Cultural faux pas in Thailand


The standard greeting in Thailand is the wai (ไหว้), which involves bring the hands together in front of you with the fingers pointing upwards and bowing gently. How much you bow depends on you status relative to the person being greeted. You don’t usually use this greeting with children or employees in shops and bars though as doing so indicates that you are of lower status.

When you go into homes, temples and some shops in Thailand, make sure you take off your shoes. Not doing so is considered rude, as is showing the soles of your feet or shoes to other people or nudging people with your foot to get their attention.

Everyday at 8am and 6pm the Thai National Anthem is played on the TV and radio. At these times everyone in Thailand stops what they’re doing and stands to attention. By doing the same you will be showing respect, which will be appreciated.

Losing your temper in public is frowned on in Thailand, as is raising your voice or boasting about yourself or your country. It’s better to be polite, modest and respectful of others. Being kind and generous will also be appreciated. Make sure particularly that you show respect to monks, and never touch them or their robes, unless they invite you to do so.

When visiting temples, never walk in front of someone who is praying.

Thais tend to dress quite conservatively and visitors are expected to dress in a similar way. In business situations make sure that you are wearing smart, clean clothes in good condition.

Thais usually eat with a fork and spoon – the spoon in the right hand and the fork in the left hand. Noodles are often eaten with chopsticks, and sticky rice, which is popular in northern Thailand, is often eaten with the right hand. Meals are usually served as buffets or with the a number of communal dishes in the middle of the table. You can start eating as soon as you have been served, and leaving a little food, but not rice, on your plate shows you’re full. One thing to avoid is licking your fingers, which is considered uncooth.