Behaviour Rules for Foreigners (Farangs) in Thailand, Reception, correct Manners & Hints for Holidays in Thailand. - Virtual Travel and Island Guide with all Information for Holidays & Travels to Thailand.
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Behaviour Rules for Farangs, Reception, Manners & Hints
(A correct "Wai" - the traditional welcome in Thailand)
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Behavioural rules for Farangs (western foreigners)

- Generals dealing with Thais

For us western visitors it is almost impossible to behave correctly in Thailand. But as Thais are extremely polite people and in addition know that for non-Thais it is very difficult to apply to their own behavioural rules against Farangs necessarily tolerance is applied. Many of our "mistakes” are forgiven but we should always take care on also in Thailand to keep with our western courtesy rules – by this almost all "put one’s foot in it” can be avoided. Should it however happen often a smile is enough to excuse the faux pas.
In all cases everything should be avoided that could make the opponent loosing his face. Thus nobody should be shown up in front of others or being criticised to hard. You eventually risk an act of revenge of the one shown up. Most notably against drunk this must be absolutely avoided – to provoke drunk Thai males by improper behaviour can be perilous!

- Reception in Thailand

As the manners of Thais among each other are only very difficult to understand for us Westerns we would like to insistently point out here that the Wai should be avoided when ever possible! (See also 'Thailand Information', ' ... the correct Wai ...'). Only against Thai monks it is applicable here it is used as described on page ' ... the correct Wai ...', but is not answered by the monks.
Apart from this applies: Who knows the "rules” can use it without putting oneself or the opponent in difficulties.
Generally the Wai is not expected from Farangs so that it is mostly indisposed. Particularly a Thai is forced to also answers with a Wai even though he was about to shake hands. Salutation with a smile and/or eventually shaking hands is perfectly enough.
If yourself is welcomed with a Wai you should answer the same way i.e. thumbs at the same height or a slightly deeper Wai. Exceptions are people having a clearly higher social status here the Wai can be made higher. In praxis this will rather not happen because the less important always welcomes the more important first. Against clearly lower ranking people or children a smile and a nod is enough of reaction.
Here you find information about the correct Wai: 'Thailand Information', ' ... the correct Wai ...'.

- Manners in Thai Temples

Before entering a Thai temple shoes should be taken off. Also is correct behaviour and proper clothes basic requirement for visiting a temple in Thailand. So are flip-flops, shorts and sleeveless shirts indisposed!
When sitting in Thai temples the legs are never stretched out best is to sit on the knees.

- Contact with Thai Monks

Thai monks usually are very open and secular it is not rare to see them e.g. smoking in public. It is also quite likely that men are addressed by monks.
Women must not touch neither a monk or their robe (what also applies outside the Thai temples). Else the monks have to undergo a pedestrian cleaning ritual.
Do women give something to a monks they have to either put it on the floor or give it to a man first handing it then over to the monk.

- Visiting Thais

When entering a private apartment you should as well as in Thai temples take off your shoes and don’t step on threshold as there live according to the Thai belief the souls of the deceased.
In Thai houses you usually sit on the floor in doing so the legs are not stretched out (in Thailand it is a major affront to point at somebody with the legs!) Men usually sit in the tailor seat women with angled legs pointing sideways. If men take such sitting position it testifies special respect against the host. Presents do not have to brought along with but is a little something such as fruits, food or little souvenirs very welcome. If presents are handed over they usually are not opened immediately to save on the one hand the guest’s blushes and on the other hand to not appear as greedy.
Should you be invited to a party or a celebration the wardrobe should adapt to the circumstances. Often Thai friends can give a hint as the host will always say that it is up to yourself. To take this too literally can by all means lead to embarrassments.
To weddings or funerals an envelope with money should be handed over helping to lower the cost. Here as well friends can give a hint regarding the amount.
By the way women should generally wear a bra in Thailand!

- In Thai Restaurants

When visiting a restaurant together it is custom that the party having the highest social status takes care on the bill for all attendees or instructs someone else to do. It is also quite common that you are asked for your income if the Thais cannot judge on your status. As in normal case we have a higher income – what in turn presumes a good Karma - nobody will have a problem with the Farang taking care on the bill ...
Also is generosity generally welcome so that "jumping the queue” is loved to be seen when it is about to pay. When you are inviting for a meal it is likely to happen that the invited person brings somebody along with without giving notice. But as in Thailand is taken from all dishes and pans standing on the table this is irrelevant. In case an invited person doesn’t show up it is often due to the fact that the embarrassing situation of a cancellation is avoided by this.
A tip is usually not given only outstanding service can be honoured with an additional amount (max. 5 % of the amount invoiced).

- On the Beach in Thailand

Also when sun-bathing on the beach on proper clothing should be paid attention on.
are in as far as nakedness is concerned rather prude compared with us Westerns. When observing Thais, mainly women, going for a swim you will recognise that they are often wearing shirt and trousers when going into the water.
String-thongs are frowned upon both for women and for men. But swim-trunks covering the bum of a man are sufficient.
Women whereas should by no means lie about topless or even totally bare!
By this extremely disrespectful behaviour you can quickly lose your face what in turn can lead to not being respected there anymore during your Thailand stay.
If you go in between to the beach restaurant a bath towel or a Sarong should be looped around the hips.

- What else should be avoided in Thailand

Generally you should never touch a Thai’s head, this also applies for children. Following the Thai belief the head is the domicile of the soul and the spirit. Is it touched by mistake you should apologise politely.
Feet in Thailand are said to be unclean thence you should not sit on the floor with stretched legs as the feet could point at other people.
Never point at people with the index finger in Thailand but with the chin in the appropriate direction.
Generally you must not criticise the king, the royal family or the religion! And avoid stepping on bills as on all of them the image of the king is mapped to.
Avoid direct criticism of your Thai opponent as he could easy lose his face. Whereas adulations and compliments are very much liked.
In case it is eaten with the hand always use the right one! The left one is said to be unclean as it is often used for cleaning after going to the toilet. Also should objects, money, etc. being handed over or taken with the right hand.
Kissing or other tenderness in between men and women in public are absolutely off-limits.
Even bare contact of the other sex should be avoided as good as possible. Thai women touching male Farangs in public quickly are pigeonholed.
In between same sexed however contact is tolerated between good friends of the same sex it is quite common to walk hand in hand. As the western influence is also growing in Thailand in the meantime more often young couples can be seen in Bangkok or other big cities walking hand in hand.

How to make advantage in Thailand

When moving through people sitting you should bend the upper part of the body down a bit and hold one hand slightly in front. This is meant to appear slightly smaller.

Are you 8.00 am or 6.00 pm in public places you should stand up when the Thai hymn is played.

In appropriate situations you can underline your politeness when handing over or taking of objects the left hand from below touches the elbow of the right, handing over or taking, arm.
But this doesn’t apply when paying in restaurants, supermarkets or in likewise situations.

If you want to beckon someone in Thailand the palm points downwards, the fingers are only slightly moved up and down in addition the arm for this purpose is not held up excessively. At all events wild "fidgeting” should be avoided!

Source: Kauderwelsch Band 19 - "Thai Wort für Wort" by Martin Luttherjohann.
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