Thailand is popularly known as the land of smiles. The tropical beaches, street food and sacred temples are no wonder the country is experiencing a tourism boom. The Tourism Authority of Thailand has made an announcement that the country had received 32.59 million foreign visitors in the year 2016. In a country with such rich cultural heritage, it is important to know what to look out for so you’re not the ignorant tourist!
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Thai King and Royal Family
Do not point your fingers at any portraits, photos and sculptures of the Thai King and the Royal Family. The king is highly revered and beloved; he is widely regarded as semi-divine.
Do not speak ill or comment negatively on the King and the royal family. It can get you jailed under Thailand’s lese-majeste laws… for a long time. Sentences are severe. In 2015, a man from Thailand was sentenced to 30 years in prison for insulting the King on Facebook.
The head is a sacred part of the body for a Thai. Do not fiddle with a local’s hair or touch their head which is a very common mistake. Some adults cannot help but go “OMG so cuuuute” at kids and start rubbing the child’s head.
Feet is considered as a dirty part of the body. Do not point your feet or soles at anyone.
Remove your shoes before entering any temple.
Monks are to be treated with the greatest respect.
Do not cross your feet when sitting on the chair and the ground alike in front of a Monk.
Monks cannot receive gifts or be touched by a lady. If a woman has to present the monk with a gift, she will have to hand it to a male counterpart to pass it to the Monk.
Do not wear revealing clothing in Temples.
No misbehaving in the temples (this is common sense).
Recreation – Nightlife and Shopping
At Thai bars, always check if they are licensed to play Thai Songs in the bar if a Jukebox is available.
Do not lose your temper in public; the Thais consider it rude.
Public display of affection (PDA) is seen as embarrassing. Avoid kissing your partner in public.
During our research, 2 pointers caught our eyes: Firstly, do not accept help from someone offering to bring you to your destination, look for the public taxi counter. Tuk Tuks has been known to “chop carrot heads”, which means they charge exorbitant prices. Take a look at the review on Tuk Tuks in Thailand on popular travel application TripAdvisor here. Also, only buy Gemstones from reputable shops and not one recommended by your Tuk Tuk driver.
Wai is a common form of greeting. To do a Wai, cup both hands, your hands should be in contact somewhere between your chest and forehead. Then lower your head.
Gifts during a meet-up are not expected but are appreciated. Gifts will not be opened in your presence.
Gold or Yellow coloured wrapping paper is ideal for a gift.
You may eat as soon as you are served. The Thais will typically serve their food in banquet style. All dishes will arrive together to ensure everyone can start eating.
By leaving food on your plate, you are indicating you are already full. In contrast, if your plate is empty, it is an indication that you are still hungry and would like a second serving.
Do not take a second serving until you’re asked to.
Leave food but finish up your rice. Rice is considered sacred in Thailand.
We hope you enjoyed our bite-sized guide on etiquettes in Thailand. We hope this has kept you well informed for your next holiday! Like our page to be kept updated on our next article in this series!
Last updated on November 11th, 2019.