Whenever you visit a nation that is as culture-driven as Thailand, it’s your moral responsibility to know the kind of behaviour that is expected and accepted. But when in Thailand, how does one determine what is considered disrespectful and what is considered out-right rude?
Famously called “the land of smiles”, Thailand is a country filled with friendly, hospitable people. But, the Thai continue to observe some cultural practices that can be awkward for some visitors. So, on your next vacation to Thailand, follow these simple DOs and DON’Ts when in Thailand that will guide you through the local practices and help you save yourself from unknowingly offending any local traditions:
1) Do not touch someone’s head. The Thai consider the head to be the most sacred part of the human body where the soul resides. Only family members and monks are allowed this privilege.
2) When talking to someone, do not use your hands or put them in your pockets.
3) Do not point at anything or anyone with your foot. The Thai consider it the filthiest part of the body. Likewise, never pick of lift something using your feet.
1) Thailand may be famous for its vibrant party culture, but outside clubs and bars, the local culture takes the shape of strong conservatism. It is very important to dress modestly and maintain a prim demeanour. Public displays of affection are also frowned upon in Thailand.
2) Always return a ‘Wai’, it is a form of showing respect, apologies or gratitude in Thailand. A ‘Wai’ is performed by joining both your palms near your chest and bowing to the person in front of you. The higher your hands are, the greater the respect show.
3) Probably the most important Thai etiquette is to wear a smile. Always.
4) Always respect the Royal family. Never speak ill of them because the public considers that as a sign of rudeness and there are harsh Lèse majesté laws enforced in Thailand.
1) Always take off your footwear before entering a Thai residence.
2) Never step on the threshold of a Thai house. The Thai believe that a spirit resides in the threshold.
3) When invited over, it is considered polite to take along a gift (brandy, flowers, cakes, fruits etc.).
1) Respect a temple’s interiors. Religion has shaped Thailand’s culture, so you would be wise not to disrespect the Buddhist idols inside the temples. One way to ensure this is to take off your shoes before entering the place of worship.
2) Don’t touch, climb on top of or even sit next to a Buddha statue. Even if it’s to take a photograph, it’s considered very impolite.
3) Monks are highly respected in the Thai society. Never hand anything directly to a monk, and never cross your legs in front of them as these gestures are considered a sign of disrespect.
4) Dress conservatively. Both men and women, need to cover their shoulders and their knees.
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