As in many Asian countries, respect plays a big role in the education of Thai youth. From the moment they are born, Thai people are taught to respect their elders or people of a higher social status. The wai or Thai salutation is a perfect demonstration of this respect and how it applies in daily life in Thailand.
It is commonly accepted that Thai people use three different levels of wai; the first one is addressed to your equal in social status or age; with closed hands placed on the chest and the head slightly bent forward. The second level is addressed for people of a higher social standing or people older than you. The hands are placed in front of the mouth or under the nose. The final level is only used when greeting a monk or a member of the royal family with the hands placed on the forehead.
It is considered extremely rude not to reply to the wai. The only people allowed to choose whether to reply to the wai or not are monks or a member of the royal family.
Note: As a tourist you are still expected to practice the wai. Thai people will be keener to offer better prices and a smile when you show you respect their culture.
Some of these rules might seem trivial, but they are important and respected in all of Thailand.
10 things NOT TO DO in Thailand:
- Using your feet: Pointing with your feet or showing the sole of your feet is considered rude in Thailand. The body is regarded as a representation of enlightenment so, the head is the most sacred and the feet regarded as impure.
- Touching someone’s head: As the holiest part of the body it is rude to touch someone’s head, unless it’s a small child or you have known the person for a long time.
- Whistling at night: Thais have many superstitions and it is considered very bad to whistle at night. Thai people believe it will attract spirits.
- Looking dirty: Thai people pride themselves on cleanliness, so, here in Thailand looking or smelling dirty is not accepted and even a manual labourer is expected to look clean.
- Raising your voice: Thai people refuse to lose face and it is very inappropriate to raise your voice at someone. It is considered violent behavior and is not accepted.
- Making out: While kissing might be accepted in the west, Thailand is more reserved when it comes to demonstrating your affection for someone else.
- Taking your clothes off: Only wear bikinis on secluded beaches in Thailand. Buddhism is not keen on showing too much skin in the street. You are free to do it in the comfort of your own villa just not in public.
- Wearing your shoes: People wear flip-flops here for one good reason; you have to take them off all the time. All houses and a lot of stores will ask you to take your shoes to show respect to the building you are entering. You cannot wear shoes in temples as they are considered soiled and temples are sacred places.
- Hugging a monk: Do not hug a monk as they are considered holy people and have a higher social standing. Should you want to take a picture, make sure you ask them first and get permission.
- Thinking too much: Yes you read it right. This one might seem a little weird but in Thailand thinking too much is disregarded. A lot of Thai people adopt a mai bpen rai (don’t worry about it) and sabai sabai (easy and comfortable) approach to life. You might even get told several times not to plan in advance or to worry too much, that everything will be okay.
This list of rules was created in order for you to avoid any faux pas. Please be aware that Thai people are really keen on their traditions and we strongly advise that you respect their beliefs while on Koh Samui.
Should you have any other question regarding rules and traditions in Thailand do not hesitate to contact our concierge department at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 09 803 998 30 (local number).