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Mind Your Manners!

Thai Customs & Traditions

Thailand has started to develop in to a tourist centre in recent years, it is sometimes forgotten that amongst all the fast food joints, bars, restaurants and resorts, the Kingdom is an old Asian culture with traditional customs.

In truth, most visitors are unaware of local customs so we hope that these pointers will go some way to help you not make a complete arse of yourself!


The most obvious difference seen by visitors is the Thai greeting.

Whereas in the western world we shake hands as a symbol of respect and to show no aggressive intentions, the Thais use a palms together gesture known as a "wai". This is always used to greet someone who is your superior, in either age or social standing.

If a Thai "wais" you, don't feel shy, wai them back.

Most Thai people consider foreigners to be relatively ignorant of their traditions
but just by showing that you understand something as basic as their traditional greeting, will earn you a certain level of respect. You should note, it is not appropriate to wai a child, even if they wai you first.

Big John, Little John

Thai society places a lot of emphasis on age and encourages respect for the older generation. Older generation Thais are addressed as "Pii" before their name and the reverse of this is younger people being called "Nong". Foreigners are not generally addressed in these ways as Thais consider foreigners to be relatively...............

Toe Jam?

One very common sight is piles of shoes outside shops and other buildings. All Thais take off their footwear when entering a building and it is advisable to follow this rule. Restaurants, bars and hotels in the main centres don't really enforce this but if you head into the quieter towns and villages it will be seen as a sign of disrespect if you don't follow suit.

The King And I

The two main conversational points to avoid are religion and the Monarchy, particularly the offering negative views.

The Thais see their King Rama IX, as a figurehead and voice for the average person and any disparaging comments will guarantee you rough time from the locals.

The same applies to Buddhism. Thai people see their temple as the spiritual home and even the family house takes second place.

If you get the chance to visit a typical Thai house, you will notice that there is a small shrine somewhere so the family can pay homage to Buddha.

:: Article: King Rama IX 

A Little Bit Of Everything

Meal times are like a social event in Thailand. More often that not, when Thais greet each other, the first question asked is; "Ghin khao yang? - "Have you eaten rice today?"

The traditional way to eat Thai food is to have several dishes on the table and a ridiculous amount of rice.

Each person will have a bowl of rice and instead of just one set dish as we do in the west, Thais will take a little of everything.

Never put more than a couple of spoonfuls on your plate at one time. After you have finished that particular mouthful, er,..... get another one!

Thais don't really understand why westerners only eat one dish at a time. They consider foreigners to be................

Pink Elephants!

In the main tourist centres it is a common sight to see foreigners walking around in beachwear, i.e shorts, bikini tops etc. But if you head into towns and villages it is advisable to cover up. Shorts and sandals are OK, but showing too much flesh, particularly for women, is frowned upon.

When visiting a
temple, men should wear long trousers and preferably a long sleeved shirt. Women should be covered as much as possible. Let's be honest, pure white flesh with spots of bright red sunburn is not the most attractive sight in the world now is it?

Kiss This! (or not...)

Despite the fact that Thailand has a reputation for being a "sin centre", with numerous foreigners coming to the Kingdom to indulge in traditional Thai "nighttime activities" public displays of affection are an absolute no-no. For instance, a Thai girl will have a "boyfriend" for a couple of weeks while he is here, but just watch what happens if he tries to give her a kiss in public.

Although the locals are getting used to seeing western couples holding hands and showing affection, it still gives them a certain level of embarrassment. If you get the urge, take a cold shower!

Thai people are generally tolerant of visitors with their own customs, but in truth, Thais just consider foreigners......

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