Thailand Country Guide



Traditional Thai Greeting
The traditional greeting (known as "wai") where you press your hands together and bow slightly is widely practised in Thailand. Among Thais, there are strict rules of hierarchy that dictate how and when the "wai" should be conducted. As a general rule, the "inferior" salutes the "superior" first. You should not "wai" first to service people or street vendors and the higher your hands go, the more respectful you are. You will also often see Thais doing a "wai" as they walk past temples, spirit houses and monks.

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As a foreign visitor, you are not expected to know when to "wai" nor reciprocate with a "wai". While you're unlikely to cause offense if you do "wai" back, you may well look slightly strange. If somebody makes a "wai" to you, a slight bow alone is more than sufficient for ordinary occasions and for business, most Thais will shake hands with foreigners instead.
Thai "wai" by Suriya Donavanik

Good Manners
The head is considered as the holiest part of the body and the foot the dirtiest. Therefore, never touch a Thai on the head. If you accidentally touch someone's head, apologise immediately or you'll be perceived as rude. Similarly, do not touch others or point with your feet. If someone is sitting with outstretched legs, avoid stepping over them since this is considered rude. Squeeze or move around the person even if the person is sleeping as others may notice.

Thais consider it impolite and disrespectful to visibly sniff food before eating it, especially when invited to eat at someone's home. This is true even if the sniffing is done in appreciation of the well-prepared food. Thais also consider it rude behaviour to audibly blow your nose in public.

When sitting in a "wat" or temple, cross your legs "mermaid-style" so your feet do not point at any person or statue. Also, do not pose beside a Buddhist statue and certainly don't clamber on them. It's fine to take photos of statues but everyone should be facing it. Thais consider doorway thresholds as a sanctuary for spirits. Therefore do not to step on a raised threshold but step over it especially when visiting a temple.

Kuala Lumpur by Khalzuri

Expression of Emotion
In Thailand, expression of negative emotions such as anger or sadness is almost never overt and possible to enjoy a vacation in the country without ever seeing an argument or unhappy person. Thais smile constantly and to outsiders this is seen as happiness or friendliness. In reality, smiling is a subtle way to communicate and can indicate any emotion  such as fear, anger, sadness and joy. "Saving face" is a very important aspect of Thai culture and they will try to avoid embarrassment and confrontation.

National Anthem
In public places (such as large markets) the National Anthem is played over loudspeakers at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. When the anthem is played, everybody stop what they are doing and stand still, and you should do likewise. The Royal Anthem is played in cinemas before the film screening and everyone stands. It lasts about a minute, then everyone continue where they left off.

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