Krabi Villa's Blog

5 important customs you should know before visiting Thailand

5 important customs you should know before visiting Thailand

It is very important when you are visiting another country to become acquainted with its customs and etiquette. It will help you to avoid offending the local people, help you fit in more easily, and invite good vibes by showing respect for the residents and their traditions.

How to exchange greetings

In Thailand, people greet each other by putting their palms together in a prayerful gesture at nose or chest level, while slightly bending their heads. The higher you hold your hands, the more respect you are showing. Called “the wai”, this gesture is interchangeably used for “hello”, “goodbye”, and “thank you”. It can also serve as an expression of apology or gratitude. If you are holding something in your hands, put it down so you can properly form the wai. Failure to return a wai is rude. The king of Thailand and religious monks are the only ones not expected to return the gesture. Acknowledging service providers such as waiters, bellhops, salespeople, and taxi drivers with a wai, can cause embarrassment and a loss of face.

How the body is perceived

Although there is no state-governed religion, the majority of Thais are Buddhists. In Buddhism, the most important part of the body is the head (where the soul resides) and the lowest part constitutes the feet (man’s attachment to the baser part of earth that causes human suffering). Therefore, it is highly improper to touch anyone’s head and it is offensive to point to anything with your feet, even if you don’t realize you are doing so. Because feet are considered dirty, shoes are always removed when entering a house or a temple. Some business establishments require that you remove your shoes before entering; however, if you are not sure whether to remove them, just check near the doorway. If there is a pile of shoes there, you’ll know what to do.

Always lead with your right hand

Bathroom facilities in Thailand frequently consist of squat toilets that either flush or have a ladle and a bucket of water nearby. The left hand takes care of the business at hand, so it is really in everyone’s best interest to use your right hand to take care of other types of business, such as paying for a bill or passing an object to someone. (Never dispose of toilet paper in the hole, as it will not disintegrate, even if it is a flush toilet. Instead, use the bins provided.)

Keep your cool

Thais believe in controlling one’s emotions. Anyone displaying negative emotions such as anger and impatience will immediately lose respect. Thais strive for serenity in their lives and may first laugh at such a display, in order to give you a chance to regain your cool. If you persist, you will be left alone to deal with your immature and uncouth behavior.

Remember to smile

Thailand is known as “The Land of Smiles” because Thais use the smile to deal with the vagaries of life. Thai people are very polite, especially to visitors and strangers. However, if you are observant, you will see that their smiles can mean many different things. Perhaps an apology is due, or there is a problem that can’t be fixed, or a person is feeling embarrassed or confused -- smiling is a way Thais express an emotion.  One smile you won’t have difficulty deciphering is the smile of true friendliness. Always return a smile coming your way. Not only is it proper etiquette, but you’ll ensure you are kindly perceived. By following these simple rules of etiquette in Thailand, you will earn the trust and respect of the people you meet, which will greatly add to the positive quality of your visit. Don’t worry if you make a mistake. Thais are tolerant and are used to dealing with foreigners. You will be quickly forgiven with a smile.

Posted Dec 18, 2014