The number one priority of Thai people is to be polite and respectful to each other at all times. If you are a first-time visitor to Thailand, many of the customs and traditions may take some getting used to. And whilst Thai people are extremely broadminded, tolerant and forgiving of foreigners faux pas, below are a few simple tips to ensure you don’t offend and keep things humble.
- Don’t point your feet at anything, put them or your shoes up on a chair or a table or step over someone. Thai people believe that the feet are the dirtiest part of the body, so make sure to apologise if you accidentally step on someone else’s and always remove your shoes before entering temples or someone’s home.
- Don’t touch a Thai on the head. This is thought to be the most sacred part of the body, so don’t rub or touch a person here whether it is an adult or a child, even if intended as a friendly gesture.
- Don’t wear swimwear or skimpy clothing into temples or places of worship. Religion is extremely important to Thai people, be respectful and cover your legs and shoulders.
- The traditional greeting in Thailand is not a handshake, but a wai (pronounced why), done by placing your hands together in front your chin. Don’t be shy, your first time greeting with a wai may feel strage, though will be well received.
- Don’t be loud, aggressive or raise your voice. In Thailand this is seen as unacceptable behaviour and indicates a lack of self-control. If you, as a foreigner, display any of these behaviours, Thai people may smile or laugh. This is their attempt to diffuse the situation, not stir you up. It is very important to them that they do not ‘lose face’.
- Respect the King! Thai’s have a genuine deep love and admiration for him and it is a legal offence to show disrespect in any form.
- As well as the King, Monks should always be treated with the upmost respect. If you are on public transport whilst in Thailand, always offer your seat up to them. You can greet Monks with the traditional wai, though don’t expect them to return it. If you are a female, don’t touch or pass anything to one, ask a male to do it for you and move out of their way if passing.
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