Starting a Business in Thailand: Business Etiquette

There are many great reasons to consider starting a business in Thailand. Not only is it a beautiful, warm country with a fantastically low cost of living, there are also many great business opportunities that you can take advantage of, particularly when it comes to the booming tourism industry. But, starting a business in Thailand will be very different to starting a business on your home soil, so it pays to make sure that you are accustomed to the cultures, traditions and expectations of you as a business person here. If you have been living in Thailand for some time, you may already be familiar with business culture but if you are not, here are some of the main ones to keep in mind.

Personal Relationships

Thai people tend to prefer to build strong personal relationships and even become friends with the people that they do business with, so bear this in mind if you are looking for a new business partner, investor, or supplier for example. Initial meetings will usually take place over drinks or lunch so that you can get to know one another, and there are usually several meetings before serious business discussions take place. Entertainment is all part of the process. You might find it useful to attend – or even host – a business event in Thailand. For those in the tourism industry, look for a company that specializes in MICE management. This type of event will strengthen your business network and get you started building those strong relationships.


Being polite is pretty standard business etiquette wherever you go, and the same is true for Thailand. Your body language in particular can be observed to interpret politeness or rudeness, so be careful when it comes to how you carry yourself. Body language is very important in Thai communication, so it’s important to take the time to notice subtle body language cues and be receptive to indirect replies in order to avoid misunderstandings. Being on time is also a big one – everybody is expected to arrive on time and appointments should always be made well in advance; it’s a key way to show respect. Finally, it’s polite to offer and accept business cards with your right hand and never your left

Dress Code

Appearance is very important, and business dress code in Thailand is quite conservative. Of course, this will depend on the industry you’re setting up your business – if you’re working directly with tourists at the beach, you could get away with dressing more casually. But in the corporate world – and certainly for any important business meetings – you’ll be expected to put an effort into your appearance and wear a suit and tie or a conservative dress or skirt. Avoid wearing black, though, because this color is generally only worn to funerals. Shoulders should always be covered and be sure to wear smart, plain socks in case of the need to remove your shoes indoors.

Starting a business in Thailand will introduce you to different business culture and etiquette compared to other parts of the world. Taking the time to understand Thai business etiquette will help you build stronger relationships and position your business for success.

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