When visiting any country, it is important to respect the people and their customs. Thailand is no exception, despite the fact that Thais are generally very tolerant and hospitable people. To avoid accidentally offending people you meet, you should be aware of a few simple guidelines. A smile will get you far, and most blunders from a foreigner will be tolerated as long as they do not involve the monarchy or religion.
The Royal Monarchy
The Thai people hold the monarchy, particularly the King of Thailand, in the highest regard. As a visitor, you are expected to show respect by standing for the Royal Anthem before seeing a movie. Coins and bank notes should not be stepped on because they bear an image of the King. It is extremely disrespectful to use the sole of your foot to catch a dropped coin. Derogatory remarks about the monarchy are not tolerated in any setting, and lese majesty is a serious offense.
When visiting a Buddhist temple in Thailand, it is critical to dress and act appropriately. You should not dress like you’re going to a beach. Shorts and sleeveless tops should not be worn, even if you are baking from the heat. Before entering any building containing a Buddha image, shoes should be removed. Women are not permitted to touch monks or to hand anything directly to a monk.
Any images of the Buddha should be treated with the same reverence. They are considered sacred objects, so do not clamber over one to take a photograph of it or point your feet towards it. Foreign visitors are welcome to visit mosques as long as there is no religious ceremony going on. You must, however, dress appropriately. Women, in particular, should avoid wearing revealing clothing. Before entering, you should remove your shoes, men should wear a hat, and women should cover their heads with a shawl or scarf.
Thais greet each other by pressing their palms together in a prayer-like gesture known as a ‘wai.’ The younger person will wai the older person, who will then return it to the younger person. An adult, on the other hand, should not wai a child. Thais will appreciate it if you adopt this aspect of their culture while in Thailand.
Head and Feet
Thais consider the feet to be the lowest part of the body, both physically and spiritually, and are thus not to be used for anything other than walking. They should not be pointed at anyone or used to point at anything. In contrast, the head is the highest point on the body. Do not pat or touch the head of a child or another person without their express permission. When you combine the two, one of the worst things you can do in Thailand is to point your feet at someone’s head, even if it is unintentionally.
Before entering a Thai person’s home, remove your shoes. It is also customary to remove one’s shoes before entering some stores and offices. If there is a pile of shoes outside, it is a good indication that you must remove your shoes before entering.
Thailand is a beautiful country that has been known for its kindness and hospitality. But it also has strict customs about how one should behave when visiting the country. To avoid offending Thai people, you should be aware of some simple dos and don’ts in Phuket so as not to offend anyone while there!
Also read about: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Thai Culture