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.
Rules for Farangs, Reception, Manners & Hints
(A correct "Wai"
- the traditional welcome in Thailand)
Behavioural rules for Farangs (western
- 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
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
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
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
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
- On the Beach in Thailand
Also when sun-bathing on the beach
on proper clothing should be paid attention on.
Thais 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
is mapped to.
Avoid direct criticism of your Thai opponent as he could easy
lose his face. Whereas adulations and compliments are very
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
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.