What is Thai Culture like?
Thai culture is vastly different from English culture and so before setting foot in Thailand you should find out about the essential ‘do and don’ts’ . Here are just a few, but the most important rules.
Do Smile: Thailand is known as the land of smiles. Thais do not necessarily smile about something like we do in the west. They smile for a variety of other reasons too. To say hello or thank you, to make a request, to apologize, to smooth over bad feelings or to show embarrassment.
Do show respect for the king: Thai people show great respect for their king and they expect visitors to do so too. The national anthem is played twice a day (typically at 8am and 6 pm) and also before every film at the cinema. Everyone is expected to stand whilst it is playing. You should never insult or joke about the king or royal family.
Do show respect for their main religion, for the Buddha, and for monks. Shorts or tank tops should not be worn in a temple, and shoes should be removed before entering. It is considered very improper for women to touch a monk.
Do not touch anyone on the head. The head is considered to be very sacred.
Do not point your feet at anyone or anything. This is quite hard for a westerner to follow as, without realising it, we do in some circumstances seem to use our feet quite a lot e.g closing or opening doors. I never realised how much I use my feet until I was made very conscious of it in Thailand.
Do not step over anyone instead walk around them.
What is so special about the way Thais wash their clothes?
Thai people wash the top of the body clothes separately from the bottom half i.e. shirts and jumpers go in one wash and shirts, underwear and trousers go in another. This is because, as Buddhists, they believe the lower part of the body is unclean whilst the top part is sacred. This is part of their religion.
A Buddhist Thai would also never take off or put on a skirt over their heads for the same reason.
The same rule applies when hanging out the washing on the line. Clothes from the lower part of the body are not placed next to or higher than clothes worn on the top part of the body.
The same rule applies to drying yourself after washing.
If you take a shower you should not use the same towel for the whole body, the correct way is to use one for the upper part (the head) and another for the lower parts.
‘A symbol of beauty is the whiteness’.
A sunbathed skin is not appreciated by Thai people because it is the symbol of the peasant, the poor person often working in the fields or on the streets. If one has a dark skin it means that he/she is working outside. Thais believe the paler you are, the higher you are in status. It is strange but true, as Westerners we look for the sun to get a sunbathed skin, where as Thai people try to escape from it.
It is quite common to see a Thai person with an umbrella when the sun is shining. Indeed, I have witness motorcyclists holding an umbrella in one hand whilst steering with the other!
Why is Thai culture changing?
Thai culture is changing with time because of the contact with Western civilisation. Although most Thais stick to their own culture, some are influenced by what they see on television and from tourists. It is therefore not uncommon to be greeted with a handshake rather than a ‘wai’ in the main cities and towns.