Thai Culture and Mannerisms
I bet once you have heard that, “When you are in Rome, do as Romans do.” This kind of proverb is so classic and it is still useful up to this present time because in different regions, there are different beliefs and etiquettes, so it is wise for you to learn how to behave in different situations in order to not upset the locals.
In Thailand, the norm and the culture are similar to other Asian countries that have Buddhism as their national religion. We look up to monks and senior citizens. When we meet an elder or a person who has a higher ranking in society we should pay respect to him or her by Wai or bowing.
Generally, foreigners know things they should do in Thailand, but not the things they shouldn’t do, in other words, the Don’ts. If you are a Westerner, it is acceptable to point to things with your fingers or feet, or even lay your feet on a table. In Thai society this is considered bad manners.
Seniority is a serious matter you should bear in mind. Don’t point, touch, play or even stand over an elders head in any case, especially monks, as Thai people believe that a person’s head is the highest position of their body and the center of moral spirit and knowledge, which is regarded as sacred. We only allow seniors to touch younger people’s heads in case of blessing, showing love, kindness or mercy. Monks can touch layman of any age’s head for the said circumstances except ladies as in Buddhism females are regarded as a cause of desires and passion that monks should avoid.
Moreover, pointing a finger directly at someone or pointing at things with your feet is the last thing you should do in Thailand. In Thai culture, it is regarded that well-mannered people point to things with his or her whole palm. Some new generations of Thais have accepted more the international culture so they sometimes point to things with their fingers but generally avoiding doing so when with a conservative person or a senior citizen. If you do so, these people might think you lack manners or in a Thai term, ไม่มีสัมบัติผู้ดี : Mâi Mee Sŏ’m-bùd Pûu+Dee = no + have + property/attribute + aristocrat/well-mannered person. Regarding feet pointing, you should not do this to anyone or anything because it is regarded as impolite, as well as laying your feet on the table.
There are more things you should know when staying in Thailand. I have come to the end of this article but one last thing I would like to say is, “When you are in Thailand, do as Thais do”
See you in the next episode!
Written by: Kruu Fon
Edited by: Thai Style Language