How to be Successful Working for a Company in Thailand – Thai Business Culture is Different than Western

Thai co-workers are often friendly and kind, always offering food and drink - copyright norsez, Creative Commons

In my first job in Thailand working for an international company, I knew it would be different than working in an American or European company.I didn’t realize how different though. Over the last two years I worked there, I managed to adapt myself to Thai corporate culture and loved my job.But, I also saw many westerners come and go in the same company (most of them getting fired!) and much of the reason was because they were incapable or unwilling to adapt themselvesto Thai corporate culture.

If you’re planning on working in a company in Thailand or even already work in one, take heed of these few tips on how to be successful in a Thai company and, I guarantee you, you’ll have no problems.

Always Be Polite – From the minute I started working at an international company in Bangkok, I was polite to everyone. Polite to my bosses, to my co-workers, to my students and polite to the maids.

If I had problems with something not working (the photocopier didn’t work more than it worked!), I always made sure I asked politely for someone to help me.

Thais love polite people and put great emphasis on being polite in all aspects of their life. If you can train yourself to always be polite when working in a Thai business, you’ll never have problems and always get what you want.

Always Smile and Be Happy – Thais love people who smile and people who are happy. Because I love living in Thailand, I automatically smile a lot anyway but, from day one, working at my company I always made sure I smiled.

I talked to everyone in my office, I teased them a lot and I made them smile. Consequently, I was often told everyone liked me and, from their behavior towards me, it seemed to be true. Besides, who wants to be at work with people who are miserable? Smiling all day if you’re working in a company in Thailand will not only make your work life more fun, but people will like you too.

Compliment People – Thais don’t actually spend a lot of time complimenting each other. For me, though, that’s my personality. If I like a dress someone is wearing, I say so. If I think they’re good at something, I tell them.

In Thai businesses, if you compliment the people around you, even though it’s uncommon to them, it fits right into the Thai cultural idea of being kind.

Spend some time noticing what people are wearing in your office and give compliments to the wearers of clothing you like. Watch how they do their jobs and tell them if you think they’re great at it.

Of course, compliment the women, but don’t forget the men either. I always complimented my male bosses and my male students and, because they didn’t hear it that often, they loved it and always came back for more.

Greng Jai – ‘Greng jai’ in Thai is a fundamental part of Thai culture and, roughly translated, means taking care of others needs before you take care of your own.

Many Thais live their lives in a greng jai manner. They will give you food before they eat themselves, always compromise and do what you want to do rather than what they want to do, and always take care of you before they take care of themselves.

Greng jai can be taken to an extreme and sometimes Thais are too worried about others needs, but, if you spend some time being ‘greng jai’ in your office in Thailand, Thais will consider you to have adapted Thai culture and will accept you even more.

Buy Little Gifts Now and Again – I took little gifts into my office now and again. Snacks for the maids, DVDs I knew one of my students would like, a magazine my boss would love to read.

I did it out of being genuine, and not because I’m trying to ‘kiss up’ but, because the idea of giving gifts is so entrenched in Thai society, it’s just another way to make your life easier in your office and another way of being accepted and liked.

Don’t Lose Your Temper – Never lose your temper at work. You will rarely see a Thai lose their temper. Even if they’re having the worst day at work ever, they’ll still be smiling and joking and making the best of everything.

So the next time your secretary hasn’t even started your assignment let alone finished it, don’t worry about it. Mai bpen lai (“don’t worry”) as the Thais say. Just relax. It will get done eventually. Just go get a cup of coffee and gently remind her again.

The assignment may not go out when you actually need it to go out but, in the grand scheme of things, is it really that important. Surely, it’s more important that the secretary is happy and likes you? That’s how the Thais think, and you should too.

Overall, being successful and happy working in a Thai company is easy. Just treat everyone like you would love to be treated yourself. Be happy, friendly, polite and courteous and put others needs before yours, and your success in a Thai company is pretty much guaranteed.