Thai people are generally very welcoming and tolerant of outsiders. Having a general understanding of the Do’s and Don’ts While Visiting Thailand will help you enjoy your time here while learning more about what makes the Thai people tick.
Go ahead and smile – people in Thailand love to smile. Their smile means several things. They smile when they apologize, when embarrassed, when they want to say hello or thank you, and even when they ask for something.
Do’s and Don’ts While Visiting Thailand
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Hospitality and grace are very much a part of Thailand’s makeup. It is best to always approach people with a smile and good grace. This shows friendliness and respect and does open doors.
Thai tolerance should be respected. There are certain things that Thais find troubling or unacceptable and these should be avoided if you do not want to cause offense.
Above all be aware of the reverence in Thailand for the King and the institution of the Royal Family. It is best simply not to talk about them, especially in the context of politics.
Thais feel very strongly that they embody all that is good in Thai society and take any criticism very personally. If you hear the National Anthem being played it is a good idea to stand up. The gesture will be appreciated.
Religion Is Held In High Regard
Another thing to be careful of is religion. Buddhism is as welcoming a creed as Thailand is a country, but certain niceties should be observed. When entering a wat or religious building make sure you are correctly and neatly dressed. Sleeveless shirts or short pants will either make sure that you are excluded from the temple or offend worshippers already there.
You can wear shoes in the general compound but if entering the inner sanctum of a temple where the major shrine and Buddha image are located make sure you take your shoes off. The Buddha image itself is sacred so it should not be leaned on, or treated casually. You can neither touch any Buddha images nor pose for pictures in front of a Buddha image.
Buddhist monks are often seen in Thailand. Most men will do a spell in the Sangha (monkhood). Women should not touch a monk. If a woman needs to hand something to a monk, then give it to a man to give to him or place it on a cloth that the monk will proffer for the purpose.
Although in business and westernized circles shaking hands is perfectly acceptable, the normal form of greeting is the wai.
Although it takes many forms it means to press your hands together and lower your head slightly in greeting. Generally, those socially below you will wai you but you don’t need to wai back. So, for instance, if you wai a waitress who has given you a wai, it will seem odd.
Public Displays Of Affection
Displays of public affection will embarrass Thai people. It is not considered polite, although holding hands is unlikely to get you into trouble.
In Thailand, the head is the highest part of the body and the feet are the lowest. It is, therefore, considered impolite to touch anyone on the head or point the soles of your feet at them. Pointing your feet at a Buddha image is doubly offensive. It is also polite to remove your shoes when entering someone’s home.
Do Not Drink Tap Water!
Do not drink tap water – Bottled water will cost you not greater than 25 baht or 70 cents for every liter. Since bottled water is very cheap and available almost everywhere, do not drink tap water. Thai people uncommonly drink tap water.
Mealtimes are respected. Thais love to eat. Use your right hand only to touch any food and a spoon, not a fork, to place food in your mouth. If the food is on the floor, as meals are sometimes served that way, do not step over the food; step around it. Restraint is considered very important.
It is part of the Asian concept of ‘face’. Do not shout or get angry. You will lose face and it will embarrass people. Try and resolve any situation making sure that everyone keeps face. Often if people giggle or laugh at an embarrassing time it is not because they are laughing at you, it is just a way to diffuse a situation and make sure that everyone saves face.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of it, do not use illegal drugs in Thailand. Penalties are very harsh indeed and foreigners are not treated lightly. Drinking alcohol is, most certainly, not illegal but drunkenness is frowned upon.
Don’t Start A Fight In Thailand
Thai people may be tolerant, but when that tolerance breaks, violence can happen and it is unlikely that you will be fighting one on one. You would more likely be facing an angry mob.
This is especially true of any dispute over parking or money where Thai people abandon their normally placid character and become surprisingly aggressive.
Learning about Thailand can be fun and shouldn’t stop here. If you’d like to learn more about Thailand Etiquette check out our friends over @ SonAsia Holiday for a more in-depth look at the Do’s and Don’ts While Visiting Thailand.
If you’re interested in learning more about Traveling Around Thailand or Thailand’s World-Renowned Nightlife, please check out our Travel Guides here.