Do's and Don'ts

Thais are charming, friendly people. They genuinely like visitors and appreciate others sharing their love of Thailand and all things Thai. The following are highlights on general Thai culture do’s and don’ts.

A smile in Thailand is used in many situations: to be friendly, to show amusement, to thank someone, to excuse oneself, to show embarrassment, to smooth over situations, to repair breeches in etiquette, and to overcome the language barrier.

You will find that smiling in these situations gets you a long way. So, if you ever notice a Thai person smiling “at you” remember they are not making fun. They are trying to smile with you. If you find yourself in this situation, simply smile right back. 

Showing Appreciation
There are many ways to say “thank you” in Thailand. You can simply smile and slightly bow your head, say Kab Khun Ka (for women) and Kab Khun Kop (for men), and of course, either can be accompanied by the traditional Thai Wai.

Doing the wai is easy. Just put your palms together with your fingertips pointing upward (like the western prayer position) and raise your hands to your face with fingertips just covering your nose.

You can use the wai to say thank you, hello, goodbye and generally show respect. You will find the wai is often met with a smile and a wai right back.

Thais are always pleased when foreigners or “furong” (pronounced “falong” with a long rolling L) pay respect to their culture. Incidentally, you may often hear the word “furong” while visiting Thailand. It is not an insult, just simply a Thai word for anyone not Thai.

Attracting Attention
To attract the attention, it is customary to use your hand to meet with your palm facing downwards. This avoids pointing your finger at the body, which is considered impolite.

Never clap or snap your fingers to call a person’s attention.

Showing Affection
Try to avoid from showing affection for your partner in public. This causes embarrassment. Times may be changing, especially in Bangkok, but it's best to be on the side of caution and be considerate of your host culture.

It's fun to bargain for souvenirs and goods with good humor, but remember to respect vendors. Extreme underbidding is seen as disrespectful. While bargaining is always expected and welcome, be reasonable when offering prices. A smile always goes a long way and calculators can help to bridge the language gap.

Entering a private home
It is customary to remove your shoes before entering a Thai home. It is considered disrespectful to bring dirt from the street into a clean home. There are usually shoes lined up next to the door or a rack on which you may place them. Some offer slippers, but to most, bare feet are welcome.

Never touch a Thai person’s head or hair. If you should do so accidentally, it's polite to apologize. The top of the head, inhabited by the khwan (spirit essence) is considered to be the most important part of the body, and the feet are the least important and dirtiest.

Therefore, keep your feet to yourself. While visitors are invited to enter homes barefoot, you should never rest them on a table or step over anybody or their food, nor should you ever point your feet directly at anyone.

Respecting Buddha
When visiting Thailand or a Buddhist Temple (otherwise known as a “Wat”), please treat all Buddha images with great respect. If taking a souvenir photo, you should never lean or climb on a Buddha, nor should you point your feet directly at one.

This is considered very rude and could be met with a verbal warning in a more formal setting such as the Buddhist Temple at The Royal Palace in Bangkok. Also always remember to remove your shoes before entering a temple.

Interacting with Monks
Women should never touch a Buddhist Monk or the robe he wears. If a woman needs to hand something to a monk, they can set it down for the monk to pick up or give it to a man to hand over. If a woman wants to give food to a monk (all of their food is donated either at the temple or on the street at meal times), they can place it in their bowl or on a piece a saffron cloth, which the monks keep handy for this purpose.

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Last Update This Page:Thursday, January 03/2019