How to adapt to Thai culture
Visiting Thailand can, for some be a complete culture shock, especially for westerners who have never left Europe or America. Thai etiquette and culture has certain customs and etiquette that most will be unfamiliar with and have never experienced before. Before visiting any new country it’s always a good idea to check up on the countries customs to save embarrassment or worse offending the local residents while visiting the country.
Remember and following a few simple rules while traveling in Thailand will help you stand out from other tourists and hopefully earn you respect from locals which in turn will enhance your experience and could possibly open up new opportunities on your trip to Thailand.
Below you will find a list of simple do’s and dont’s to follow while in Thailand, do not be put off by this list, the majority of Thai’s are very easy going and will not be offended if you happen to forget to perform a wai or eat with a spoon.
Dont’s for Thailand
Don’t point your feet
Pointing your feet at someone is considered very rude in Thailand and should be avoided at all costs. The feet are considered as the lowest and dirtiest part of the body and the bottoms should never be pointed at anyone, especially at Buddhas. While sitting on the floor try and sit in a way that doesn’t bare the soles of your feet by tucking them beneath you and never rest them on anything such as a chair or table.
Don’t touch the head
While the feet are considered the dirtiest part of the human body the head is considered the most sacred part and should not be touched, even ruffling a child’s hair is offensive and shouldn’t be done.
Don’t offend HM the King
One thing you will notice when visiting Thailand is a number of photos and statues you will see of the king. The king of Thailand is the worlds oldest monarch and should never be disrespected including images and even the currency which has a picture of him on. Being openly disrespectful can land you in serious trouble and even in some cases prison.
As in most cultures pointing at someone is considered rude, especially in Thailand. Pointing at an object or animal is ok but try to use your whole hand to point rather than just a finger.
Don’t get mad
Things will go wrong while traveling through Thailand which will annoy and irritate you. Whether it’s your overnight bus breaking down, getting scammed or the non-stop harassment of market stall sellers and tuk-tuk driver, what ever happens don’t get mad and start shouting and showing strong emotions, this is frowned upon in Thailand and won’t go down well with locals. Instead, try and keep calm, smile and laugh it off, and move on.
Do’s for Thailand
Remove your shoes
Like many Asian cultures, you are required to remove your shoes before entering a temple or someone’s house. This can also extend to some restaurants and shops. If staff are not wearing shoes or there are a pile of shoes outside the entrance then this is a sure sign you will also need to remove your shoes. Quick tip – wearing flip flops or slip on shoes makes this process so much quicker and easier.
Use your right hand
Always use your right hand while eating, passing objects and when paying. The reason for this is because the left hand is considered dirty as in most Asian cultures it is used for toilet functions.
Return a Bow (Wai)
The wai is Thailand’s version on a bow. The hands are placed together like you are ready to pray in front of you and then you bow your head slightly. It’s considered rude not to return a Wai unless you are a monk or the king of Thailand.
You will encounter monks all over Thailand, sometimes in places you least expect. If you do happen to meet a monk always treat them with respect, perform a wait and remember if you are female you must not touch a monk.
Respect Buddha images and statues – Buddha is held in the highest regard and sacred, always respect Buddha where ever you come across an image or statue in public.
Use a spoon to eat
The correct way to eat the delicious Thai cuisine is with a spoon in your right hand. You can use a fork in your left hand to move the food onto the spoon but the fork should never go into the mouth.