As an expat living and working in Thailand, you will undoubtedly meet many people and begin to cultivate friendships. These friendships will be with other expats and local Thai people. It is always better to make these friendships as quickly as possible because it enriches the total experience of living here. Here are some tips for making friends and networking in Thailand that will definitely be of help to you.
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Learn the Thai Language
Yes, you can get by here without learning a word of Thai but it will reduce the quality of your experience greatly. While many in the cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai speak English, people love it when you try to speak Thai to them. Even if you don’t say it quite right, there is always someone who will help you. In return, they will practice their English with you.
Learn to Like Thai Food
You will find any get-together with Thai people will center on food. Thai people love to eat and it is not uncommon for them to gather around a big table with many different Thai dishes. You can be certain that they will offer a taste of every one to you the westerner. First, they are offering you their best and they are also a little interested to see how you can handle the spiciness.
Laugh at Yourself
Thai people love to laugh and have fun and they rarely take themselves seriously so you should not either. Sometimes, as a “farang” (Thai slang for “foreigner”), you might be the source of their jokes but they mean nothing by them. Westerners typically have larger builds than Thai people and you will find that Thais like to poke a little fun at a person’s large size. The best thing to do is to play right along with them and make jokes about it too. They will feel comfortable around you and you will enjoy your stay here much better.
If you are waiting for the majority of Thai people to speak to you first, you will be waiting a long time. Mainstream Thais are generally shy. Many of them are afraid to speak to westerners for fear that their English skill may not be acceptable. So, it’s up to you to speak to them first wherever the day takes you. This is especially important if there are a lot of Thais at the place where you work.
Keep an Open Mind
In a major city such as Bangkok, the traffic is terrible most days. Even the mass transportation systems are crowded and must deal with the traffic (such as buses and taxis). For this reason, you will find that many appointments and meetings in Thailand get started a little late. You will find that most of the time it is due to no fault of their own–it’s the traffic. Westerners tend to get up-tight about lateness but it is best to have an open mind and let it ride.
Try to never display outbursts of anger or frustration in Thailand because they will get you nowhere and only alienate you from other locals. You will find in Thailand a “mai pen rai” attitude in general. This Thai expression means, “it is of no importance” and the culture embraces it as one of its rules for living a happy life. You will find that you will also go a long way in making friends when you try to live by this as well.
Go When Invited
This is an important tip no matter what country that you live in. Thai people like to have many social gatherings and they especially love to get together for birthdays. When invited, make every effort to go and they will invite you to the next one.
Stay Connected with Other Expats
No matter how many Thai friends you have, there will be times when you want to get together with others who share your culture and language. It is only natural. Not only this, but there are things that expats go through that no Thai person can understand. For example, Thais don’t generally know the details of immigration rules. However, when one expat learns something about an immigration rule, he is well-suited to share it with his expat friends.
It is a mistake for the expat living in Thailand to live as if he were on his own island. There are so many fun times to be had when sharing them with a network of friends. Follow these tips and start building close friendships right away.