Thailand, a unique destination that amazes the travelers. A destination that everyone should consider visiting at least once! Beautiful beaches, leafy nature, smiling people and golden temples are probably among the very first things that come to your minds, when thinking of Thailand. Indeed its an other world! A different one in terms of way of living and mentality. Which means that in order to enjoy your journey you will have to adopt in everything that is new to you! That is actually the right thing to do, if you want to respect the visiting country, its people, its culture! Its like the ancient proverb that says “when in Rome do as the Romans do”. Therefore check the 10 etiquette rules for things not to do when visiting Thailand.
1. Avoid handshaking as a greeting.
Thai people have a special way they use as a greeting! The call it the wai! They never shake hands, as we usually do or say hi, or hello, or even goodbye. Instead they press their palms together, like we do when we pray and then they slowly lower their torso and head like when someone bows. Try to greet them like they do and you will see them smiling out of satisfaction and respect.
2. Respect the King and the royalty.
Thais love the royal family and especially their King Bhumibol Adulyadej, also known as King Rama ΙΧ. He is the longest-reigning monarch in the world and throughout the country his photos are everywhere. Avoid say anything bad for the king and try not show any kind of disrespect towards him or the royalty. Banknotes that have his image or everything that bears his name should be used cautiously. Stepping on a coin for instance offends Thai people.
3. Don’t touch a Thais head.
The head for the Thai people and the Buddhists is the most valued part of the body. Since it is placed on the highest part of the body, above the ground, the head is considered to be sacred. Thus don’t ever touch a person’s head and don’t rub a small, child’s hair, just as you would do because you think he/she is cute. In their culture is very offensive and you will become receiver of negative comments and even behavior. So try not to insult them.
4. Don’t show emotions of anger.
One thing that describes Thais is that they are among the happiest people in the world! They always smile and have a highly positive mentality. In your journey, no matter the difficulties you might face, try to be calm. Demonstrating emotions of anger and frustration won’t help you, neither deal with your problems, nor gain their respect. These negative emotions are considered a rude behavior, as someone is acting shamefully in front of other people and Thai people will avoid such a confrontation.
5. Don’t be impatient.
Life is beautiful and Thai people through their religion and philosophy have learned that. They have a phrase that sums up their way of life. They say “Mai pen rai” which means “never mind” or ”no worries” You have to understand that these people live a life with no stress, a life where the face problems and other unpleasant matters with fun and patience. Therefore try to act like them! Growing impatient about anything you simply can’t avoid or dodge will lead you to the emotions we described above with the known results. The rhythms of life in Thailand move slowwwwly.
6. Don’t touch religious features or artifacts.
Buddhism is the dominant religion in Thailand and about 95% of the people are Buddhists of the Theravada tradition. They are very religious and everywhere in the nation you will see temples and stupas. Furthermore they have small shrines and altars in their houses, where they place offerings like food or fruits and garlands made of flowers. Touching one of those offerings or any of the religious artifacts, like the statuettes of the Buddha, will offend them. You see some many of them are highly superstitious! Thus they believe that if someone touched them, will create unbalance in their lives and disruption to their prosperity.
7. Take off your shoes when in a temple or house.
Whenever entering a temple or visiting a house, always take off your shoes. Thais walk barefooted inside them and you also have too in order not to insult them. It shows great disrespect to enter a temple with your shoes on. Take them off before entering and place them outside of the house/temple where everyone leaves them. In some temples you can take them with you in plastic bags they give you at the entrance of the temple. Even flip flop are not allowed.
8. Wear long sleeves and pants when needed.
Try to be dressed properly when visiting a temple or religious site. Generally, mind having your shoulders and knees covered upon entering. That’s the basic rule! Polo shirts for men or scarfs for women are ideal for covering you shoulders, as for the lower part of your body, try to wear longer shorts if you can’t bear the high temperatures. In the palace and temple of the emerald Buddha the use of pants/trousers was mandatory when i visited the complex.
9. Don’t point your feet to a person or Buddha statue.
Remember before, when we said that the head is the most sacred part of the body? Well that’s not the same when it come to the feet. They are considered by the Buddhists the less valued part of the body, since they are closer to the ground. The ground is a cause of suffering for Buddhists and the feet, in their beliefs, symbolizes a connection with it. So when in your are in a temple sitting on the flour or among people on the ground, never point your feet at a Buddha statue or towards them. It a heavy insult and it show great disrespect.
10. Women must not touch Buddhist monks
The Buddhist monks live a humble life away of any kind of human flaws. It is forbidden to them to touch a woman as it is forbidden for women to touch them, even if they want to offer them food or gifts. Instead a woman should let the offering on the ground, so that the monk can take it from there. Alternatively she can give the present to a man in order to pass it to the monk.
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