Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

Recognizing Customs in Thailand

buddhaThailand is a popular destination for expats and visitors, complete with a low cost of living, delicious food and beautiful nature. Before entering Thailand, you should be aware of some respected customs.

One aspect of Thai culture that you must respect is the Royal Family. Thais highly regard their monarchs, so you can discuss politics, but do not criticize the family, and make sure to stand up during the National Anthem. Thais also have a high regard for religion, and Buddhist sites, symbols and wats (temples) are considered sacred. If you visit a wat, make sure to dress appropriately. Once inside, remove your shoes and keep your feet pointed to the back. Monks are not to touch women.

Thai society is hierarchical; wealth, age and education are largely considered. Generally, the lesser is supposed to listen to his or her superior, who then acts as a mentor. When in Thailand, you may be inquired about your age, income and marital status.

When eating, make sure to use the correct utensils for their intended use. Noodles are eaten with chopsticks, and rice dishes are eaten with forks and spoons. Food is usually served family style, with a bunch of dishes in the middle for everyone to share. Never take the last bite from one of the middle dishes. In restaurants, the oldest person will often take the bill for everyone.

Traditionally, Thais would greet each other with a prayer-like gesture and bow. Younger people and “inferiors” must do this first, and also keep their palms higher and head lower than the superior. However, in the business world today, Thais have adapted the Western handshake.

Patience is highly regarded in Thailand, so try not to lose your temper easily. Young children are taught not to cry, as it is not customary to show one’s hot-tempered emotions.

Some prices in Thailand are fixed and others are not. Prices are set in supermarkets and restaurants, but you will need to haggle when getting a taxi or shopping at an outdoor market. Tipping usually isn’t required.

In terms of your body, Thais consider the feet (and therefore the shoes) as the lowest part of the body, and they are meant to be dusty. Shoes are usually removed before entering a home or wat, and you often have to wear a different pair of socks upon entering. Try not to cross your feet when you sit in a chair. Pointing your foot at someone is bad etiquette.

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