along in Thailand
is justly celebrated for its tolerance and hospitality, and the average
tourist will have no difficulty in adjusting to local customs. All the
same, as when coming into any unfamiliar society, a visitor may find it
helpful to be aware of certain do’s and don’ts, and thus avoid making
accidental offence. Basically, most of these are simply a matter of common
sense and good manners not really all that different from the way one
would behave in one’s own country, but a few are special enough to be
Thai people have a deep traditional reverence for their Royal Family, and
a visitor should also be careful to show respect for the King, the Queen,
and the Royal Children. In a cinema, for example, a portrait of the King
is shown during the playing of the Royal Anthem, and the audience is
expected to stand. When attending some public event at which a member of
the Royal Family is present, the best guide as to know how to behave is
probably to watch the crowd and do what it does.
law has a number of special sections concerning religious offences, and
these cover not only Buddhism, the religion of the majority of the people,
but also any other faiths represented in the Kingdom. It is, for instance,
unlawful to commit any act, by any means whatsoever, to an object or a
place of religious worship of any community in a manner likely to insult
the religion. Similarly, ‘whoever causes any disturbance at an assembly
lawfully engaged in the performance of religious worship of religious
ceremonies’ is subject to punishment, as well as ‘whoever dresses or
uses a symbol showing that he is a monk or novice, holyman or clergyman of
any religion unlawfully in order to make another person believe he is such
less legal language, here are a few tips on what to do and what not to do
on a visit to a religious place:
neatly. Do not go topless, or in shorts, or other unsuitable attire. If
you look at the Thais around you, you will see the way they would prefer
you to be dressed which, in fact, is probably not very different from the
way you would dress in a similar place in your own country.
is all right to wear shoes while walking around the compound of a Buddhist
temple, but not inside the chapel where the principal Buddha image is
kept. Do not worry about dirt when you have to take them off: the floors
of such places are usually clean.
a Muslim mosque, men should wear hats and women should be well covered
with slacks or a long skirt, a long sleeved blouse buttoned to the neck,
and a scarf over the hair. All should remove their shoes before entering
the mosque and should not be present if there is religious gathering.
monks are forbidden to touch or to be touched by a woman, or to accept
anything from the hand of one. If a woman has to give anything to a monk
or novice, she first hands it to a man, who then presents it. In the case
of a woman who wants to present something with her hand, the monk or
novice will spread out a piece of saffron robe or handkerchief in front of
him, and the woman will lay down the material on the robe which is being
held at one end by the monk or novice.
Buddha images, large or small, ruined or not, are regarded as sacred
objects. Therefore, do not climb up on one to take a photograph, or
generally speaking, do anything that might show a lack of respect.
don’ts of Thai social behaviour are less clearly defined than these
concerning the monarchy or religion, especially in a city like Bangkok
where Western customs are better known and more widely accepted. However,
what is acceptable in Bangkok may not be in the countryside where the old
ways are still prevalent. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Thais do
not normally shake hands when they greet one another, but instead
press the palms together iin a prayer like gesture called a wai.
Generally, a younger person wais an elder, who returns it. Watch how
the Thais do it, and you will soon learn.
- It is
considered rude to point your foot at a person, so try to avoid doing
so when sitting opposite anyone, and following the conception that the
foot is a low limb; do not point your foot to show anything to anyone
but use your finger instead.
regard the head as the highest part of the body both literally and
figuratively. As a result, they do not approve of touching anyone on
that part of the body, even in a friendly gesture. Similarly, if you
watch Thais at a social gathering, you will notice that young people
go to considerable lengths to keep their heads lower than those of the
elder ones, to avoid giving the impression of ‘looking down’ on
them. This is not always possible, of course, but it is the effort
displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon. You may
see some very westernised young Thai couples holding hands, but that is
the extent of the displaying of affection in this polite society. ]
- Do not
be surprised if you are addressed by your first name instead of by
your last name. This is because Thais refer to one another in this
manner, usually with the title ‘Khun’ (Mr., Mrs., or Miss) in
front. Follow the customs of the country as far as possible, and you
will make more friends during your stay.