Most people who visit Thailand do so without being fully aware of the dos & must dos and the don’ts & ‘really don’t even think about it’s. Not knowing can sometimes act as a guard against your cultural faux pas, feigning ignorance can protect your pride, but it won’t erase the insult you have just stumbled upon. While saying this you may also miss out on the nice moments, you have inadvertently just shown great respect and have no idea you’ve done so. Don’t ruin your Thailand gap year or trip to Thailand’s Islands because of ignorance, use this short, do’s and don’ts article to get you through your trip.
Do take off your shoes –
When you’re in Thailand, traveling around, always remember to take your shoes off when entering almost anywhere. Apart from the actual shops/supermarkets that expect people to wear shoes, you should always remove your footwear. Be it houses, smaller shops, schools, temples, town halls or studios, on mats or in front of images of Buddha; if you don’t remove your shoes it can be seen as massively disrespectful.
Do remember to Wai –
When you’re speaking with local people in Thailand, upon greeting them, always try to remember to Wai. A ‘Wai’ is when you place your hands flat together, and raise them up to just in front of your face. This Wai is a sign of respect and is used when greeting and leaving someone, the higher the Wai, the more the respect.
Do attempt to speak some Thai –
The English language in Thailand is often widely known, in most areas of Thailand you will be able to find at least one person who can speak English. HOWEVER, and this is a big however, do not just assume everyone does, and more importantly do not get annoyed when no one does. Thai people are very proud of their heritage, including their language, so learning some Thai, just enough to get by, will go a long way when it comes to speaking. A couple phrases such as ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘thank you’, ‘can you speak English’ & ‘how much is that’ will massively help you out, as Thais will be more willing to help if they can see you have made some effort with their language.
Do try to keep calm –
Now depending on where you are traveling in Thailand, you may find yourself in a heated situation. You may have just insulted a local man, refused to pay for something because ‘no one told me I had to pay for this’ or simply be having a bad day, and all of a sudden you find yourself all pent up and about to start shouting. Remember this rule of thumb, do not get angry. When you get angry in Thai culture, you ‘lose face’, losing respect and any sense of control that you had, Thais will stop speaking with you and not reply to anything, or simply get angry themselves. The best thing to do, is take a breath, step back, try to explain again, or if all else fails, find an interpreter.
Don’t disrespect the Royal family, or politicians for that matter.
Thailand’s political structure is a complicated and sensitive subject. Thai people do not like opening speaking about the Royals or politicians, especially if a negative aspect is in question. In the cinemas they normally play a short honorary video about the King before the film, it is respectful to stand, if you do not, you won’t be chased by an angry mob or anything, but people may get offended and even ask you to stand. Remember this isn’t your country, and even if it isn’t you king a little bit of respect goes a long way. If you have any questions about what’s going on in Thailand, take to the internet or read a Thai newspaper, actual news is a good source of what’s what in Thailand.
Don’t abuse your visa
Thailand immigration department can be a fickle bunch at the best of times, but one aspect which they are strict about is not taking the mick when on an actual visa. Be it tourist, business or education, don’t over stay nor miss your reporting in. They enforce penalties such as 500 THB fines per day over stay, cancelation of visas, or in rare cases, imprisonment. You’re in their country so play by their rules, you wouldn’t expect any less back in your motherland.
Don’t take Buddha images out of Thailand/ abuse images
This one is a bit of an all-round images of Buddha advice. Buddha is sacred, across most of the eastern world he is considered to be one of the most holy deities, and so should be respected as such. Laws in Thailand forbid any images of Buddha to be taken out of Thailand, although you will be sold images and may get them through immigration with no issue, but it is still law. Also never stand on, break, damage or disrespect any images. You would think this is obvious but you would be surprised about how often these rules are flouted by unknowing tourists.
Don’t be publicly indecent
This one goes over the head of many of a gap year reveler. You’re on the beach, suns hot and perhaps you ladies feel like topless sunbathing, don’t… Or maybe you and your girlfriend/boyfriend are walking through the middle of town and get carried away with yourselves, embracing each other passionately, don’t… In fact Thailand, despite its reputation is a conservative country, and so should be treated as such. Thai society is rooted down with their traditions and ways of life, which include no public indecency. With younger, internet based generations on the rise Thai culture is becoming more accepting of it, but still, as previously mentioned, a little respect goes a long way, as does the reverse.
Thai culture is as interesting as it is ancient, the old customs very much still thrive in much of the country as new ways to live are absorbed into the current paradigm. It’s a fantastic country full of great, friendly people, and all you need to do is remember a couple dos and don’ts (just like with every country) and you will have an experience to remember for a lifetime.
Koh Samui Tutor & Vocational School – KSTVS. Interested in traveling to Thailand? Considering to learn Thai or apply for an education visa? Then please contact us at http://kstvs.com/contact-us/. Or if you’re on Koh Samui, drop in, we can be found at 11/8 Moo 1, Maenam, Koh Samui, Surat Thani, 84330, Thaiand. Want to speak to someone on the phone, no problem, call us on 077248228