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A Guide to Thai Culture


- The national form of greeting is called a “wai” and the word used is “sawatdee

- A Wai is performed by placing your palms together and raising them towards your face.

- Students or a younger person should “wai” their lecturers or elders as appropriate. However, when you are with friends, you should just simply say, “sawatdee ka”, when a speaker is a female, or “sawatdee krub” when a speaker is a male.

The Head

- Thais consider the head the most honorable part of the body. So avoid touching a person’s head.

- If it is necessary to reach for something above someone’s head, say “excuse me” first.

The Feet

- It is impolite to use your foot for pointing at anything.

- Never move any object with your foot.

- Don’t step over someone if they are sitting on the floor.

 Do not put your feet up on tables / chairs etc. while working in the office or in public areas.


Respecting Elders

- Thais must show politeness and respect to their elders and those in authority.

- It is recommended that when you meet people of a higher status, you should address them politely. Remember to smile and “wai”.


Religious Objects

- Buddhism is the national religion of Thailand, so all Buddha images are regarded as sacred objects. Don’t do anything that will show disrespect to Buddhism.

- Showing disrespect to Buddhism or other religions is against the law.   


- Buddhist monks are forbidden from touching or being touched by a Female, or to accept anything from a female’s hands.

- A woman cannot sit next to a monk. Avoid getting too close to a monk also.


Showing Affection

- A boy and a girl holding hands is acceptable, but hugging and kissing in public is not.

- In Thailand, when people of the same sex hold hands, it can be just an act of friendship and does not mean that they are homosexual.


Siam Smile

- Thailand is known as “the land of smiles” because Thai people smile so much.

- Smiles have a variety of meanings in Thai society: to indicate amusement, to excuse oneself for a minor offence or mistake, to thank someone, to avoid comment, or to show embarrassment.  


Thai Smiles

- Smile when you greet people. If somebody smiles at you, just smile back.

- Thai hearts are more open when they are met with a smile of friendliness. 


The Monarchy

- Thais have a deep respect for the Royal Family, and they love their King and Queen.

- We need to show respect to the Royal family members also. So please don’t make any comments about the King, the Queen or any other Royal Family members when Thais are present.