The shrimp version – tom yam kung – is the most lauded, and justifiably so: the combination of fatty prawns and a tart/spicy soup result in an unusual but delicious and distinctly Thai amalgam. Laap Thailand’s northeast in one rustic dish; laap (also known as larb or larp) takes the form of minced meat seasoned with roasted rice pow- der, lime juice, fish sauce and fresh herbs. Be sure to eat it with sticky rice, short, fat grains of rice that are steamed and eaten by hand. THAI CUISINE 12 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  13. 13. Khao soi Typically revolving around chicken or beef, the optional sides of lime, sliced shallots and crunchy pickled greens provide a pleasing contrast with the rich, spice-laden, coconut milk-based broth and soft, squiggly wheat-and-egg noodles. Som tam Som tam, a spicy papaya salad, comes from northeast Thailand, but it has reached near- cult status throughout the rest of the country. Slight regional differences in ingredients means placement on the sweet-or-sour scale may vary greatly between restaurants. Com- mon to all recipes is shredded green papaya and a healthy dose of heat. Barbequed chick- en and lumps of sticky rice are the perfect companions. Phat kaphrao This street food staple combines meat flash-fried with holy basil (the eponymous kaphrao) and a generous helping of fresh chilli and garlic. Served over rice and often crowned with a fried egg, it is the epitome of a one-dish meal in Thai style. Green curry For Thai food novices, there is probably no better starting point than this intersection of a piquant/herbal spice paste and rich coconut milk. Remember to do as the Thais and cou- ple the curry with a plate of jasmine rice – it is not meant to be eaten on its own as a soup. Yam As a side dish or drinking snack, you are bound to encounter this ubiquitous Thai salad that combines meat or seafood with a tart/spicy dressing and fresh herbs. A good intro- duction to the genre is yam wun sen, slinky glass noodles paired with minced pork and shrimp. Kai yang Thai-style grilled chicken owes its fame to the people of the country’s northeast, who mar- inate the bird in a unique mixture of fish sauce, coriander root and garlic. Couple the bird with sticky rice and green papaya salad, and you have one of Thailand’s most legendary meals. Khao phat For many Thai people, fried rice is comfort food. The variations are endless, and the dish is often the result of improvisation, but a staple at seafood restaurants across the country is the simple but delicious khao phat puu, rice fried with hearty chunks of crab and egg. THAI CUISINE 13 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  14. 14. 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 hard-working while at the same time happy with what they are and what they have. 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 heri- tage and enjoy talking about it with visitors. Thais are proud that they have never been ruled by a Western power. Names and Titles Thais address one another by first names and titles and reserve last names for very formal occasions and written communica- tions. Last names have only been used in Thailand for the past fifty years. Two people with the same last name are almost certain- ly related. Foreigners are often addressed by their given names because it is easier for Thais; it does not imply familiarity. Thais will proba- bly 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 high- er degree, such as 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) + Watta- pongsiri (Family) is Khun Anuwat. Correspondence: Use Dear + Khun + given name. Example: Dear Khun Mary. THAI PEOPLE 14 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  15. 15. Wai The wai is the common form of greeting and adheres to strict rules of protocol. Raising both hands, palms joined with the fingers pointing upwards as if in prayer, lightly touching the body somewhere be- tween the chest and the forehead, is the standard form. The wai is both a sign of respect as well as a greeting. Respect and courtesy are demonstrated by the height at which the hands are held and how low the head comes down to meet the thumbs of both hands. The wai may be made while sitting, walk- ing, or standing. The person who is junior in age or status is the first one to offer the wai. The senior person returns the wai, generally with their hands raised to some- where around their chest. If a junior person is standing and wants to wai a senior per- son who is seated, the junior person will stoop or bow their head while making the wai. If there is a great social distance between two people, the wai will not be returned. Hierarchical Society Thais respect hierarchical relationships: so- cial relationships are defined as one person being superior to the other. Parents are superior to their children, teachers to their students, and bosses to their subordinates. When Thais meet a stranger, they will immediately try to place you within a hi- erarchy so they know how you should be treated. This is often done by asking what might be seen as very personal questions in other cultures. Status can be determined by clothing and general appearance, age, job, education, family name, and social connections. Thai Demeanour Thais place great emphasis and value on outward forms of courtesy such as po- liteness, respect, genial demeanour and self-control in order to maintain harmo- nious relations. Many of their rules of etiquette are by-products of the Buddhist religion. It is a non-confrontational society, in which public dispute or criticism is to be avoided at all costs. • Being openly angry with someone might attract the wrath of the spirits, which in turn could cause violence and tragedy. • Openly criticizing a person is a form of vi- olence as it hurts the person and is viewed as a conscious attempt to offend the per- son being rebuked • Loss of face is a disgrace to a Thai so they try to avoid confrontations and look for compromises in difficult situations. • If two parties disagree, one will need to have an outlet to retreat without losing face. SOCIETY AND CULTURE 15 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  16. 