Wat Po Buddha Bangkok Thailand

A Guide to Cultural Etiquette for Tourists Visiting Thailand

Cultural Etiquette for Tourists Visiting Thailand

Before visiting Thailand, tourists should be aware of some of the basic “dos and don’ts” of Thai culture. These mostly related to Thailand’s Buddhist traditions, the Thai peoples’ sense of fun and the importance of not losing face.

  • Dress appropriately when visiting a temple.  Your shoulders and knees will need to be covered. Remove hats and sunglasses.
  • Show respect for the Royal Family and for monks.  Women should not touch monks.
  • Offer and receive things (money, goods, food) with your right hand.
  • Eat with your spoon by pushing the food onto it with a fork.  Thai people don’t put forks into their mouths.
  • Smile a lot and show your sense of fun.  Thai people live by the concept of Sanuk meaning striving to achieve satisfaction and pleasure from whatever you do.  You should avoid getting visibly angry or upset.
  • Use the wai correctly. A Westerner should never wai first or when paying for a service.  (A wai is a gesture made by pressing the palms together, with fingers pointed up and gently nodding or bowing.)
  • Bargain for goods and services when no fixed price is displayed.  Smile while bargaining and keep the process fun.
  • Don’t touch anyone’s head for any reason. The head is the most sacred part of the body.
  • Don’t point at anyone with your finger.  If you have to make a hand gesture, do so with an open palm.
  • Don’t point your feet towards a person, religious image or picture of the Royal family.  If you’re sitting on the floor, sit with your feet tucked under your bottom and off to the side.  Don’t put your feet up on a table.
  • Don’t step over any part of another person.
  • Don’t walk into someone’s house with footwear on.
  • Don’t step on the door threshold.
  • Keep your beachwear on the beach.  Don’t walk around town or eat in a restaurant in your bathing suit, bikini or swimming shorts. Don’t sunbathe nude.
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