Are you planning to settle down in Laos for business? Then you have come to the right place. Traveling to an entirely new place with a different work environment can be overwhelming. Mainly if you belong to a western country, the South-East Asian business etiquette in Laos can lead to a huge cultural shock. So, to help you adapt and make you aware of some essential manners and etiquette related to Laos business culture, this blog has prepared all the do’s and don’ts for you.
Laos is a developing country located in South East Asia. It is lesser known than other countries like Thailand and Indonesia, concerning business, tourism, and culture. However, there has been significant economic growth in recent times, which has benefited the country from different spheres. Today, many companies have started investing and promoting business in Laos, leading to the upbringing of Laos business.
So, in today’s post, we will go through some of the common business etiquette you must keep in mind if you are traveling to Laos for work. Later, you will also discover some basic business phrases in the Lao language that will come in handy while communicating. If you are interested, continue reading.
Work Culture In Laos
Before we talk about manners and etiquette, let us have a quick brief of the business setting in Laos.
Laos has a usual workday routine from Monday to Friday. Office hours usually begin at 8 am and end at 5 pm. Although it is a standard schedule for almost all types of work, sometimes employees exceed eight hours of work per day, leading to 48 hours per week. However, Laos does have a labor law supporting that an employee’s work hours should not exceed eight hours and should remain within the given capacity.
Laos business has main exports on clothing, electricity, coffee, and mostly copper. When it comes to imports, machinery, vehicles, fuel, and consumer goods are the primary ones. Some of the main trading partners in Laos business are France, Thailand, Vietnam, and China.
Laos is still a poor country in comparison to other countries in terms of the economy related to agriculture and technology. It is largely based on the subsistence level of production both in agriculture and industry. However, with foreign aid and a rise in tourism, the economy of Laos has seen a rise with less inflation, bringing good news to the overall national economic growth of the country.
Talking about the work environment, Laos is a conservative country with strict religious and cultural beliefs. Although Laotian people are very friendly and outgoing, as a new member of their country, you have to be cautious so that you do not offend anyone unintentionally. So, continue reading below to discover the things that you should and should not do in Laos.
Business Etiquette In Laos
Now we will go through all the do’s and don’ts concerning business etiquette in Laos. Learn them thoroughly so that you avoid unnecessary cultural shocks and adapt easily to your new business partners.
Do’s In Laos Business
1. Always Greet People
The first thing you need to keep in mind is that Lao people are very friendly and welcoming. They respect each other and make everyone feel at home. So, once you reach your office, make sure that you greet your colleagues. While most people are acquainted with modern manners like shaking hands as a greeting gesture, you can use the traditional greeting called the “nop” to show some respect for their culture. It is a gesture where you take your palms together in front of your chest and bow down with your head while you say ສະບາຍດີ (sa bai dee).
It is a general etiquette that you must keep in mind to mingle with the locals and have a good time. Greeting people can also mark a great start to business communication which will help you make partners easily.
2. Follow The Proper Dress Code
Another important thing is to follow the proper dress code. Laos is a tropical-monsoonal country with high temperatures all year round with fewer wintery months. Therefore, Laos seeks people to wear lightweight suits while conducting business.
For usual occasions, men are expected to wear shirts with collars and trousers. It is more inclined to western clothing with suits and ties when it comes to formal or special occasions. When it concerns women, decent clothes like long skirts, long sleeves blouses, and long pants that cover the shoulders and knees are appreciated. Being a conservative country, women are not allowed to wear anything too stylish or revealing.
3. Gift Giving Manners
If you are planning to gift your colleague or a senior person as a gesture of friendship and respect, you must know that shoes and socks are inappropriate gifts. In Buddhist cultures, the foot is the dirtiest, and the head is the most sacred part of the body. So if you want to gift something, do not gift socks and always wrap your suitable gift with green and red wrapping paper. You must avoid the white colour, which is considered unlucky by most Buddhist cultures.
Gift-giving is considered a good habit in Laos. Especially as a new member, a basket full of fruits or flowers can make a good impression on them.
4. Receive Business Cards Properly
While it might not be the case in the western offices, handling your business card properly reflects your character in Laos. Always act compliant by accepting your business card with both hands as a sign of respect for the person who is dealing with you. It is said that the way you handle your business card shows the way you will handle your relationship with the person giving you the card.
Also, when you receive another person’s card, always look into it and act interested instead of just putting it into your pocket. It puts up a bad impression when you do the latter.
5. Respect Your Senior Person
You must understand that there is a hierarchy in the business culture in Laos, which you cannot ignore. You will find a hierarchy in every sector where the most senior person has a superior say in specific matters. It is a system respected by all and continues to live in every sector of Laos.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the most senior person will always introduce themself first. Only after they have initiated you are allowed to speak. Nevertheless, always greet them as a sign of respect whenever you pass by them or have a conversation.