16. IMPORTANT TIPS Dining Etiquette If you are invited to a Thai’s house: • Arrive close to the appointed time, although being a few minutes late will not cause offence. • Check to see if the host is wearing shoes. If not, remove yours before entering the house. • Ask another guest to confirm the dress code. • Step over the threshold rather than on it. This is an old custom that may be dying out with younger Thais, but erring on the side of conservatism is always a good idea. Table manners • A fork and spoon are the usual eating utensils. However, noodles are often eaten with chopsticks. • The spoon is held in the right hand and the fork in the left. The fork is used to guide food on to the spoon. Sticky rice, a northern Thai delicacy, is often eaten with the fingers of the right hand. • Most meals are served as buffets or with serving platters at the centre of the table family- style. • You may begin eating as soon as you are served. • Leave a little food on your plate after you have eaten to show that you are full. Finishing everything indicates that you are still hungry. • Never leave rice on your plate as it is considered wasteful. The words for food and rice are the same. Rice has an almost mystical significance in addition to its hum- drum ‘daily bread’ function. • Never take the last bite from the serving bowl. • Wait to be asked before taking a sec- ond helping. • Do not lick your fingers. Gift Giving Etiquette • If invited to a Thai’s home, a gift is not expected, although it will be appreciat- ed. • Gifts should be wrapped attractively, since appearance matters. Bows and rib- bons add to the sense of festivity. • Appropriate gifts are flowers, good quality chocolates or fruit. • Do not give marigolds or carnations, as they are associated with funerals. • Try to avoid wrapping a gift in green, black or blue, as these are used at funerals and in mourning. • Gold and yellow are considered royal colours, so they make good wrapping pa- per. • Only use red wrapping paper if giving a gift to a Chinese Thai. • Gifts are not opened when received. • Money is the usual gift for weddings and ordination parties. 16 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  17. 17. USEFUL HINTS Respect to the Royal Family Show respect for the King and his family – Thais will not appreciate even the friendliest jest about their monarch. Thai people have a deep respect for their King, an affection that reciprocates his many accomplishments and sacrifices for the country. Remember that respect for the King isn’t just polite, it’s the law. Thai Family Values The family is the cornerstone of Thai society. Family life is often more closely knit than in western cultures. The Thai family is a form of hierarchy with the parents at the top. Children are taught to honour their parents. Hello in Thai Unlike in other Southeast Asian countries, Thai people use the same greeting regardless of the time of day or night. Although English spellings vary, the standard Thai greeting is: sawasdee -- sounds like “sah wah dee” -- with a wai gesture and a smile. Women end their greeting with a drawn-out “khaaa” which falls in tone. Men end their greeting by saying “khrap!” with a sharp, upward tone. The “r” is rarely pronounced, so the ending sounds more like “kap!”. Especially for Women Men conduct most business. However, many traditional gender barriers are disappearing. More and more women are holding executive positions in the workforce. Ladies may not enter a bot, the restricted area of a wat (temple). Never touch a monk, hand him anything or sit next to or higher than him. When visiting a mosque, cover your body. Wear slacks, a long skirt, a long-sleeved blouse with a buttoned neck, and a headscarf. Traditional Thais believe a woman can lose face if a man touches her in public. 17 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  18. 18. Smiling There’s a reason why Thailand is called ‘The Land of Smiles’. Smiling is a complex form of communication that doesn’t always mean one thing. It’s been said that Thais have at least 13 smiles they use for different situations. A lot of westerners can be confused when Thais will smile in a very serious situation. Foreigners also misinterpret a Thai smiling or laughing at them as not taking something seriously or being made fun of. This is not the case. People might smile when they are embarrassed or sad just as much as when they want to be playful. They aren’t disregarding a serious situation as much as trying to maintain the harmony mentioned before. Be patient with yourself when trying to read peoples’ smiles and smile a lot yourself. While bargaining, confronting somebody, or just meeting a stranger, a smile will go a long way. Collectivism Thais are very communal. Most Thais sleep in the same bed with their parents into their early teens and almost always share beds with their siblings. Families are very important and many live in close proximity to their relatives. A lot of people don’t require the same amount of alone time that most westerners do. There is a belief that the group is more important than the individual. Any political leader that has gained the love of the Thai people has done so by creating a sense of unity for the Thai people. Their culture has expanded by this communal idea and building positive relationships. This is why some- times villagers are able to connect more with groups of foreigners than an individual. Sometimes, westerners can be seen as too individualistic or even selfish. If you are able to show the proper courtesy while traveling in Thailand, people will want to get to know you and accept your individuality better. Confrontation and saving face Anybody who has spent a lot of time in Thailand has seen a foreigner flip out at a restau- rant for not getting what they’ve ordered, food taking too long, or somebody being served first who arrived after them. In a western country, directly confronting the waiter or asking to see the manager will get you quick results, whereas in Thailand people will likely ignore you. The reason for this is that it is almost never acceptable to lose your cool in public. Also, it is considered disrespectful to embarrass a person for doing something wrong. The best thing to do is talk in a way that doesn’t cause disharmony. For example, if your food is taking too long at a restaurant, instead of saying, ‘I ordered this 45 minutes ago! Why is the service so slow?’ say, ‘Excuse me, did I remember to make my order?’ If you ever see a confrontation between two Thais, people generally defuse the situation by smiling, saying everything is OK, and gently offering a solution that works for everybody. USEFUL HINTS 18 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  19. 19. DOS AND DON’TS Body Gestures DO understand the meaning of the “wai”, the Thai bow of politeness DON’T point with one finger. It’s consid- ered impolite. DON’T show affection in public or even touch someone of the opposite sex. DON’T pass something over someone’s head. The head is considered sacred in Thailand. DON’T point with your feet or use your feet to touch something. Feet are considered dirty, because they are the lowest part of the body. DON’T talk with your hands or put your hands in your pockets while talking to someone. DON’T step on a threshold when going through a doorway. Step over it instead. Thais believe that a spirit lives in the threshold. Business Meeting DO expect men to primarily conduct busi- ness, although women are beginning to get more involved in Thailand’s business world. DON’T rush negotiations. Business deci- sion-making can be slow in Thailand. DO expect to be addressed by your title and first name, i.e. Mr. Bob. This isn’t to be rude or disrespectful. DO introduce colleagues of a lower profes- sional status before introducing yourself in a formal business situation. Greetings DO greet with a wai if you feel comfort- able. However, as a foreigner, you aren’t expected to initiate a wai, but you must always return a wai to be polite. DON’T greet children, waiters, vendors, etc. with a wai. If they greet you with a wai, simply smile and nod back at them. DO shake hands if not offered a wai. Religious Etiquette DO dress conservatively. Women should wear long skirts or pants and covered shoulders. Don’t wear sandals. DON’T take photos at a temple. DO remove shoes upon entering. DON’T sit with your feet pointing towards a Buddha. Sit cross-legged or with your feet tucked under you. DON’T touch a monk, give him anything, sit next to him, or sit above him. DON’T touch a Buddha image. They are sacred. Don’t climb on top of it, move it, or even sit next to it to pose for a picture. It’s disrespectful. 19 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  20. 20. CORPORATE CULTURE Relationships & Communication In Thailand, business decisions may take much time as decisions pass through many levels before the final decision is reached. Frankness is not appreciated. Be subtle in responding with a negative reply. It is diffi- cult for most Thais to say no, so you must be aware of their non-verbal communica- tion. Thais prefer doing business with people they know and respect. Relationships de- velop slowly and do not flourish after one meeting; it may take several meetings. Thai communication is formal and non-ver- bal communication is often more important than verbal communication. Watch your body language and facial expressions, as these will be believed over your words. Rank is always respected. Degrees, especial- ly from prestigious universities, bring status. Thais may list these on their business card. Thais respect foreigners with powerful con- nections. Business Meeting Etiquette Appointments are necessary and should be made in advance. It is a good idea to send a list of who will be attending the meeting and their credentials so that Thais know the relative status of the people attending the meeting and can plan properly. You should arrive at meetings on time as it signifies respect for the person you are meeting. Always send an agenda and material about your company as well as data to substanti- Always be respectful and courteous when dealing with others, as this leads to the har- monious relationships necessary within busi- ness. 20 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy
  21. 21. CORPORATE CULTURE ate your position prior to the meeting. Remain standing until told where to sit. The hierarchical culture has strict rules about rank and position in the group. Dress Thai society is divided into upper and lower classes. At formal occasions, dress is expected to match one’s social station. Appearance is very important. Wealth is greatly admired. High-status Thais often overdress, especially considering the hot climate. Western clothing is very common. Modest clothing is recommended. General dress is informal but always neat and clean. Cloth- ing should be stylish and cool. For Businessmen: Pants and shirts (white or colored) with or without a tie. A light suit or jacket increases status. In the eve- ning, dark business suits or formal tradi- tional Thai shirts are worn. Senior execu- tives wear light weight suits to work. For Businesswomen: Conservative dress- es or skirts and blouses (not sleeveless). Simple blouses and calf-length loose pants and long wrap-around or tube skirts are common. Business Cards Business cards are given out after the initial handshake and greeting. In theory, you should give your card to the most senior person first. Using your right hand, deliver your business card so the Thai side faces the recipient. Look at a business card for a few seconds before placing it on the table or in a business card case. As in most Asian countries, it is polite to make some com- ment about the card, even if it is only to acknowledge the address. Since Thais judge you based on your clothing and accessories, ensure that your shoes are al- ways well-polished. 21 Country profile THAILANDLearnmera Oy