Thai customs are going to be useful for many travelers, as Thailand has become one of the most popular destinations in recent years. Once the favorite haunt of backpackers and New Age travelers, Thailand is definitely now on the mainstream tourist trail. There are many delights awaiting visitors to this charming and fascinating Far East country and knowing some of the main Thai customs will certainly enhance any visit. Here they are:
Thailand is a land of beauty and rich culture with many interesting traditions and a strong society based upon respect and the Buddhist religion. When greeting, thanking or saying goodbye to someone, it is customary in Thai culture to perform The Wai which is a gesture where the flat palms of the hands should be pressed together as if in prayer and held at chest or nose level with a slight bow of the head. The Wai is one of the Thai customs that should be observed all over the country and is a sign of great respect as well as a greeting or thank you.
2. The Royal Family
The Royal family in Thailand is a cornerstone of Thai culture and is held in the highest respect. It is a huge mistake to make derogatory remarks about the King or any of the Royal family, even in jest. Pictures of the King adorn many locations and one of the Thai customs that should be observed is to stand when the King’s anthem is played before sporting events, films and other public events.
3. National Anthem
Twice daily the national anthem is played and no matter where residents are, they are required to stop and stand in respect of the national pride of Thailand. It is very important to observe one of the oldest Thai traditions.
4. Color Days
One of the charming Thai customs is that each day of the week represents a particular color in Thailand originating from pre-Buddhist Hindu Legends. It is common to see many people wearing yellow on Mondays as this celebrates the day on which the King was born. Other colors are associated with each day of the week, such as light blue on Fridays to celebrate the day on which the Queen was born.
5. Watch Those Feet!
Parts of the body hold great significance in the culture of Thailand – the head is seen as the most valued part of the body and it is a great insult to touch someone’s head. The feet are considered the lowest valued part of the body and lifting your feet or pointing them at people is regarded as very offensive. One of the essential Thai customs for visitors to observe is to remove shoes when entering people’s homes or any religious temples.
6. Dress Standards
Clothing should always be respectful and neat and being poorly groomed is considered disrespectful according to Thai custom. In religious areas it is essential to be covered up adequately, people wearing shorts, vest tops, miniskirts or short length skirts may be denied access to temples until they are dressed appropriately for the occasion.
7. Temper, Temper!
Anger is not tolerated in Thailand and should someone get angry they are often left to cool down. Not observing the Thai customs of decorum and showing a hot temper can lose companies business and earn the disgust of colleagues. Patience is practiced a great deal in Thailand and even when giving bad news or in a difficult situation a smile can often be seen on the face of those involved in the situation. In Thailand, a smile in a poor situation is considered to be showing kindness to the person suffering.
8. Dining Etiquette
During each meal, various utensils have their uses but it is good practice to find out which is appropriate for the food that is being eaten. For example, noodles should be eaten with chopsticks and when eating rice a spoon and fork should be used. Food in restaurants can often be served in the form of a large platter to be shared among a group of people and it is inappropriate to pile huge amounts of food onto a plate or to eat quickly. One of the traditions of Thailand is leaving a small amount of food on the plate at the end of a meal to show that enough has been eaten and this will stop any more food being put onto your plate.
Prices are fixed in places such as restaurants and supermarkets, but in places where no price is labeled, such as markets, and even when hiring a vehicle, it is best to bargain over the price and to remember that tipping is not a typical feature, nor expectation, of Thai culture.
When giving a gift in Thailand the gift should never be wrapped in green, black or blue wrapping paper as these are colors that are very much associated with funerals. Similarly, never give a gift of marigold or carnation flowers as these flowers are also reminiscent of funerals. If visiting someone’s home in Thailand, a gift is a pleasant gesture and while not expected it is certainly welcome. The best gifts according to the culture of Thailand are fine chocolates, appropriate flowers or fruit. It is also good protocol to step over the threshold to the home rather than on it, this is an old Thai custom that should be adhered to.
Knowing these Thai customs should make trips to this wonderful country even more satisfying and enjoyable. Are you familiar with any of these or maybe you have similar in your own culture?