Thailand Work Culture

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Thailand Work Culture

The Kingdom of Thailand has many attractions for visitors – and international businesses. Foreign companies planning international expansion identify Thailand’s potential from being in prime position at the crossroads of Asia.

Thailand is a founder member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) formed in 1967. Apart from its immediate neighbours, Thailand is perfectly placed for trade with Singapore, Indonesia, China and India among a host of other Asian nations and further afield into the Pacific Rim.

The southeast Asian nation developed into a social and economic success story in the early 21st Century, growing from a low-income to an upper-middle income economy in little more than a generation, according to the World Bank, which ranked Thailand 21st out of 190 nations in its most recent ‘ease of doing business’ report.

For those looking to work there, Thailand has an extraordinarily rich heritage and history. Lavish royal palaces, ancient ruins and relics from a magical past, ornate temples and mouth-watering cuisine are just some of the attractions. Visitors and tourists also know Thailand for its tropical landscape, jungles, stunning wildlife and golden beaches. The futuristic and cosmopolitan capital Bangkok resonates with a vibrant lifestyle alongside its canals. Ready for the challenge? Now is the time to get down to business. So here are a few tips on taking the best steps and clearing those cultural barriers … and Thailand has some unique etiquette nuances which could catch out western visitors.

  • Language:  Thai is the official business language, but English is commonly used especially in Bangkok. If unsure, take an interpreter
  • Punctuality:  Being punctual is assumed … do not disappoint
  • Attitudes: ‘Face’ is important, as in most Asian business environments. Avoid pointing out errors and making criticisms in the presence of others. Raised voices are not appreciated
  • Negotiations: These can be a mix of ‘bartering’ and haggling alongside compromise and making concessions. Building relationships is key, so timescales should be ready to accommodate the process. When moving towards closure, ensure you are dealing with senior members of the opposite team
  • Greetings: ‘Wai’ (pronounced ‘why’) is the traditional greeting and usually initiated by the most junior member of the meeting, with senior members and visitors responding. Palms are pressed together, and the greeting is delivered with a slight bow, raising hands so the fingertips gently touch your nose. Handshakes are also acceptable
  • Business Cards:  Exchanging cards is expected; take a few seconds to read and appreciate the design. If you have dual-language cards, present with the Thai side up, with both hands
  • Dress Code:  Conservative is best, as dress is a way of showing respect to your counterparts and the occasion itself
  • Gift Giving:  Reciprocal gift giving is common, but do not open the gift in front of the person who gave it
  • Out of Hours: Thais enjoy hosting business dinners and lunches and generally will be happy to pick up the bill

Working Hours in Thailand

The Labor Protection Act’s ‘Hours of Work’ regulations and the Ministry of Labor stipulate working hour limits, which must be covered contractually or by a workplace agreement. Daily working hours are generally eight over a five-day period, not exceeding 48 each week. If employment has health and safety implications, hours worked cannot exceed seven a day or 42 weeklies. Amendments to the Act can allow other limits depending on the type of role.

Employees receive one hour’s break for working five consecutive hours unless there is an employer-employee agreement for less. Breaks are not paid as working time. Employees are entitled to an extra 20-minute break before starting overtime, plus 20 minutes if overtime is for two hours. Employees have a minimum one day’s rest day per week and the gap between days off must not exceed six days. This may not apply in such industries as tourism, but employees can accumulate rest days, which must be used within four weeks.

Overtime in Thailand

Under the Employment Protection Act, overtime on a normal workday is paid at not less than 150% of the normal hourly rate. Employees asked to work on a holiday must be paid twice the normal hourly rate, and three times the normal rate for working overtime on a holiday. The same rates apply to piece work as per quantity produced. Overtime and hours worked on holidays cannot exceed 36 in a week.