Notes on Cultural Competence
The key to international business negotiations with Thailand can be
summarized in one word: Patience.
-John Paul Fieg, A Common Core:
Thais and Americans.
Thais respect hierarchical relationships, as such rank is always respected and social relationships are
defined as one person being superior to the other (in terms of occupational status, age, family role,
gender, etc.) As such, parents are superior to their children, teachers to their students, and bosses to their
subordinates. The eldest person in the group is always revered.
Thais DO NOT normally shake hands when they greet one another, but instead press the palms
together in a prayer-like gesture called a wai. Generally, a younger person wais an elder, who
returns it. Watch how the Thais do it, and you will soon learn.
Never return the gesture to children, wait staff, clerks, or other people of lower rank. Simply
smile and nod in response.
Thais always introduce people of lower rank first. .
Titles and rank are important. When possible, address Thais by title and first name.
Acceptable topics of conversation:
o Family, but only after you've developed a relationship (avoid complimenting