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Building Bridges In Thailand- Networking Tips For Expats

Familiarity with Thai culture plays a crucial role in forging successful relationships. Known as the land of smiles, Thailand’s culture revolves around respect, politeness, and maintaining harmony. It’s common to see people greeting each other with a ‘wai’ (a prayer-like gesture). Learning these nuances not only helps in understanding the culture better but also signifies your respect towards Thai traditions. This can aid you significantly in developing meaningful connections, both professionally and socially.

Professional Networking in Thailand

Thailand, with its bustling economy and business-friendly environment, offers numerous avenues for building and expanding your professional network. Here are some ways you can make business connections in the country.

  • Chambers of Commerce and Business Associations: Many international chambers of commerce have branches in Thailand, such as the American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM), British Chamber of Commerce Thailand (BCCT), and the Thai-Canadian Chamber of Commerce. These groups host regular networking events, seminars, and workshops that can help you build relationships within the local and international business community. The Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Thailand (JFCCT) is another valuable resource, which includes members from various foreign chambers.
  • Industry-Specific Events and Trade Shows: Depending on your field, industry-specific events, conferences, and trade shows can be excellent opportunities for networking. These events attract professionals from various companies, giving you a chance to connect with potential partners, clients, or mentors in your field.
  • Online Platforms: Websites like MeetupEventbrite, and LinkedIn host a wide range of networking events, including webinars, online conferences, and virtual meet-ups. These platforms allow you to network from the comfort of your home or office, and they often cater to specific industries or professional interests.
  • Co-working Spaces: Co-working spaces are becoming increasingly popular in Thailand, particularly in urban areas such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket. These shared offices are not just places to work; they often host networking events and foster a community atmosphere, making them a great place to meet other professionals.
  • Volunteering: Volunteering for a cause you care about can also lead to meaningful business connections. This is a more indirect method, but it allows you to meet people in a less formal environment and can lead to shared interests and stronger connections.
  • Language Exchange Groups: If you’re looking to improve your Thai language skills while networking, consider joining a language exchange group. These groups often attract a mix of locals and expats, providing a great opportunity to make local connections.
  • Business Networking International (BNI): BNI has multiple chapters in Thailand. As a member, you can participate in regular meetings and take advantage of the structured networking model to grow your business.

Remember, networking is about building relationships, so follow up with the contacts you make and look for ways to provide value to them. With persistence and a proactive approach, you’ll be able to create a strong professional network in Thailand.

Social Networking in Thailand

Living in Thailand as an expat presents an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture and build a diverse social network. Whether you’re interested in forging connections with locals, fellow expats, or a mix of both, there are various avenues you can explore to create meaningful relationships.

  • Language Classes: Taking Thai language classes can be a great way to meet both locals and other expats. It also has the added benefit of helping you communicate more effectively with Thai people, which can open up more social opportunities.
  • Volunteer Work: Volunteering for local charities or community projects can provide a fulfilling way to connect with locals and give back to your host community. Many organizations welcome international volunteers and it can be a great way to learn more about Thai culture.
  • Cultural Events and Festivals: Thailand is renowned for its vibrant festivals, such as Songkran (Thai New Year) and Loi Krathong. Participating in these events can help you connect with the local community and learn more about Thai traditions.
  • Expat Clubs and Societies: Joining an expat club can be an excellent way to meet people who are also adjusting to life in Thailand. These clubs often organize social events, trips, and activities that can make settling into your new home easier. Examples include the Bangkok Expat Women group and the Chiang Mai Expat Club.
  • Sports and Fitness Groups: If you enjoy being active, consider joining a local sports team, yoga class, or hiking group. This can be a fun and healthy way to meet people with similar interests.
  • Social Media: Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Facebook groups, for example, are a great way to find local events and groups. Try searching for expat groups in your specific city or region in Thailand.
  • Thai Cooking Classes: Thai cuisine is beloved around the world, and taking a cooking class not only equips you with the skills to make local dishes, but also presents a fantastic opportunity to meet people.

Numerous organizations and events are tailored to help expats network in Thailand. Groups like Bangkok ExpatsBangkok Young Expats Meetup, and Bangkok Networking regularly organize events aimed at expats.

Remember, making new friends and building a social network takes time, so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen overnight. Be open, patient, and take the initiative to reach out to others. In time, you’ll find your social circle in Thailand growing and enriching your expat experience.


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Practical Tips for Successful Networking in Thailand

Successful networking is more than just attending events; it requires effort and strategy. Be proactive in following up on connections, show genuine interest in others, and be willing to offer help when you can. Remember, networking is a two-way street, and mutually beneficial relationships often last the longest.

Navigating the social norms of a new culture can be challenging. When networking in Thailand, it’s essential to understand the local etiquette to build respectful and beneficial relationships. Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:

Do’s:

Return a ‘wai’: The ‘wai’ is a traditional Thai greeting involving a slight bow with palms pressed together in a prayer-like fashion. It’s important to return a ‘wai’ when one is given to you.

Show respect: This is of paramount importance in Thai culture. Always show respect for Thai traditions, the Royal Family, and the local customs.

Be punctual: While the Thai concept of time may seem flexible, especially outside of business settings, punctuality is appreciated and seen as a sign of respect.
Dress appropriately: Thai people place a lot of importance on appearance. Dress smartly for business and social events, and more conservatively when visiting religious sites.

Maintain a calm demeanor: Public displays of anger or frustration are frowned upon. Keeping calm and collected, even in stressful situations, is crucial. This attitude is referred to as ‘jai yen,’ meaning ‘cool heart,’ and is much admired in Thai culture.

Don’ts:

Avoid discussing the monarchy: Criticism or negative comments about the Thai Royal Family are illegal and can lead to severe penalties. It’s best to avoid this topic entirely.

Steer clear of political discussions: Discussing politics, especially in a critical manner, is generally considered inappropriate and could potentially offend your Thai counterparts.

Don’t show disrespect towards religious images: Buddhism is the primary religion in Thailand, and it’s disrespectful to point your feet towards a Buddha image or touch someone’s head, which is considered the highest point of the body.

Don’t insist on a handshake: Although handshakes are common in professional settings among Westerners, not all Thai people may be comfortable with this form of greeting. Wait for the other person to extend their hand first.

By understanding and adhering to these etiquettes, you can ensure your networking endeavors are successful and respectful. Remember, when in doubt, observing how locals interact and following their lead is often the safest approach.

Despite its rewards, networking as an expat can pose challenges. Cultural differences and language barriers can sometimes make networking daunting. However, perseverance, patience, and a willingness to learn can go a long way in overcoming these obstacles. Being open-minded and embracing the local culture can also ease the process. You can seek help from online expat forums or expat support groups that offer advice on coping with these challenges.

Networking for Spouses and Kids

Your family members can also benefit from networking. Many international schools in Thailand, such as International School Bangkok (ISB), have active parent-teacher communities. Spouse support groups, kid’s activity groups, and hobby clubs can be a great way for your family to integrate into the community.

Conclusion

Networking in Thailand can be a rewarding experience. It allows you to integrate into the community, broaden your professional horizons, and even form lasting friendships. By understanding the cultural nuances, utilizing available resources, and adopting a proactive approach, you can establish a strong network that supports your expat journey in Thailand.


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