Thailand Cultural Norms and Traditions

by isvolunteers on Monday, 13 May 2013


The King and Queen of Thailand © google images

Thailand is one of the most fascinating countries to visit on earth. Culturally there are many practices and beliefs that are very different to those from Western societies.  Here’s a few to whet your appetite to learn more, and to practice respectfully while you travel throughout Thailand.

• The Royal Family of Thailand is held in very high respect. Making derogatory remarks about any of the royal family is against the law. The penalty is 3 – 15 years’ imprisonment, depending on the severity.

• The traditional greeting is with two hands prayer-like palms together known as a wâi.  If a local gives a wâi to you, to be polite, it is nice to wâi back. A wâi, however, is always appreciated.  Watch this short video on how to give a wâi.

• Thai culture places certain spiritual importance to certain parts of the body. You should not point your feet at people, touch people with your feet, prop your feet up on seats or tables or step over people sitting on the ground. The head in contrast has a much higher importance. Avoid touching people on the head as this is considered very rude. You should also avoid sitting on pillows meant for head rests. In some rural areas, food is often served while seated on the ground. Stepping over food on the ground is another extremely rude gesture and will surely embarrass your Thai host.

Metreeya (May) Jaidee, ISV Thailand Tour Coordinator giving a wâi © Narelle Webber, ISV International Program Director

• Throughout all of Thailand, if you notice a pile of shoes at or near an entrance to a home, shop or guesthouse, you should remove your shoes before entry; it is considered rude not to do so.

• Books and other written materials are given special status over other secular objects. You shouldn’t slide books or documents across a table top nor place them on the ground. Use a chair or stand if one is available.

• Most of Thailand’s attractions are of cultural significance. Places like temples and palaces are highly respected by the locals for their religious values and there are certain customs and etiquette you need to respect when visiting these places such as; you are required to wear “polite dress” when visiting official buildings and palaces. This means no flip-flop, no shorts, no skirt above the knee for ladies, no sleeveless t-shirts.

Find these interesting? Thailand is full of culturally fascinating practices and things to learn about. Go ahead, learn as much as you can before you visit, and while there, ask questions and see how locals treat each other.

To learn more about ISV’s programs in Thailand visit our website.

For more pre-departure blog information please use the following link:

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