Many regard Thailand as the friendliest most welcoming country on earth – and for good reason, wherever one goes you’re sure to be greeted with a smile. However, it’s important to remember that Thailand is also a country steeped in history and culture – where traditions are held close to the heart. It’s perhaps because of this that many Thai customs have survived the generations and we believe that anyone visiting the country should be sure to respect the local people by knowing these 10 customs of Thailand.
The King & The Royal Family
Thailand’s constitutional monarchy is highly revered throughout the country – especially The King who has served for six decades and has his image emblazoned everywhere from posters plastered on the sides of buildings to photos in taxi dashboards. Always stand when the King’s anthem is played wherever you are – whether that be before a movie, at a concert, in a train station, or at a sports match. Don’t say anything negative about the King or the Royal family – use common sense, and if you do have an unfavourable notion regarding the royal family – then keep it to yourself and remember why you’re in Thailand – to have fun – or sanook!
Buddhism teaches that the head is the most valued part of the body and that the feet are the lowest, therefore touching someone’s head is seen to be highly offensive, as is pointing your feet at either a person or a religious object. Remember too that if you’re a woman, that it’s taboo to touch a monk or even pass things to him directly – however polite conversation is absolutely fine, and in towns like Chiang Mai you’ll always find intriguing monks who love to ask questions and answer them should you be the inquisitive type. Finally, though Thai people are generally quite excepting – public kissing and other signs of affection are frowned upon – though it’s not uncommon to see such things especially in the more built up areas of Bangkok and the south. Use your common sense – don’t overdo it and above all – be aware of your surroundings, and you should be just fine. On this note – sexual tolerance is much higher in Thailand than in many western countries – as such Thailand is exceptionally safe for GLBT travellers, and transsexuals (or krathoeys) are highly visible in mainstream society, from scantily clad teens to models and celebrities.
Dress Code Okay
So strictly speaking of course there is no dress code. However – one really should treat Thailand at the very least like they would their home country. Dress conservatively – don’t go to the mall in a vest – whether that means jeans and t-shirt or a suit – show a little respect. Of course the beach is a different story – look around- how are the locals dressed? Are they half-naked or covered up? Use your common sense. When it comes to temples and other religious places then this goes ten fold – always be sure to cover your knees and your shoulders, but equally – remember that shoes should be removed before entering homes and all places of worship.
Like most Buddhist countries the wai is an integral part of Thai etiquette. To perform a wai, one simply presses their palms together at chest or nose level and bows the head slightly – you’ll see it everywhere in Thailand so it shouldn’t be too difficult to pick up. The Wai denotes respect and indeed reverence when performed in front of an image of the Buddha and it can be used to add greater expression to a greeting, a goodbye or a thank you.
Haggling is a common part of shopping in the markets of Thailand – but don’t let yourself get too caught up in it. Smile and ask for the best price, if you don’t hear what you’d like, continue to smile and don’t be aggressive. Politely decline if you can’t come to an agreement. This may even win the deal for you.
The Thai Smile
That legendary smile isn’t just a smile – no, it’s ingrained in the culture. Make Thailand your excuse for showing off those great teeth and smile all day long – it’ll be appreciated by the locals and you’ll probably start liking it.
Most of the Thai peoples are Theravada Buddhists and despite buddhism’s teachings against material attachment, many Thais worship Buddha images and wear all kinds of amulets for protection. You’ll no doubt note that many buildings boast spirit houses or altars, where one can make offerings of food.
Food is a social event in Thailand – gather around the table with a group of friends or family, order up a huge selection of delicious Thai dishes and eat it all.
Carrying on from our last point – picnics are very popular at the weekend with Thai people and you’ll see them everywhere – whether you’re at the beach, around a sparkling lake or by the side of a rocky waterfall – the weekend is a time to lay back in your favourite spot with a picnic of your favourite food and have fun. Join in – trust us, you won’t regret it.
Mai Pen Rai
The Thai people have all but adopted the above phrase as their wonderful mantra. Mai Pen Rai or Never Mind is a verbal representation of the famous Thai philosophy of keeping cool under pressure, avoiding confrontation, not caring about trifle matters and being pleasingly laid back in stressful situations. We suggest you adopt it for the duration of your stay and perhaps see if you can take that attitude back home too.
‘if you want to learn more about magical Thailand read our previous blogs , here are the links for you.
–10 Great Thing To Experience in Chiang Mai
–10 Reasons to Visit Amazing Thailand
–Thailand Festivals- Happy New Year it’s Songkran
–Weather in Chiang Mai Thailand
–Exploring Thai Culture
–Buddhism in Thailand
–Famous Northern Thai Dishes
–Muay Thai The Art of Eight Limbs
-Exotic Fruits Of Thailand
Navigating all of these traditions and customs can be difficult for first time visitors to Thailand, but when you book a spot at our fitness bootcamp in Chiang Mai – we can help steer you through all of Thailand’s cultural delights – from your first wai to your first Thai dinner and to a whole new you at It’s My Fresh Start fitness holiday boot camp!.