Don’ts In Laos Business Culture
1. Don’t Lose Face
The notion of face plays a crucial role in Lao’s business culture. People like to maintain their reputation and their business relations. Losing face or causing one to lose face can become a sensitive issue for you during your business. It is considered humiliating and might affect your relations.
Being insulted is something Laotian people cannot accept. To avoid that, you must rethink before talking about any controversial topic. Wait for your seniors to initiate sensitive issues and avoid direct refusals. Talking calmly and patiently is appreciated instead of outbursts and anger.
2. Don’t Be Late
Punctuality is appreciated in Laos business culture. While it is a common rule in every country, Laos has a special mandate for always being on time. Especially when it comes to your first day., never be late.
Being on time shows your seriousness towards your work and makes a great impression on your personality. Punctuality can help you make great connections and bring promotions more easily. On the other hand, being late without any genuine reason is considered disrespectful towards your Lao counterpart.
3. Don’t Disrespect Buddhism
As Laos is a Buddhist nation, the teachings of Buddha are evident in every corner of the country. Even in business culture, people follow Buddhism, which teaches love, peace, and respect for one another. Never disrespect or try to demean such religious sentiments. Even if it is a joke, the locals will not accept any insult to their religion and will take action against you. So, always be careful when it comes to religion and culture.
4. Don’t Seclude Yourself
In Laos, Business partners do activities together, such as eating dinner, playing golf, and hanging out to build relations with understanding and make close friends with mutual trust. Don’t seclude yourself from such activities. Always try to mingle with your colleagues and spend time with them. Doing so will allow you to engage easily with business deals and give way for future partnerships.
5. Avoid Sensitive Topics
As mentioned earlier, always wait for the senior representative to initiate any talk on sensitive issues during your meetings. It is best to not start one yourself as it can lead to unintentional offences that might affect your partnership and reputation. Only join in and be polite when it is necessary.
Lao Business Phrases
Since most people in Laos still prefer their native language over English, here is a handy list for you!
|Hello sir/ ma’am||ສະບາຍດີທ່ານ ແມ່||Sabaidi than/ aem|
|I would like to speak||ຂ້ອຍຢາກເວົ້າ||Khonyyak vao|
|May I present now?||ຂ້ອຍຂໍນໍາສະເຫນີດຽວນີ້ບໍ?||Khonykho noasaheni diauani bo|
|I would love to collaborate with you||ຂ້ອຍຢາກຮ່ວມມືກັບເຈົ້າ||Khonyyak huammukab chao|
|It is my pleasure to be your partner||ມັນເປັນຄວາມສຸກຂອງຂ້ອຍທີ່ຈະເປັນຄູ່ຮ່ວມງານຂອງເຈົ້າ||Manpen khuaamsuk khongkhony thichapen khu huamngan khongchao|
|I accept your business deal||ຂ້ອຍຍອມຮັບຂໍ້ຕົກລົງທຸລະກິດຂອງທ່ານ||Khony nyomhab khotoklong thulakid khongthan|
|I am sorry for the inconvinience||ຂ້ອຍຂໍອະໄພໃນຄວາມບໍ່ສະດວກ||Khony khooaphai nai khuaambo saduak|
|Correct me if I am wrong||ແກ້ໄຂຂ້ອຍຖ້າຂ້ອຍຜິດ||Aekkhai khony thakhony phid|
|Thank you sir/ ma’am||ຂໍຂອບໃຈທ່ານ / ແມ່||Kho khob chaithan/ aem|
|Let’s call it a day||ໃຫ້ໂທຫາມັນມື້ຫນຶ່ງ||Hai othha man munung|
Over To You!
So, now you know all the common manners and business etiquette that you must follow once you land in Laos. Although Laos has developed a lot culturally and economically in recent times, it is still a developing country with conservative approaches. So, it is best to keep such things in mind and act accordingly to avoid any trouble.
However, as mentioned, many officials in businesses and common people still don’t converse entirely in English and are comfortable only in Lao. So, if you want to learn more about the Lao language, download the Ling app now!
Learn With The Ling App
Ling is one of the most revolutionary language learning apps that have multimedia content covering 60+ foreign languages. As many trusted users have mentioned, the best part of the app is that you get learn not only by seeing but also by listening as native speakers record audio for you to pick up the accent.
The best part of the app is the AI chatbot that offers interactive lessons which enhance your communication skills and make retention easy. So, once you go through interesting blog posts like food vocab, sports, weather, and many more provided by expert writers, you can immediately engage with the chatbot and make quick revisions. If you are interested, download the app from App Store and Play Store and start learning Lao with Ling today!