It is not by accident that Thailand is often referred to as “the land of smiles.” The Thais are exceptionally friendly and helpful people, and getting along with them is easy – simply smile wide and laugh a lot. Being Buddhists, they are an amazingly tolerant people. Avoiding offensive behavior can generally be achieved through simple courtesy and common sense. A few taboos do exist, though, mostly with regard to the monarchy and Buddhism. Visitors should be particularly careful to behave respectfully at wats and in front of any Buddha image. Confrontation is also considered extremely rude, and Thais will bend over backward to avoid arguments of any sort. Losing your temper or shouting, whatever the situation, is seen as an embarrassing loss of face
The Thai greeting is known as the wai and consists of the palms being pressed together and lifted towards the chin. The wai evolved from an ancient greeting used to show that neither party was carrying weapons. The wai is layered with intricacies of class, gender, and age: each of these dictates a certain height at which the two hands must be held. The inferior party initiates the wai and holds it higher and for longer than the superior, who returns it according to his or her social standing. Non-Thais are not expected to be familiar with these complexities, and the easiest method is simply to mirror whatever greeting you receive. As a general rule of thumb, however, you should not wai children or workers such as waiters, waitresses, and street vendors Thais use first names to address people, even in formal situations. The polite form of address is the gender-neutral title Khun, followed by the first name or nickname. Every Thai person has a nickname, usually a one- or two-syllable name with a simple meaning, such as Moo (pig) or Koong (shrimp)
The head is considered a sacred part of the body by Thais. Never touch someone’s head, not even that of a child. The feet are seen as the low liest part of the body and to point your feet toward someone or rest them on a table is considered rude. When sitting on the floor, especially inside a temple, tuck your legs away behind you or to the side and try not to step over people sitting around you; allow them time to move out of your
The royal family is the most revered institution in Thailand. Criticizing or defaming it in any way can be considered lèsemajesté. Not only could this mean a jail sentence, but Thai people will nearly always be deeply offended. Coins, bills, and stamps bear the images of kings and therefore should not be treated lightly. Similarly, you cannot photograph certain sacred sights connected to royalty, such as the bot of Wat Phra Kaeo, which houses the highly revered Emerald Buddha image.
The royal anthem is played twice a day, at 8am and 6pm, at Skytrain stations and on the Metro. At these times it is polite to stop whatever you are doing and stand still. In theaters, the royal anthem is played before all performances. When it is playing the audience stands in silent respect to a portrait of the king on the screen. A different Thai folk tune is played on radio and TV on behalf of the National Council for Peace and Order.
The monkhood (sangha) is a respected institution that comes just below royalty in the social hierarchy. Most taboos in dealing with monks concern women: it is prohibited for a monk to touch a woman or for him to receive anything directly from her. Therefore, when traveling by public transportation, women should avoid sitting near or next to a monk. If she has to offer anything to a monk she should either use a middleman or place the item nearby for him to pick up. These rules are confined to monks and do not apply to nuns.
It is not forbidden for people to talk to monks – many are eager to try out their English. However, monks never return wais.
Etiquette at Wats
As in churches and other houses of worship, a certain decorum should be observed when entering the grounds of any wat. Temples are calm, quiet places, so try to avoid disturbing the peace. Dress should be clean, respectable, and unrevealing (strictly speaking, the upper arms and legs down to mid-calf should be covered). Shoes should be removed when entering any temple building. Step over, not on, the thresholds of wat buildings as Thais believe that one of the nine spirits that inhabit buildings lives in the threshold.
All Buddha images are sacred no matter how small, ruined, or neglected, and you must never sit with your feet pointing toward them.
Some areas of a temple may be off limits for women – there is usually a sign indicating such areas.
Because the Thais are a modest people, clothing should be kept respectable whether you are in the city or in the country. Women especially should take care not to wear revealing skirts, shorts, or skimpy tops. In formal settings and restaurants you will rarely see Thai women with bare should ers; sleeveless dresses or tops are considered too revealing for such situations. Topless sunbathing is frowned upon greatly – regardless of whether others are doing it – even in resorts dominated by Western tourists. Most Thais find the practice embarrassing and many of them find it offensive.
Bargaining is common throughout Thailand . Though everyone dev elops a personal technique – whether it involves smiling or remaining poker-faced – it is important not to get too tough or too mean. Likewise, be patient with receptionists, waitresses, and others whom you may deal with. In general, you should avoid raising your voice or becoming obviously irritable – Thais learn in childhood always to speak softly and avoid direct conflict. Foreigners who may be used to getting results if they show impatience are likely to find Thais ignoring them rather than.attempting to continue communicating with them.
Traditionally, tipping is not common practice in Thailand, though in Westernized establishments it is fast becoming so. Taxi drivers expect tips – as a rule you should round up the fare to the nearest ten baht. Porters, hairdressers, and barbers also often expect tips. A service charge of ten percent is common on up-scale restaurant and hotel bills, even if they also charge government tax
Smoking is prohibited in all public areas such as theaters, department stores, government buildings, and on all public transport systems. It is also banned in restaurants (except on terraces), nightclubs, and pubs. Fines for smoking in public places can be hefty, usually 2,000 baht