Last week I pointed out that they don’t wear ties in Singapore. It’s a custom driven largely by the climate, I’d say, since it’s hot enough there without tightening up your clothes further and making things even less bearable. While some folks — especially in the financial sector — may wear ties like their Wall Street peers do, they still tend to take it a bit more casual there.
That being the case, I’d assume the same would be true in Thailand, especially in Bangkok where the heat and humidity can be pretty oppressive. But I’d be wrong; the first time I visited there for work I fortunately thought to toss a couple ties in my bag, because as it turns out, wearing them is the norm there. I’m not sure exactly why, but it doesn’t matter; the point is, the norms are different, and it’s best to follow them when you are establishing and maintaining a business relationship.
When you are working with clients in new markets, or even with new clients at home, it’s best to understand their expectations first. Don’t try to bend the world to your will, especially on the minor things. Be adaptable, and try to learn about changes in advance rather than being surprised. Be careful about making assumptions; just because one Asian country does things a certain way, for example, does not mean ALL Asian countries do. If you are opening new operations or engaging free agents in a new place, make sure you understand things like meeting etiquette, holidays, educational styles, and other things that will affect how you do your work.
No matter where you’re from, it’s a safe bet that everyone in the world doesn’t do things the way you do. Keep an open mind and be proactive about learning what your clients and employees expect.
And pack a tie. Just in case.