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Thailand Do’s and Don’ts
Written by Putri Gustilingga

Thailand Do’s and Don’ts

When travelling in Thailand, one of the first things you’ll notice is how hospitable and friendly Thai people are in welcoming outsiders to their country. However, there are some important cultural customs to bear in mind when visiting. If you’re not careful, seemingly innocuous actions can cause offense. To avoid making any cultural faux pas, follow this simple list of do’s and don’ts, covering the most common pitfalls in Thailand. As with all things in the Land of Smiles, a little bit of kindness and consideration goes a very long way.



Don’t:


1. Disrespect the monarchy

The people of Thailand truly love and respect their King. To many, he is like the father of the nation. Consequently, defamation of the King is taken very seriously - Thailand has some of the strictest lese majeste (meaning any offence that insults the royal family) laws in the world. These laws are applicable to both locals and tourists in Thailand. It’s not just spoken words that can land you in trouble; visitors are also advised to be careful over what they post on social media too - don’t create, like or comment on posts that might suggest negative statements or criticism about the monarchy.

Don’t:


1. Disrespect the monarchy

The people of Thailand truly love and respect their King. To many, he is like the father of the nation. Consequently, defamation of the King is taken very seriously - Thailand has some of the strictest lese majeste (meaning any offence that insults the royal family) laws in the world. These laws are applicable to both locals and tourists in Thailand. It’s not just spoken words that can land you in trouble; visitors are also advised to be careful over what they post on social media too - don’t create, like or comment on posts that might suggest negative statements or criticism about the monarchy.



2. Show the soles of your feet

In Thai Buddhism, the feet are considered the lowest and dirtiest part of the body. Don’t raise your feet higher than someone’s head or put your feet onto the desk or chair, as that would be considered very rude. Showing the bottom of your feet to someone in Thailand is tantamount to giving someone the middle finger elsewhere. Also, be careful to avoid pointing your feet at images of the Buddha.

2. Show the soles of your feet

In Thai Buddhism, the feet are considered the lowest and dirtiest part of the body. Don’t raise your feet higher than someone’s head or put your feet onto the desk or chair, as that would be considered very rude. Showing the bottom of your feet to someone in Thailand is tantamount to giving someone the middle finger elsewhere. Also, be careful to avoid pointing your feet at images of the Buddha.



3. Touch a Thai person’s head or ruffle their hair

While the feet are considered the lowest and dirtiest part of the body, the head is the highest and most sacred. To touch someone’s head is to defile or belittle them, so don’t do it (this can be particularly difficult for westerners, as ruffling a kid’s hair is a sign of affection; in Thailand, this innocent gesture can be easily misconstrued). Also, avoid stepping over someone who is sleeping on the ground if you encounter one.

3. Touch a Thai person’s head or ruffle their hair

While the feet are considered the lowest and dirtiest part of the body, the head is the highest and most sacred. To touch someone’s head is to defile or belittle them, so don’t do it (this can be particularly difficult for westerners, as ruffling a kid’s hair is a sign of affection; in Thailand, this innocent gesture can be easily misconstrued). Also, avoid stepping over someone who is sleeping on the ground if you encounter one.



4. Point with your finger

This is considered rude in many cultures, but especially in Thai culture. When you want to point at something, it is better to use your hand (palms up with your hand towards the object) rather than pointing with your finger.

4. Point with your finger

This is considered rude in many cultures, but especially in Thai culture. When you want to point at something, it is better to use your hand (palms up with your hand towards the object) rather than pointing with your finger.



5. Throw things

Tossing an object in someone's direction is also considered rude. Take your time to hand things to people properly, face up, preferably with your right hand. Also, it is better to unfold money when paying someone.

5. Throw things

Tossing an object in someone's direction is also considered rude. Take your time to hand things to people properly, face up, preferably with your right hand. Also, it is better to unfold money when paying someone.





Do:


1. Dress appropriately

You should always dress neatly and politely when visiting temples or royal palaces. Cover your knees and shoulders and wear clothes that are not too tight. This applies to both men and women.

Do:


1. Dress appropriately

You should always dress neatly and politely when visiting temples or royal palaces. Cover your knees and shoulders and wear clothes that are not too tight. This applies to both men and women.



2. Take off your shoes

Always take off your shoes when entering temples or when you visit someone’s home. Some shops also apply this rule, so be aware of it. If you’re unsure whether you should take your shoes off, the pile of footwear outside the door is your biggest clue.

2. Take off your shoes

Always take off your shoes when entering temples or when you visit someone’s home. Some shops also apply this rule, so be aware of it. If you’re unsure whether you should take your shoes off, the pile of footwear outside the door is your biggest clue.



3. Treat monks with the highest respect

Whenever you encounter a monk in Thailand, you should treat them with respect. Women should be careful when being near monks as they are not allowed to touch them. Give monks plenty of space to move around. When you pass a monk, it is suggested to lower your body.

3. Treat monks with the highest respect

Whenever you encounter a monk in Thailand, you should treat them with respect. Women should be careful when being near monks as they are not allowed to touch them. Give monks plenty of space to move around. When you pass a monk, it is suggested to lower your body.



4. Smile!

Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles. When someone smiles at you, don’t hesitate to return the gesture, as it is essential to Thai etiquette. When you’re at shops or restaurants, you’ll often receive a ‘Wai’ (Thailand’s traditional greeting shown by putting hands together and giving a bow or a nod). It is not obligatory to return the Wai from someone who provides you a service, but you can return it with a nice grateful smile.

4. Smile!

Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles. When someone smiles at you, don’t hesitate to return the gesture, as it is essential to Thai etiquette. When you’re at shops or restaurants, you’ll often receive a ‘Wai’ (Thailand’s traditional greeting shown by putting hands together and giving a bow or a nod). It is not obligatory to return the Wai from someone who provides you a service, but you can return it with a nice grateful smile.



5. Respect all Buddha images

Images of the Buddha are sacred and sacrilegious acts are punishable even if committed by foreign tourists. As long as you stay respectful, you are allowed to take pictures in front of Buddha images, unless there is a sign that states you shouldn’t.

5. Respect all Buddha images

Images of the Buddha are sacred and sacrilegious acts are punishable even if committed by foreign tourists. As long as you stay respectful, you are allowed to take pictures in front of Buddha images, unless there is a sign that states you shouldn’t.