If you are fortunate enough to be one of the lucky expats that have been given a posting to Thailand, for example, you are in for an amazing experience, and a large part of that lies with cultural differences. You can’t really get more cosmopolitan than Bangkok, and if you are to be working with a team, aside from Thais, you are likely to meet Malaysian and Singaporean people, so some cultural orientation is a great idea.
You may have grown up in a society where you are encouraged to be direct and to the point, after all, there’s little point in playing games – if you think it should be done another way, then come right out and say so! Thai culture is soft and gentle and directness is not encouraged, as you would find out when taking executive training in Bangkok, rather the Thais prefer to skirt around the issue and look for passive ways to resolve the issue.
This is a primary objective in Thai society and you would do well to note this; should you ever have to make a Thai employee aware of their shortcomings, do not do it in the company of others. Rather a one on one conversation that focuses on the positive. There are a million and one ways to say something and careful choice of words will pay dividends when working with Thai people, along with the right behaviour (do not become too familiar with staff members).
Gain a Deeper Understanding of Other Cultures
It is possible to do some online research into another culture, but if you want to have the best assistance, call in a specialist business training organisation, who would tailor a course that deals with specific cultures and is industry specific. This would typically be a one on one course, with a westerner who has lived and worked in Thailand for two or three decades and can therefore prepare you for the cultural aspects of working with Asian people.
Thai culture has a complex system of hierarchy, especially in a business environment, and it is important that you cultivate a correct relationship with those who work under you. You would not invite an under manager for a drink outside of working hours, which in your home country would be the ideal opportunity to say what you want, as in Thai culture, this is overstepping the accepted bounds of social position. Have a short and informal discussion at work in your office and always keep things in the positive, as this will bring out the best in the person.
First impressions count for a lot in any society and even more so in Asian countries, so do your cultural homework and become familiar with the mindset of the local people, and you will find that your team will warm to you and be very productive.