Entertaining for business success
Thais love to eat and food is a central feature of most activities. There are several things to remember when eating a meal in Thailand:
The vast majority of business dinners or lunches will take place at a restaurant. It is best to arrive on time and as a group.
The host and the more senior members of the group should be seated first and will normally encourage you to sit first. Politely refuse, encourage them to take a seat and be comfortable and then wait for them to sit. This is usually a very busy time as everyone gets organised; foreign guests are almost always told where to sit.
Thais will always do the ordering and take much pride in the choice of dish. If you are asked what you prefer, don’t be shy in making suggestions or reminding the host of any allergies etc.
Generally, there will be several different dishes placed in the middle of the table and a plate of steamed white rice will be placed before each diner.
If there are any soups, then diners will also have a small round bowl placed in front of them. This bowl is for soup only.
Thais will usually have the restaurant staff serve the dishes if soups or more complicated dishes, such as some seafoods, have been ordered. At finer hotels this is certainly the case, but at more casual restaurants, especially outside of Bangkok, all are welcome to help themselves. Use the serving spoons provided. Be careful not to get any rice on the serving spoon or back in the main dish.
Thai food is normally eaten with a spoon and a fork. Chopsticks are for Chinese foods and noodles.
Use your spoon for putting food in your mouth. Your fork is used for pushing food onto your spoon.
Don’t put several dishes onto your plate of rice and then eat them. Instead place a small amount of one dish on your rice, eat it, and then add some more from another dish.
If the food is spicy, don’t try to force yourself. Instead, enquire if some fried rice or another ‘less spicy’ dish is available.
Food may be passed from one diner to another during the meal. Follow the lead in passing dishes.
It is not unusual for a huge amount of food to be ordered–it is seen as bad form on the part of the host if not enough food is ordered.
Try, as best as possible, not to leave a large amount of uneaten food on your plate. This is seen as impolite. It can be avoided by always only adding one dish to your rice at a time and finishing it before adding the next.
Alcohol is not common at lunch, but always present at dinner.
If you are dining at a restaurant, the staff will work hard to keep your glass full at all times. Be careful to keep track of how much you have drunk, especially if you are not used to the humidity and are dehydrated.
Ice is almost always added to beer, and if you are not familiar with the local brews it can help reduce the bitter taste. Light beer is usually not available.
Any scraps, such as shell fish, are usually placed on a communal plate, typically one plate for every 3-4 people. If none is available and you have no rice left on your plate it is a good idea to request a new dinner plate.
Don’t blow your nose at the table. Excuse yourself and visit the bathroom if you need to sneeze.
Toothpicks are common at the end of the meal, but be sure to cover your mouth with your free hand.
A popular toast is simply ‘Good Luck!’ or in Thai ‘Chai Yo!’
Normally, the host will pay for the dinner, or the oldest or most senior person in the group.
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