World View: Focus on Thailand
By Anchalee Ngampornchai, Ph.D., and Jonathan Adams, Ed.D.
Thailand is a Southeast Asian country where cultural values are characterized by Buddhism, respect for monarchy, and national pride. Thailand is the only country in the region that has never been colonized by Western nations. While the Thai economy suffered during the financial crisis that engulfed the region in the late 1990s, sound economic policies have
resulted in low unemployment and a high standard of living relative to other countries in the region. The strong direction of its economy led the World Bank to recognize Thailand as an upper-middle-income economy in July 2011.
Thailand’s current development is focused on the commencement of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. The free trade zone will include 10 countries and is widely expected to increase economic prosperity and strengthen political stability. Human resource development has become critical for both private companies and government agencies, with particular emphasis on technology, skills training, and English language learning. One-on-one coaching also has increased, especially for executives.
When conducting training in Thailand, use best-practice training strategies and consider the following culture-specific tips:
- Present your credentials in a humble way. Thai people respect expertise, education, and the wisdom that comes with age. It is important to introduce your credentials and explain your expertise in order to build trust. It is more effective, however, to introduce yourself in a humble way as Thai tend to dislike people who appear to be self important.
- Use simple language. If training is in English, be sure to avoid slang and cultural expressions. It’s more effective to explain concepts using short sentences. While English is widely spoken and many Thai have good command of it, speak slowly and clearly to ensure the content is well understood. Break down complex ideas, paraphrase, and use graphics and visual aids instead of word-only presentations.
- Silence is golden. Anticipate few questions during training events. Thai are used to learning by listening rather than interacting or inquiring. In large group training events, individuals are not likely to “speak up.” Avoid challenging your audience or putting individuals on the spot to inspire engagement. In Thailand, doing so may be regarded as a public embarrassment or face-threatening act. It’s more effective to conclude early and linger to allow individuals to approach you with questions.
- Engage the audience with stories and humor. Thai appreciate a good balance of formal and informal interaction. Use relevant stories and a good sense of humor to engage the audience. Be mindful that criticizing or ridiculing the monarchy is a criminal offense in Thailand.
- Food is always appreciated. Thai enjoy activities around food. Use food as an icebreaker to start training events and snack breaks to give individuals an opportunity to approach you with questions.
- Relationship building is critical to long-term success. Thai people value friendships, personal connections, and long-term relationships. If the goal is to continue or expand your business, take time to build trust. Word of mouth is usually the best business strategy in this group-oriented society.
Anchalee Ngampornchai, Ph.D., and Jonathan Adams, ED.D., are senior associates at Global Dynamics Inc. (http://www.global-dynamics.com), a leader in in cultural competence, global diversity, and virtual team management. Both authors can be reached at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.