If your next holiday includes immersing yourself in pristine beaches, quirky street food, temples and the culture of a faraway destination, then heading to Thailand is a step in the right direction.
But before you go, it’s worth noting Thai people are extremely proud of their heritage, and if you truly want to embrace the culture, it’s always a good idea to learn a little bit about their beliefs as a sign of respect. After all, the Thai way of life is something that’s been drawing holidaymakers in for years.
You’re sure to get a warm welcome in the ‘land of smiles’ and as long as you try and stick to a few simple do’s and don’ts, you’ll find yourself in one of the happiest places on earth.
1. DO remove your shoes
It wouldn’t be a trip to Thailand without visiting the grand temples, it’s a truly authentic way to experience the Thai lifestyle. Removing your shoes before entering is a must and can be considered hugely disrespectful if ignored.
Once inside you’ll find Thai people praying or paying their respects to Buddha. If you wish to join in and learn about their religion, it’s really important that your feet don’t point towards Buddha.
You’ll want to keep your feet tucked behind you and pointing away by simply kneeling, if you find this uncomfortable or not sure how to position yourself, there’ll be plenty of people around you can ask.
As well as taking your shoes off in places of worship, you may find this rule applies when visiting some shops or a Thai person’s home. Most places will have English signs asking you to keep your shoes outside, but just in case they don’t, take extra caution and ask before you enter.
2. DON’T touch anyone’s head
The head of a person is considered one of the most important parts of the body, according to the Buddhist culture it’s where the spirit resides.
It can be particularly hard to not accidently reach out and touch someone’s head or ruffle their hair, especially around children. But be cautious of the fact that it’s a massive no no here.
If you do happen to accidently touch someone’s head, just simply apologise, after all, Thai people are renowned for being very friendly and understanding.
3. DO treat Monks with the highest respect
It’s a huge honour to be in the presence of a monk, as they’re a strong symbol of the religion in Thailand. Immersing yourself around one of them will be a great way to learn about Buddhism.
But when meeting a monk, there are a few rules you should be cautious to abide. Monks can be nervous of holidaymakers, so try not to ask overly-personal questions.
Don’t ever pass anything to them directly, if you or they wish to give you anything, the item must be placed on the floor and collected that way. It’s even more important if you’re a woman, as it’s forbidden for monks to have physical contact with a female.
Women can’t sit next to a monk and take extra care that you don’t brush shoulders if you happen to walk past. That said, it’s a monk’s way of life is fascinating, so be sure to take full advantage if you get the chance.
4. DON’T whistle at night
To avoid attracting any unwanted evil spirits, it’s best to not whistle at night. Whistling is said to make Thai people uncomfortable and is believed to bring bad luck.
Ghost stories play a huge part in Thai culture and are feared by most. It’s a serious superstition in Thailand, with the police investigating ghostly going ons and monks purifying houses. So think twice before whistling a tune on your way to the shop, we wouldn’t want any spooky visitors turning up.
5. DO try and learn the Thai language
It makes sense to learn a few Thai phrases such as hello ‘sawatdee’, please ‘kor’, thank you ‘khop khun’, after all, you’re in their country so it’s only polite. You’ll find most can speak a little English but that depends on where you’re headed, it’s best to learn a word or two just in case.
If your pronunciation is causing more confusion, you’ll be pleased to know Thai people will usually take a smile as a sign of thankfulness. Alternatively you can learn the ‘wai’ greeting. This is where you bow your head, place your hands together in a prayer position, it’s the most common way of saying hello and will be much appreciated among the locals.
6. DON’T disrespect the royal family
The royal family in Thailand are hugely admired, and they have a deep feeling of love for their king. It’s important to embrace this when you visit, for example if you decide to catch a movie or head to a sporting event, everybody stands up before the event as a sign of respect.
You’ll even find people kneeling before portraits of the royal family or giving a wai, you should try and follow suit.
7. DO respect the Buddha symbol
The Buddha symbol is something hugely honoured by the Thai’s, you’ll find photos and statues all over the temples and throughout the streets. As tempting as it is to grab a quick selfie by the Buddha monuments, just be cautious not to climb all over this religious symbol.
As you walk through pretty stalls, you’ll come across beautiful art work and photos of Buddha. If you’re looking to take home some memorabilia, be sure to get permission so you don’t get stopped in the airport.
Once you’ve obtained an export permit, take home some of the gorgeous artwork or gifts for the family. After all, Buddha is known to bring peace and good luck – the perfect holiday present.
8. DON’T overdo the PDA
Honeymooners this one’s for you! There’s nothing wrong with public displays of affection, after all you’re on a romantic retreat to paradise. We just recommend being mindful when you’re around the locals or places of worship, as some may feel a little uncomfortable.
Thai people don’t often use a handshake, hug or kiss on the cheek as forms of greeting. So when you’re greeting the locals, try using the wai welcome that we mentioned above, they’ll be thankful for your efforts.
9. DO eat with a spoon
The best way and quite frankly the tastiest to get to know a country is through their food. Along with amazing Thai cuisine such as Khao Pat and Pat Thai, you’ll find the way they eat it is fascinating. There’s no strict eating etiquette, as meals time are associated as a social affair.
But if you really want to get into the swing of living life like a Thai, eat with a spoon. The spoon sits in the right hand and the fork in the left, the fork is only used to manipulate food. You won’t find a knife on your table, but your food will already be served in bite sizes.
Better yet, all your food is shared at the table, a great excuse to try all kinds of different taste-bud tingling dishes.
Now you’ve got our guide on hand to help, experience a whole new kind of reality with one of our dreamy escapes to Thailand.