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Updated by Joanna James on May 02, 2024
Headline for 5 Tips for Business Travel in Laos - For a successful business venture!
Joanna James Joanna James
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5 Tips for Business Travel in Laos - For a successful business venture!

Southeast Asian countries have very different approaches to business, and the etiquette involved can be markedly unfamiliar if travelling from the west for business projects. So, it's always best to be aware of local attitudes and cultural aspects that could influence your business outcomes.


Personal connections are important

Business associations are less formal in Laos and often founded on personal connections developed among social circles. The focus on personal connections is important, thus, having a trustworthy local who is well-connected is vital to initiate foreign investments successfully.


Be patient

Business developments move gradually in Laos. A timely process is preferred, and it shows the cultural importance placed on circumspection and restraint. Businesses aiming to start ventures in the Lao trade markets should prepare for several stints and know beforehand that processes move unhurriedly here.


Stick to meeting etiquette

Timeliness is important in business circles; thus, arriving after the arranged time without informing can be disrespectful to your business counterpart.

The formal customary salutation is the nop; however, this tradition can be replaced in business circles with a handshake.

In Laos, foreigners are expected to handshake the people they meet, notwithstanding gender.

The exchange of business cards with everyone during the first meeting is a business tradition, and subsequently when introduced to new business contacts. So, make sure you have a steady supply on hand.

At business meetings, respect is bestowed on the senior-most individual in the organisation. Thus, primary communications should be addressed to them as the decision maker, unless stated otherwise.

Decision-making may take substantial time as communication and information get relayed through the organisation's many channels, particularly with the hierarchy.

Meetings are not rigid and do not follow strict schedules. Discussions will go on until all present feel everything is settled satisfactorily.

Bargaining is the norm, and expected in commercial dealings in Lao culture, although they are gentle bargainers.

It is most important to check the transparency of ideas and statements if uncertain of the intention of what is being conveyed. People of Laos tend to use the phrase 'yes' to many things and may connotate different meanings. But know that it doesn't always mean an agreement is conclusive.


Present yourself well

External appearances and behaviour are crucial aspects for them to judge your character. Thus, it is important to present oneself and bear one's conduct in a manner that upholds your reputation.

Sensitive and problematic discussions are initiated by those holding senior positions. Also, know that direct denials are avoided. So, it is necessary to be mindful of your emotions and how you display them, and how they will be received by your Lao counterparts. Always be sincere and authentic in verbal and non-verbal communication, but at the same time, maintain a sense of calm and patience when matters do not go the way you intend. Usually, this is when a person's character gets judged the most!


Be prepared for socialising

Social activities are a means of forging stronger bonds, as they believe a certain level of trust is necessary to go ahead with business collaborations. Dinners and rounds of golf are a few invitations to expect! Many a hotel in Luang Prabang offers the perfect venue for business socializing and the likes of Avani+ Luang Prabang are places worth looking out for!