Understanding Thai Culture

Understanding Thai Culture

Thai people are very tolerant, although they hold strong feelings about certain things, which, as visitors you need to be aware of. This is why understanding Thai culture can help you a great deal. It is important in Thailand to consider how the normal “things you might like to do” will affect others, especially when you are a “tourist” in a new land.

Take your shoes off

This is a must do for Thailand. If you do not comply it is extremely disrespectful. Take your shoes off before entering the following places, like the inside of a wat, someone’s home, before standing at the same level as the Buddha image, eating on a mat, entering a monk’s quarters, and before going into a temple. A good rule of thumb is that if there are shoes by the door or the entrance, you need to remove your shoes before you enter. It is important not to ignore this custom as the wearing of shoes indoors is considered very ill-mannered.

When entering a Thai person’s house, ALWAYS remove your shoes at the door, even if they say that it is OK not to.

The Feet

One of the strongest of these feelings is toward the cleanliness of feet and footwear. So it is important to know the following Thai standards –

NEVER put your feet up on anything, even when relaxing.

NEVER point your feet towards anyone or anything.

NEVER step over any object. If possible, move the object “with your hands” or walk around it.

Don’t point the bottom of your feet (bare) at anyone or anything sacred. This is also a very important rule. Specifically, by the culture, pointing a bare heel is very bad and extremely disrespectful. The bottoms of the bare feet are considered the most unholy part of the body.

And there is good cause also Thais accept the fact that bare feet are meant to be dirty.

Thais are very clean and shower sometimes more than three times a day, but the bottom of their feet are always dirty. Squatting toilets only affect the bottom of the feet. This is why the bottom of the feet is unholy so don’t point them at anyone (including pictures and or statues of the Buddha, famous monks, and the king).

Be warned, if you break this rule, even accidentally, Thai people will be disgusted with you. Normally the Thais are very forgiving and understanding but this one is very bad, although may seem silly to you.

Showing Respect

The Thai culture is strong with regard to the demonstration of respect toward authority figures, including parents, and anyone who is your senior.

Show respect for the King

The king of Thailand is very important to the Thai people. He is loved by the Thai people. If you ever drive by statues of the king in Bangkok you may see your taxi driver waiing in the car, out of respect to the king. Do show respect for the king! The Thai people will like you for it! Being disrespectful could land you in some deep trouble. The people here love their King and Queen. You will see their picture in every business and in every house. This is one understanding of Thai culture, that you make sure you “get”.

Your head should be below the head of the Buddha image

This is just a sign of respect.If you are tall you should kneel or sit so your head is not above that of the central Buddha image.

Just a cultural note!

Show respect to your elders

 

Wai

It is a Thai custom to wai when you meet people. Hugging and kissing is not appropriate, especially in public. The wai is the meeting of the hands under the chin, or higher, depending on status. You should give a higher wai to a monk, especially an older monk (up to the forehead), a higher wai to old people and your parents (if you’re Thai, which you’d know already). The Buddha deserves the highest wai, the only time one wais above the head. The wai under the chin is to an equal and is the most common. Farangs are normally forgiven if they make a mistake, so don’t worry.You do not return a wai to children, but a nod.

 

It is easy, entering a foreign culture for the first time, to make mistakes in etiquette. If you do so, just smile, wai the person you may have offended, and you are forgiven.When you consider that shaking hands, and kissing, are perhaps the easiest means of passing germs, the wai, is in fact a suitable greeting.

 

Clothing

Revealing clothing, worn by either men or women, is a little disgusting to most Thais. Shor t shorts, low cut dresses and T-shirts and skimpy bathing suits come into this category.

In temples especially, long trousers or skirts must be worn. Do not wear shorts and ladies please dress modestly if you are entering a temple. Most temples will have some suitable items available for hire, if you need them.

Other Do’s and Don’ts

Ladies, do not touch monks under any circumstances. If a monk enters a songtaow, please move to the opposite side. Just follow the others in the vehicle.

Don’t touch the top of children’s head

It is considered rude to touch the top of children’s heads. And for that matter the top of anyone’s head. The top of the head is considered to be one of the most holy parts of the body and cannot be to uched by others.

Do not kiss or hug your partner in public

Do show patience with Thai people who speak English

They are speaking a foreign language in their country. How many languages can you speak fluently?

Do tip even if he service is not up to your expectations

The wages here are very low and perhaps there was a misunderstanding that led to your not being completely satisfied with the service.Many people here work 7 days a week and 16 hours a day to support themselves and their families.

 

You can find some more information about Thai culture and eating etiquette right here.