The cultures of the East and West are undoubtedly very different, and both have a certain appeal. However, some things that would class as being “normal” in the West wouldn’t be acceptable in the East and vice versa, and this is what you will find in Thailand. Of course, there are some things that are just frowned upon anywhere in the world, such as not wearing a shirt in a bar or spitting on the floor. The problem in Thailand is often the locals don’t say if they are offended for fear of losing facing.
Losing face in Thailand is a massive embarrassment for anyone, so you should do all you can to try and avoid humiliating people in public. Showing too much emotion, losing your temper and being aggressive in public should all be avoided. Elders, especially parents, should be shown a great deal of respect with an individual’s position of authority, education and even what they are wearing playing a role in how people are accepted.
You will no doubt have seen Thai people Wai to each with they meet. It is the placing of the hands together and the slighting bowing of the head. The amount you bow your end will depend on the social ranking of the other person, the higher their ranking, the more you would bow your head. You should not Wai to someone who has a lower status than you such as a child and you would not expect a monk to Wai back.
Feet are important in Thai culture, and you should never point with them. It is also disrespectful to show the sole of your foot, place feet on a table or put your feet near or above someone else’s head.
The Thai National Anthem
The National Anthem is played every day at 8am and 6pm. You should stop what you are doing and observe the anthem; sometimes facing the Thai flag if it is being raised or lowered. The anthem is also played in cinemas before films.
The Basic Dos
- Always remove your shoes when entering someone’s home, a temple and sometimes a shop. Footwear should be left outside
- Men and women should dress respectfully at all times, which includes covering the shoulders and chest. For women, they should never wear skirts that are too short
- Always refer to someone as “Khun” when you first meet them. For example “Khun Mike” means “Mr Mike”
- Respecting the Thai Royal family is a must at all times. Never say anything derogatory, and the penalties are extremely harsh, including imprisonment.
The Basic Don’ts!
- Never touch another person’s face or head, especially if you don’t know them. Also never pass anything above someone’s head, even if it is by accident
- Never touch a monk, this is particularly relevant if you are female when even passing something to them is frowned upon
- Avoid being overly affectionate
- Always wear appropriate clothing for bathing and females should never go topless which is an offence in the Kingdom