John Gilbert - Marketing Intern
John works on web content and online financial strategies for Asia Internship Programme. He has a diverse background as he is half Thai and half Kiwi. John grew up in Thailand mostly, but his family is now in Australia. He speaks Mandarin Chinese, English, and Thai rather well. John studied Business and Finances in Taiwan and sees himself as an “international citizen”.
What do you love most about interning with Asia Internship Programme?
There are many entrepreneurial possibilities. If you have an idea you can always share it and at AIP they will truly listen to you. I also like the casual atmosphere; I’ve done a couple of different internships and they had very tight atmospheres. Asia Internship Programme really welcomes people to express themselves freely and generate new ideas.
Thailand is not particularly popular as an internship location, it is much more well known for volunteering and teaching opportunities. What would you say to someone that had never thought of Thailand as a place for an international internship?
Consider Thailand! It’s true, most people come to Thailand to vacation, volunteer, or teach English, but there are a tremendous amount of business opportunities here. There’s also a huge number of foreigners living here. Some of them are teaching or volunteering, but there are French schools, American schools, British schools, and most of the parents are in some kind of business. They work for foreign companies and that is something that is really becoming popular.
Many people are put off from building a career in Thailand because the wages are lower than many places. But, what people are doing now is that they are hired by a foreign company and then moved here, which means they earn a foreign salary allowing them to make and save a tremendous amount of money. You don’t necessarily have to have previous experience in Asia for this to happen, but this is a big benefit from what I’ve been told. If you get hired by a company that has a presence in Asia and they see that you have previous experience in the area, they may see this as an opportunity to send you there. That sounds like an amazing opportunity and the chance to lead a very comfortable lifestyle.
So what advice would you give to someone that hears about this and says, that sounds great, I want to live in Thailand and I also want to make a good salary. What do they need to know to be successful?
Honestly, learn some Thai language and learn the culture. That is what it is all about. When you go to say America to work, you have to learn the language, you have to learn the culture and the same applies to Thailand. Granted many people don’t have to and they don’t, it’s a much stronger benefit if you can. Plus, if you know you want to develop a career here, research companies that have an Asian presence.
What is a couple pieces of advice for someone looking to become a successful business person in Thailand?
Learn the language! You have to be pretty good to really make it. Most people that make it to upper management are fluent in Thai. Many people can speak a little bit, but you’re not going to be respected on a business level unless you are really good. When I worked for a Thai company I saw foreign people come in and do presentations entirely in Thai. They were so good I couldn’t even understand them.
Is there any specific etiquette for business meetings in Thailand that is particularly important?
If the Thai people can speak English the meetings will be run in English, but it’s a matter of respect to be aware of the culture and be able to speak some Thai. Etiquette is the same in most places, and they often start with a Western handshake. During negotiations, it is important to be aware of low context vs. high context. For example, an American person will probably say something very directly, while a Thai person might say it in an offside way. You can’t learn this in a book, you have to go and actually experience it.
You were raised in Bangkok, but were gone for about six years before returning. What did you miss the most and the least about the city?
I have a love hate relationship with Bangkok. I love the food and I hate the weather. Thailand is number one for food, but it is very hot and humid which isn’t the best for having to wear a suit and tie.
What make Asia Internship Programme unique when it comes to helping someone find an internship in Thailand?
A big problem with finding an internship in Asia, and specifically places like Thailand and Southeast Asia, is that many some organizations will absolutely refuse to take foreign interns. Not because it isn’t allowed or something like that, but mostly because they don’t want the legal hassle of trying to arrange it. They don’t want the cultural problems too.
Also, something that is very interesting is that the internship culture isn’t very big. Many companies don’t even think of it as a possibility. So, if a foreign intern comes by themselves and says I want to do this thing, most companies won’t even consider it. That is where we can really help because we actually create these placements. We are here to tell them that they need interns and show them how helpful they can be. We open them up to the idea by showing them that we can provide skilled interns that provide real services. So we work with development from both sides.
What is something you want everyone to keep in mind when they come to intern in Thailand?
Come with a very open mind and know that you are going to learn be ready to see things in the oddest of places. You may learn something in the last place you thought to look. One example is when I had an idea to create an agricultural based program. I had the idea just while walking the streets one day. This country is all about food. Seriously, everything revolves around food. Everyone eats all the time and many of employment areas are based in agriculture, so it is a perfect fit.