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Thai Social Customs and Manners

Thailand is called the “Land of Smiles” for good reasons – hospitality, tolerance, friendliness and politeness. Once you arrive in Thailand, the first thing you will see is a “GENUINE” smile from most Thai people which you can’t find much in your own culture… Here, a smile can help you in many places.

The smile can mean anything in expression - Thais say “Hello” and smile, they say “Thank You” and smile… and they smile more while in a happy mood. That sounds normal in every culture but what’s more into Thai’s is Thai people really mean it when they say with a smile. Try to notice when you meet with one. Even they sometimes seem speechless in an awkward or bad situation, they only do smile. But this case may confuse Westerners, in the other hand, of being laughed at… so now we make it clear this smile as only a part of Thai social customs and manners.

Thais also make a Thai traditional greeting or a “wai” to show respects and care to each other, along with a smile, and all you need to do is just smile back to them. But don’t get it wrong about a “wai”, this is normally for the younger or children to the elderly or hotel and restaurant staffs to guests. Moreover, there are only some time when you do “wai” – when you meet (like you visit your parents at their house), when you receive things from the elderly, when it’s time to say goodbye and leave.

While showing politeness and friendliness in a Thai way with a smile and a “wai”, there are a few more rules that Thai hosts will appreciate and it is a MUST to keep in mind and better to follow.

  1. Remove your shoes before entering someone’s house. This rule is also for the temples - never enter a temple with shoes on. 
  2. Never put up your feet on a table as feet are the lowest part of a human. Neither should you point with your feet at anyone or anything.
  3. Never touch or pat the head of Thais as head is considered as the highest part of the body.
  4. Be prepared to share meals with separate dishes on a table. Never use your own spoons to take a piece, instead use serving spoons.
  5. Cool down your heart and try to smile back when you feel things go wrong. Never show that you get angry or lose your temper.

Get over these cultural shocks, keep cool and learn to live in a Thai way… and that will help you survive in Thailand. Believe me, these rules work about everywhere in this country.

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