Thailand Customs and Traditions: How to Behave?
As any old Eastern country, Thailand has many customs and traditions. Some of them can seem strange to you, since we, Western people, are not used to such things; but if you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings with your actions, you should be extremely cautious in what you say and do. It would be even better to monitor the behavior of the Thai people and repeat their actions, especially if you’re not sure your own actions are correct.
If you’re going to visit Thailand for the first time, this article about Thailand customs and traditions can help you learn how you should behave there.
First of all, you should learn the Thai greeting, which is called “wai.” Press your palms together (as if you’re going to pray) and bow. But it’s not as easy as it can seem to be, since it’s very important to know where you should hold your pressed palms during the bow – their position reflects your social status and your attitude towards the person you’re going to greet: The higher you hold your hands, the lower you bow and the longer you remain bowed, the more respect you show towards the person.
You shouldn’t return “wai” to children and staff, so be careful, don’t bow just to anyone. By the way, “wai” isn’t just a way to greet people, it’s also a common way to thank or apologize. It would also be interesting for you to know that the Thai people don’t always greet each other with “wai.” Sometimes they just use the universal “Hello,” so it’s OK if you use that way to greet someone, too. Just don’t shake hands, they don’t like it.
For the Thai people the head is perhaps the most important part of the body, since they believe that the spirit that guards the human life is located there. So you should never, never try to touch the head of the Thai, even if you think it’s a friendly gesture. Don’t touch or stroke children’s heads, too – it’s considered to be a big insult. Don’t touch or pat on the shoulder of a Thai, too. And in general, try not to touch them at all.
Don’t sit in front of the Thai people with your legs crossed (as Buddha sits). It’s also considered to be very rude if you indicate a person or an object with your foot. Besides, try not to speak loudly or express anger openly. Speak softly and in a low voice, always remain calm and smile – and you’ll always be welcomed and respected.
Also be very respectful towards the Thai religion and the monarchy. The Thai people love their monarch and his family, so never speak of them disrespectfully or ironically. The private life of monarchs should never be discussed, too.
If you’re going to visit a Buddhist temple, you should be dressed appropriate (no shorts, no mini skirts, no thongs or sandals). If necessary, you’ll be given a special blanket to cover yourself though.
There is one more thing you should know about Thailand customs and traditions: It’s strictly forbidden to conduct photo or video shooting inside temples or near military installations. If you want to take a photo of a Thai, ask his/her permission first. And don’t forget to remove your shoes before entering the temple. Women shouldn’t touch the monks, take or give them anything, and if you’re a woman, you better remember this little “rule,” too.