If you read this here blog you already know I am a sucker for new cultures and Thailand is full of amazing culture. The moment you step foot in this country, you feel the presence of their culture and it is amazing to watch the people of Thailand embrace their way of life. What isn’t so exciting is to watch foreigners crawl all over the country with no respect for the Thai lifestyle. To avoid being one of those people and having me judging you from across the room, here are some important tips to make note of when heading to any city in Thailand:
While it may be okay to wear shorts that cover as much as your underwear back home, it’s not so widely accepted in countries like Thailand. I know it’s hotter than the sun’s surface in Southeast Asia, but that does not mean you get to ignore the culture within these countries. Be sure to wear summer clothing that still covers all of your bits when out and about. This is especially the case when visiting one of the many temples found in the country. It is forbidden to enter a temple with exposed shoulders and legs. Keep a sarong on you at all times and invest in those cheap Aladdin pants with the elephants on them…they are perfect for throwing over your shorts when touring the holy areas.
When greeted by the people in Thailand, you will notice that most people will place their hands together (in a prayer-like stance) and give you a slight bow with their head. This is a sign of respect and it should be returned as a sign of your respect for them. In terms of saying “hello,” men should greet with the saying “Sawatdee-krap” and women with “Sawatdee-kah.”
While many cultures across the World are more comfortable with public displays of affection, Thailand has some more specific rules when it comes to touching. There is a lot of emphasis placed on the head and feet of one’s body in Thai culture. The head is considered to be sanctified and it is downright rude to touch the head of another person. In contrast, the feet are considered ‘dirty’ and it is found disrespectful to point the foot in the direction of someone or to lift your foot up in the air. This is especially the case in a temple where it is encouraged to keep your feet tucked under you while sitting so that they are never pointed towards the Buddha (a big no-no). This is also why most Thai people take their shoes off when entering various locations and while it is not expected of foreigners to do the same, you will be required to do so when entering temples.
The people in Thailand are very religious which is why it is so important to do your research when it comes to respecting their culture before you arrive. Buddhism is the primary religion in Thailand which was exciting for me as I have always been fascinated by this religion. However, there were a lot of new things that I learned about the religion during my stay in the country. I was surprised to learn that it is greatly frowned upon to use the Buddha as decoration in the home and on the body (tattoo) in Thailand. In fact, we saw a lot of billboards and signs stating it was against the law. This shocked me as I am used to seeing lots of stunning Buddha tattoos here in the States. If you do have a tattoo of a Buddha on your body, be sure to cover it as much as possible, especially when in a temple.
During our stay in this amazing country, we quickly picked up on the importance of showing the upmost respect for the King of Thailand, even as a foreigner. This was especially the case during our stay as the people of Thailand are still mourning their former King who passed away last year. You will see a lot of tributes to the former King around all cities in Thailand and if you happen to visit the Grand Palace before the year anniversary of his passing, you will see a very long procession of locals visiting his remains which are currently being held in the main temple. Many of the local people we spoke with had high regard for the former King which was a nice change of pace for us as Americans since Aaron and I have personally not been so happy/fortunate with our own “leader.”