Thai Culture – Customs and Etiquette of Thailand

How you meet a new culture and its people are critical for what impressions and opinions you are left with after a visit. By learning a little about other cultures you arrive more prepared and more curious and it will be more exciting than “scary” to stumble into cultural situations.

Wai - saying hello in ThailandIt’s no different with Thai culture. The customs and etiquette of Thailand is in many ways different than what westerners are used to. Taking the time to learn a little about the culture of Thai people and a few phrases of Thai language will definitely make your holiday a more memorable and better experience.

Having said that, Thai people are very tolerant. They are quite used to “farangs” behaving inappropriately. They are much too polite to say anything, but that doesn’t mean they will not frown on clumsy tourists disrespecting their culture.

Here are some do’s and don’t’s when visiting Thailand:

Do

…be respectful to Buddhism. Always dress respectfully when entering temples. Wear long pants, shirts with sleeves etc.

…be respectful of the royal family. Thai’s have enormous respect for their King, in fact there are pictures of the royal family in nearly every home. Also beware that speaking badly of the royal family can land you in prison.

…be respectful to those older than you.

…take off your shoes when entering a temple or a Thai person’s home (and even in some shops).

Don’t

…point at things with your feet or the soles of your feet, especially people or Buddha images. This is considered most rude because the feet are the lowest part of the body both physically and spiritually.

…touch a Thai person’s head. The head is the highest part of the body both physically and spiritually.

…kiss or show too much affection in public. This is considered impolite in Thailand.

…shout or get too visibly angry in public. Saving face is very important for Thai people, even your face.

…buy or do drugs in Thailand. The penalties can be extremely severe.

…sunbathe nude (or topless for women) This is offensive to most Thai people although nobody is likely to say anything to you if you do so.

…purchase any products or souvenirs made from wild animals including reptiles like snakes, monitor lizards, and also turtle shell and ivory.

…partake in prostitution. Regardless of what you have heard about Thailand prostitution is illegal.