Ready to embark on your dream vacation to Thailand? Whether you are visiting the busy lifestyle of Bangkok, going for an island escapade to Phuket and Koh Samui, or perhaps you choose to experience the laid-back mountain lifestyle of Chiang Mai, make your travel a little easier and smoother by familiarizing yourself with the basic dos and don’ts of Thai etiquette. Though Thais are very forgiving of foreign nationals’ ignorance on basic Thai etiquette, they highly appreciate those who make the effort to learn about their culture. Here are the dos and don’ts when traveling to the ‘The Land of Smiles’:
Do Remove Your Shoes When Entering a Home or Temple
It is common in many Asian countries for people to remove their shoes before entering a home or temple. In Thailand, many businesses, shops, and restaurants require their guests to remove their footwear. If you are unsure, take a look at an establishment’s entrance – if there is a pile of shoes, then you should remove yours. If there aren’t any guests yet, you can take a look at the staff to see if they have footwear on or not.
Do Return A Wai
The Wai is Thailand’s gesture – it is characterized by pressing the palms together in front of the chest, and making a subtle bow. When given a wai, you should return the gesture – only monks and the King do not return wais. When meeting children and those who are younger than you, do not initiate the wai, but wait for them to make the gesture. And never make the wai while holding something.
Do Respect Monks
Make the wai gesture to monks but don’t expect them to return it. For women, never touch a monk, which includes his robe, and do not give them anything. During ceremonies and gatherings, the monks always have to eat first.
Do Use Your Right Hand
Thais consider the left hand dirty since it is usually the hand used for functions in the toilet. When paying, handing things to someone, or making a handshake, always use your right hand.
Do Eat with a Spoon
Though Thais eat with a spoon and fork, only the spoon should be touched by the mouth. The fork held on the left hand are only used to place food on the spoon, or help to cut food. Chopsticks are used when eating noodles.
When asking for directions, you have to smile. When negotiating at a night market, smile when you haggle. When you order food at a restaurant, smile when you talk to the waiter. Always put a smile on your face in Thailand, as it is customary for people to smile no matter what they are doing.
Do Not Disrespect the King or the Thai Royal Family
The King of Thailand is the world’s oldest monarch and Thais love him deeply. They have utter respect and admiration for the monarchy, and openly disrespecting the King or the Royal family, can put you in jail and even lead to the death penalty.
Do Not Use Your Fingers to Point at Someone
Pointing your finger at someone is considered rude in many places of the world but it is seriously offensive in Thailand. When referring to a person, lift your chin in their direction instead. And when addressing someone to come to you, extend your fingers, place the palm down, and wave to the person. Pointing at animals or objects are fine.
Do Not Point Your Feet
Thais consider the feet as the dirtiest and lowest part of the body. Never use your feet to point at someone or something, and never point it over someone’s head. Do not put your feet on a table or chair as well. And when sitting on the floor, never cross your legs.
Do Not Touch Someone’s Head
While the Thais consider the feet as the dirtiest part of the body, they consider the head as the most sacred. As such, never touch someone’s head or hair and never ruffle the hair of a child.
Do Not Show Too Much Emotion
Always keep your cool in Thailand and never raise your voice. The Thais are gentle people and when they see someone being impatient or angry in public, they will feel embarrassed for you. Do not shout, do not cry, and do not show strong emotions in public. This also includes affection – it is not proper for couples to show public displays of affection in Thailand as compared to Western countries.
So there you have it, the major dos and don’ts when traveling to Thailand. Take this guide to heart and embark on your hassle-free tropical vacation in this majestic country in Asia.