Thailand, The land of smiles has always welcomed the tourists with its amazing climate, exotic white beaches, lush tropical forests and colourful cities. Along with this amazing landscape, local Thai culture is also equally welcoming.
Buddha statues in Doi Suthep Temple
When traveling in Thailand you’ll notice unique practices of greeting, showing respect, apologising or saying goodbye. As for saying goodbye Thai people don’t shake hands. Rather they use a special gesture which is also called ‘Wai’. There are several other cultural aspects of Thai culture and people that you can experience and here are few.
Everyday Etiquette: –
According to Thai people, your body language and behaviour creates the first impression. In Thai tradition, the head is the most valuable portion and the feet are the lowest part of your body. Therefore, raising your feet high over someone’s head or pointing it towards someone or something is considered rude in Thailand. Just like most southeast Asian cultures, taking off your shoes before entering a temple or a house is mandatory. You can easily check before entering a shop or a restaurant whether customers and staff are wearing shoes or not!
Cultural Tradition: –
Two of the most important Thai customs are the ‘Wai’ and respecting the King of Thailand. The Wai is a traditional greeting by Thai people that involves clenching your hands in front of your face and bowing slightly. It is impolite to not return a ‘Wai’ if someone welcomes you with one. You can show three different levels of admiration through the different positions of your hand. Positions of the hands will change for friends, elders and authority, Buddhist monks and Royalty.
In Thailand, the royal family is held in the highest respect and criticising them is strictly prohibited. Although Thai people are forgiving about foreign cultural errors, yet outwardly offending the royals can put you in a critical situation.
Temples Play an Important Role in Thai Everyday Life: –
Thailand’s religion has a significant cultural past, as seen by the numerous sacred places and temples dispersed around the nation. In Thailand, there are around 40,000 Buddhist temples and almost all of them are still active. People go to temples to pray for good health, wealth and fortune.Thai people take their children to the historical temples to teach them about their cultural history and Buddha. Temples are a preferred place for gathering during festivals and important family occasions. People generally attend temples to offer virtue and make wishes for themselves and their loved ones on Buddhist holidays and significant festivals such as Song Kran. In addition, locals visit the temple for family rituals like birthdays, weddings, and funerals. Temples are a venue where people may experience both happiness and sadness at the same time, which relates to the Buddha’s concept that everything in the world is uncertain , therefore people should live wisely and not be overly happy. You can visit some amazing temples like Wat Arun or Wat Pho
Monks in Thailand: –
Monks play a very important role in Thai culture. You can see almost 300,000 monks in Thailand’s streets every day. Serving as a monk is seen as an important aspect of a young Thai man’s growth, although only a few choose to do so. Most will return to society, acquire professions, and marry after serving a specified period (typically three months). Local Thais strongly believe in giving charity to Buddhist monks, especially in the form of food. Generally, the monks are quite friendly and you can chat with them in both Thai and English. In Chiang Mai, some temples offer monk chats with foreigners. But visitors are expected to be respectful and interact with a nice smile but shouldn’t touch the monks. Read more about Living like a monk: a walkthrough into the history of Thai monks
Festivals in Thailand are Grand: –
Festivals are extremely important to Thais. Socialising and enjoying the festivals together is a big part of their culture. Thailand has plenty of festivals every month. Some of them are traditional with spiritual and cultural significance such as Loy Krathong which started in the 13th century. Whereas they also invent new festivals almost every year to promote tourism and for ‘Sanuk’. These festivals celebrate the rich culture and heritage of Thailand. Every region has its own way to celebrate the festivals. So if you want to enjoy the true essence of Thai culture, you must enjoy at least some of their colourful festivals.
Dining Out: –
Most of us think that we must be a pro at eating with chopsticks if we want to go to a Thai restaurant. But that is a big NO here. Most Thai dishes are eaten with a fork and spoon. Chopsticks are mainly used in noodle or noodle-related dishes.
It is quite common in Thailand to bring a gift when you’re invited to someone’s house. It is considered good manners not to open the gift in front of everyone. The guests must remember that they should not wrap the gift with black, green or blue papers while visiting on a happy occasion. These colours generally represent misery. While at dinner, if the plates are empty, the host will consider that you are still hungry. Leaving a small portion will let your host know that you’re full.
Public Health and Service: –
Public service and infrastructure in Thailand are incredibly reliable and inexpensive. The Thai people themselves are quite health conscious. Expecting what would happen, the Royal Thai Government started a nationwide public communication campaign to provide all the information about what could be called COVID-19. Thailand has also undertaken a comprehensive effort to assist healthcare institutions and workers in strengthening their reaction to COVID-19, as well as to enhance the health care system – or “build back better” – once the pandemic has passed. For over 40 years Thailand has invested in their healthcare infrastructure which has totally been seen in their COVID-19 pandemic control. Thai people not only trusted their Government’s health care system but also they themselves took all the measures to prevent this tough situation. Undoubtedly Thailand has proved that in spite of all the anxiety and fear, any kind of outbreak can be prevented if the people themselves are conscious themselves.
Family is Important: –
According to Thai culture, family is a priority. Thai people care about their extended family just as much as they care about their parents. Thais like to refer to their cousins as siblings, thus there is no other term for them. They keep a close connection with their family in their hometown even if they move away from it. Children are frequently raised by their grandparents and assist them with home tasks.
Thai people take pride in their motherland. It is the only country in South-Eastern Asia that was never colonised by any European country. In Thailand, every day, the national anthem is aired twice and people do stand and wait until it finishes. The national flag can be seen in many places all over Thailand. Every day those are raised and lowered with the national anthem. In theatres, the King’s anthem always gets played before the movie. The love for the country is quite an impressive part of Thai culture.
Happiness is important: –
Thailand is ‘The Land of Smiles’ because Thai locals are always smiling. And each smile says a lot. Thailand is indeed a place of love, warmth and happiness. These smiles not only portray happiness, but make you feel welcomed too. Thai people are kind, hospitable and lovely which can be clearly seen by their pure smiles. Also, an important part of Thai personality is ‘Sanuk’ which means enjoying happiness or having fun. It is almost inevitable in the Thai way of life that whatever one is doing, it must be Sanuk.
Overall, Thai culture and customs like showing ‘Wai’, not pointing fingers or feet towards anyone clearly represent high values and positivity. The nature, the cities and the warmth of Thai people will leave you with a lifetime experience that would make you want to come back.