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CULTURE

Thai culture is incredibly warm and welcoming; Thai people are both open to other people’s religious and political beliefs and very proud of their own culture.

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HINTS

  1. Thai culture is incredibly warm and welcoming; Thai people are both open to other people’s religious and political beliefs and very proud of their own culture.
  2. Thais will not show overt displeasure at someone violating these Thailand cultural norms.
  3. People have a deep, traditional reverence for the royal family, and visitors should be careful to show respect for the King, the Queen and the royal family, as well as any image of royal family members.
  4. It is unacceptable to speak ill of the royal family and it is required by both the standards of Thai culture as well as Thai law to stand in honour of the King prior to movie screenings and other public events.
  5. Visitors should dress neatly in all religious shrines.
  6. Thais don’t normally shake hands when they greet one another, but instead press their palms together in a prayer-like gesture called a wai. Generally, a younger person or person of lesser social status wais an elder or more senior person, who then returns the gesture.

Thai culture

Thai culture is incredibly warm and welcoming; Thai people are both open to other people’s religious and political beliefs and very proud of their own culture.  However, while sensitive to the behaviour of others, Thai people follow some cultural practices that can be awkward for some visitors.  Typically, Thais will not show overt displeasure at someone violating these Thailand cultural norms.  Such behaviour is actually an important aspect of Thai culture: Thais do not get visibly upset at others!  That said, it’s better to be aware of these aspects of Thai culture and behave accordingly.

The Monarchy

In Thai culture, people have a deep, traditional reverence for the royal family, and visitors should be careful to show respect for the King, the Queen and the royal family, as well as any image of royal family members.  It is unacceptable to speak ill of the royal family and it is required by both the standards of Thai culture as well as Thai law to stand in honour of the King prior to movie screenings and other public events.

Religion

Visitors should dress neatly in all religious shrines. They should never enter a temple topless, or in shorts, sleeveless shirts, or other unsuitable attire.  It is acceptable to wear shoes when walking around the compound of a Buddhist temple, but not inside the chapel where the principal Buddha image is kept.

Each Buddha image, large or small, ruined or not, is regarded as a sacred object.  Never climb onto one to take a photograph nor do anything which might indicate a lack of respect.  Buddhist monks are forbidden to touch or be touched by a woman, or to accept anything from the hand of one.  If a woman has to give anything to a monk, she should first hand it to a man, who can then present it to the monk or she should place it on the ground or table within reach of a monk.  Monks are similarly not allowed to sit next to women on public transportation, so women should be courteous and not occupy an empty seat next to a monk and cause him to stand.

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Social Norms of Thailand Culture

Thais don’t normally shake hands when they greet one another, but instead press their palms together in a prayer-like gesture called a wai. Generally, a younger person or person of lesser social status wais an elder or more senior person, who then returns the gesture.

Thais regard the head as the highest part of the body and the feet as the lowest, both literally and figuratively.  Therefore, avoid touching people on the head and try not to point your feet at people or an object.  It is considered very rude.  Shoes should be removed when entering a private Thai home and some places of business.

Overt public displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon, much as public displays of anger are.

DOS & DON’TS

  1. Do not raise your voice. Thais are very sensitive to confrontation and to voice levels. They speak softly, and disagreements are settled amicably in low tones. If something has gone wrong, complain in a normal tone and speak slowly. In the United States and Europe, we raise our voices often and easily get upset. Try to control that inclination while visiting Thailand. Loud complaints will embarrass everyone, and you won’t get the results you want.
  2. If you need help, seek out teenagers wearing nice school uniforms. They tend to speak the most English, and are happy to help you. Even a group of six or eight in the subway (a sight that would be frightening in New York), is fine to approach in Bangkok. Politeness toward adults is still required here. Do not ask police for help. They don’t understand English, and will likely just cause more trouble for you. There is a number for tourist emergencies, 1155, which is like our 911, but it’s intended for serious emergencies only (not for directions).
  3. Do not hesitate to get health care. Thailand has some of the best hospitals in the world, including Bumrungrad, Samitivej and BNH. If you feel ill or have suspicions of an ailment setting in, do not wait to go back home for health care. You’ll get premium service, especially in Bangkok, Phuket and the other larger cities
  4. Do take a phrase book with Thai script. An “I speak English” sign on the door of a taxi doesn’t always mean that’s true. In many cases they are stuck randomly on taxi doors, and have no real bearing on that day’s driver. Do not complain when the taxi drivers don’t understand English. It is their country, and they have no obligation to learn the most confusing language in the world (English). Just do your best to get where you’re going, and don’t get frustrated. Choose a phrase book with Thai writing, as no Thai can read a “transliteration” that was fabricated for westerners.
  5. Try the street food. You won’t get sick, unless it’s from all the travelling. Most street good, i.e. food sold at the quaint stands on the streets, is grilled and sautéed to the hilt. No germs could survive that kind of open-fire grilling. It’s delicious to most people, so at least try it.
  6. Do smile. Europeans and Americans smile less than anyone. We frown when we’re tired or confused. This can be interpreted as anger in the Land of Smiles. Thais smile a lot, and greet each other warmly. You might be confused about directions, and you don’t even realize you’re frowning. Try to be aware of it, and cast a warm smile more often while in Thailand. If you approach someone for help or directions while frowning, they might be afraid of you. Smile openly with your map in hand, and you’ll get plenty of help.
  7. Respect their religious statues. Do not let your kids climb all over a spirit house or a Buddha statue. You wouldn’t want visitors coming into your neighbourhood and treating your religion like a carnival ride.
  8. Use the Sky-train, subway and boats. Do not rely solely on taxis. Bangkok has a plethora of transportation modes, and most are easy to use. While the bus system will be too complex for a tourist, you can easily use the sky-train and subway. There is also a system of boats that cross the city.
  9. Be Patient. Sitting in traffic is a commonality in congested Bangkok. Misunderstandings with language are also commonplace. Be patient, and you’ll enjoy the trip more

 

 

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