Thailand is a great country to explore for many reasons. It can be done on a budget, it has places that are very tourist friendly and safe, and it is also a lot of people’s first chance in life to see an entirely new culture. It can be helpful to review the etiquette rules of Thailand before heading over, so you can avoid faux pas when visiting temples, greeting people, and conversations with locals.
Your visit will most likely include a trip to one of Thailand’s many temples, which is probably the most important place to review etiquette before going. It is important for men and women to cover their shoulders and knees and dress more modestly. Planning your outfit ahead is key or carrying around a shawl or wrap will do the trick. You’ll also be leaving your shoes outside, so don’t wear your most expensive pair.
Buddha and Images
Thailand is a Buddhist country, so you will see the image of the Buddha in many places. Never climb on a statue of the Buddha and never show disrespect (these actions can even cause you to be arrested). It’s technically illegal to buy an image of the Buddha and take it out of the country; you will see signs about this posted in the airport and your accommodation may remind you. It’s better to be careful and not risk getting in trouble, even if they sell images in gift shops.
The wai greeting is used by all Thai people to say hello and show respect. You put your hands together and placing them below your nose and slightly bow your head. Placing your hands at your forehead and then bowing is the highest level of respect and is reserved for temples only. The gesture is used for people your age and older and is accompanied with a smile.
From Your Head to Your Feet
There are a lot of “body rules” when in Thailand that knowing beforehand will help make you seem and feel respectful of the culture. Don’t touch someone’s head, as it’s the most sacred body part. On the oppositive end, don’t raise your feet so someone can see the bottoms, as feet are considered our dirtiest parts (this includes sitting cross-legged without shoes, try to be mindful of your feet!). Try to use your right hand as much as possible, especially when interacting with someone, as the left hand is considered dirty. Remember to not use your finger to point, it is considering extremely rude in Thailand!
You should be weary of talking politics no matter where you go in the world. Especially in Thailand, since it’s illegal to insult the royal family, and that applies to visitors as well and to all forms of communication and social media. Don’t engage in these types of negative conversations, the price you’ll pay is not worth it.
Exploring Thailand is an adventure of a lifetime, and understanding the cultural nuances make your trip even better. Be sure to review the tips above before you go and be sure to return every Thai smile that comes your way.