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 behavior 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 behavior 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.
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 honor of the King prior to movie screenings and other public events.
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.
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.
- Beware of unauthorized people who offer their services as guides. For all tourist information, contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Tel: 1672. For information about Bangkok, contact the Bangkok Metropolitan Tourist Bureau, Tel :66(0)2-225 7612 to 4.
- Observe all normal precautions in regards to personal safety, as well as the safety of your belongings. Walking alone on quiet streets or deserted areas is not recommended. Be sure that all your valuables-money, jewelry, and airline tickets are properly protected from loss. Visitors needing assistance relating to safety, unethical practices, or other matters, please call the Tourist Police at Tel: 1155.
- Drop your garbage into a waste container. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration is beginning to strictly enforce the littering law in an effort to keep the city clean. The fine will be imposed on a person who spits, discards cigarette stubs, or drops rubbish in public areas.
- Do not get yourself involved with drugs. Penalties for drug offences are very severe in Thailand.
- Do not support any manner of wild animal abuse. Never purchase any products or souvenirs made from wild animals including snake or monitor lizard skin, turtle shells, and ivory. Avoid patronizing local restaurants that serve wild animal delicacies. It is against the law to slaughter wildlife for food in Thailand.