Thai Culture

 The land of smiles that captivates and inspires!

Thai Culture

 The land of smiles that captivates and inspires!

Religion

Theravada Buddhism is the main religion in Thailand drawing influence from Hinduism and animism. More than 94% of the Thai population identify as beliefs in Theravada Buddhism, with around 4,5% following Islam predominantly in the southern provinces and less than 1% are Christian.

Language

The official language of Thailand is Thai, which is taught at schools and spoken throughout the country. Different dialects of Thai exist in the far south and Northern Thai provinces. The language is written using the Thai alphabet, which has evolved from the Khmer alphabet.

English is now a compulsory school subject in Thailand, but in the rural areas it is still spoken by very few, this is why foreign teachers are in demand in Thailand.

General Thai Etiquette

Greeting

The most polite and respectful way to greet Thai people is with the wai – a sign of respect and reverence. A younger person generally presses their hands together and bows their head to touch their fingertips, the greeting is accompanied by the words “sawadee khrap for men and sawadee kha for females, before the elder responds

Elders

Elders and ancestors are highly respected in Thai culture, the Thai custom dictates that elders have a strong influence over family and older siblings are required to look after younger ones.

Teachers

Teachers are highly respected in Thai culture. Every year there is an annual Wat Kru ceremony in Thai schools whereby the students pay respect to their teachers by presenting them with flowers and going down onto the floor to do a krab, which is the most respectful way to show respect. The students hope to gain merit and good fortune for the coming year.

What is considered respectful:

Returning a wai:
To not return a wai is considered impolite; only the king and monks do not have to return wais.

Removing your shoes:
Removing your shoes before entering a temple or visiting someone’s home is essential. Some businesses, restaurants, and shops also ask that you remove your shoes. If unsure, just look to see if there is a pile of shoes at the entrance, or check to see if the staff are wearing shoes.
Showing respect to monks and the elderly
You will encounter many monks and it is of utmost importance to treat them with respect. When greeting a monk, monks receive a higher wai than ordinary people; monks do not have to return your gesture. Women should never touch a monk, brush a monk’s robes, or hand something to a monk. Monks should be allowed to eat first at ceremonies and gatherings. Monks in Thailand are commonplace — you’ll sometimes see them using smartphones and in internet cafes!
Smiling
The “Thai smile” is famous, essential to Thailand etiquette, and Thais show it whenever they can. Always return someone’s smile. Smiles are used during negotiation, ​in apology, to relax whenever something goes not as planned, and just in everyday life.

What is considered disrespectful:

Touching a person’s head and pointing with your feet:
It is important to never touch a Thai person’s head (as this is the most sacred part of your body) or point with your feet.
Pointing with your finger
If you must call or grab attention of a person, do so by lifting your chin in their direction. When motioning for someone to come over, don’t use fingers pointed upward; make a patting motion with your fingers straight and palm toward the ground. Pointing at inanimate objects and animals is usually acceptable, but it’s more polite to point with your entire hand rather than a single finger.
Displaying strong emotions
Shouting, blowing your top, or displaying strong emotions is generally frowned upon in Thailand. Keep your cool even when things go wrong; you’ll be respected for doing so. Don’t lament that bus breakdown. Instead, laugh and say “mai pen rai.”
Throwing things
Tossing an object or money in someone’s direction is rude. Take time to hand things to people properly, face up, preferably with your right hand. Unfold money when paying someone.

Thailand Temple Etiquette

Visiting temples in Thailand is a must for every trip, however, make sure you are familiar with the temple etiquette:

  • Do not touch a monk if you are a woman
  • Dress modestly and respectfully (cover your shoulders and knees)
  • Be quiet
  • Put your phone on silent when in a temple
  • Do not step on the raised threshold when entering a temple.