You may be wanting to purchase real estate in Thailand or rent a condo in the capital Bangkok. Or you may just be visiting for a short trip and wish to get the best possible prices at Chatuchak market or one of the other sprawling shopping areas throughout Bangkok or the rest of Thailand.
Our team have pulled their combined experience together to provide some top tips for negotiating, haggling, bartering whatever you want to call it and how to build short and long-term business relationships in Thailand.
Patience is a Virtue
The Thais are generally very relaxed people, and take their time completing certain complex tasks. This is a generalisation, but if you are used to ruthless efficiency in another part of the world, you are advised to take a step back and understand that the culture here is far more laid back. That’s not to say they are not hard-working, but shouting and screaming down the end of the phone or in someone’s face is not going to go down well. Acceptable in the western world, confrontation here is frowned upon and should be approached with caution. If you are looking to build up a long-term business relationship then you must be realistic and patient.
Top Tip: If you want a cheaper price, don’t walk off within a minute. Be polite, and patient.
Image Credit: Koh Lanta.net
Politeness and the ‘wai’
The majority of Thai people are deeply buddhist and they display forms of courtesy to all people, not just potential customers. A wai is commonplace, a slight bow to show respect and greet someone. Reciprocating the wai will bring a smile to your host’s face. On to the subject of smiles. Thailand is known as ‘The Land of Smiles’ and for very good reason. You will notice thais smile at you. If they do, smile back! It’s polite and important not to read too much into this smile. It could be hiding all manner of emotions, but is part of the culture here.
Top Tip: Politeness costs nothing, but could save you money in Thailand
Learn the Lingo
Learning a few Thai language phrases can help you immensely at the markets. Knowing how to say hello, how are you, and negotiate on price can pay dividends. Be warned, that if you greet in Thai and ‘act’ like you can speak Thai then the vendor is likely to give you prices in Thai as well. You could come unstuck if you don’t know your numbers. If you are planning a trip to Thailand you can learn the basic numbers – 1-1000 relatively easy in a month or two by learning online at home by yourself or even by having a Skype lesson or two. It’s always a useful skill to have, and over the course of a two or three week holiday could reduce stress and save you a lot of money.
Top Tip: If you live here, try and learn a few words a day. If you are planning a trip to Thailand, learn the basics beforehand
Choose your Shopping Destination Carefully
The best places for negotiating prices in Thailand are the places that the locals use for shopping. Local night markets, for example. Large style markets where lots of tourists visit can mean that prices are hard to negotiate too far down. And even if you do, the price will be inflated in the first price. Always always haggle, as wherever you shop you will be expected to do so. If you are not of Thai appearance you could be given a higher price than a local so do your research where to shop and for the average price of the goods you are looking to buy.
Top Tip: Shop with the locals to get the best prices and avoid tourist hotspots
Take a Local With You
If you live in Thailand, you probably have some Thai acquaintances. As well as being lovely people to spend your time with, your friends can help you immensely on a shopping trip and most of them will actually enjoy doing so. If you are making a small purchase on the market, then your Thai friend will no doubt be able to get a cheaper price than you. For a huge purchase such as a vehicle, this can be magnified even further. For Real Estate you can imagine the importance of using someone with the local contacts book and experience of sealing the deal.
Top Tip: Using the experience and help of someone that has lived in Thailand a long time can help you save money
Personal presence is important
If you are negotiating on a property purchase, for example. The best way to negotiate a good price and terms with the developer is in person. This is why we exist to be honest, as the Thais love dealing face-to-face and building trust and personal relationships. If you are based overseas and looking to purchase property here, our best advice is to hire a professional Real Estate Agency in the country to handle all forms of communication, especially if you are new to Thailand or unable to visit the country.
Top tip: For bigger deals, always negotiate in person, or use an Agent to act on your behalf.
Take Note of Festivals
If you are planning to negotiate, timing is crucial. Understanding any specific religious festivals or events that are likely to be part of Thai people’s lives are worth getting familiar with. This is especially important if you build up a longer-term relationship with a business partner in Thailand. You may be invited along to these special events, so it’s good etiquette to understand the importance of them. A suitable gift will also show that you understand and care about your Thai business partner’s feelings.
Top Tip: Understanding Thai culture and specific festivals will impress
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