Family Structures, the Wai - Thailand's traditional Reception,
Leisure Time and Thailand’s Cuisine.
Virtual Travel and Island
Guide with all Information
for Holidays & Travels to Thailand.
Family Structures, Leisure & Cuisine in Thailand
- Thailand Information
(A small selection of Thai dishes at a food-stall in Bangkok)
The Thai Society
Thailand is a hierarchical society in which thanks to the
believe in the Karma the social status of the people is untouched.
A person who has a high social position has acquired this
in its previous lives. The important one has to look after
his subordinates (for example workers or employees) and his
less moneyed relatives. In return he receives respect, obedience,
thankfulness and loyalty. The social position and the age
is decisive for the behaviour of the Thais among one another.
Generally the oldest or socially highest ranking person receives
the most respect. Many details in behaving among one another
depends on the social status and /or the age of the people
attending. This is reflected in the family, the circle of
friends and in the working life. It also explains the believe
in authority, favouritism and the partly undemocratic structures
in the Thai society. Thus every Thai makes an effort to knot
an big harmonic net of relations. For example the important
are not over bothered as by this a relation could be destroyed
which one day could become important.
Also plays the extremely big need for harmony and avoiding
of conflict a mayor role. "Djai-yen” – keep
cool – (literally "heart-cool”) is one of
the highest "precepts” in Thailand. Things that
are unchangeable are accepted as such to get excited does
not change anything - what you cannot change is accepted! "Mai
pen rai”- doesn’t matter – will every Thailand
holidaymaker hear many times. Also the famous smile of the
Thais is a tested mean to avoid conflicts. "Don’t
do anything to me and I will also do nothing to you. A smile
very often brings more than a bored excuse. Who has no answer
to questions or does not want to criticise keeps silent and
smiles. Even in the Thai parliament this behaviour as been
observed. As we Farangs (western foreigner) stand outside
the social Thai net of relations, the relations mainly are
mostly short and often have a material background, we cannot
expect great loyalty. In fact is the hat taken off to us,
alone because of our affluence which goes along with a good
karma but in case of doubt understandably the more loyalty
is brought against their fellow countrymen.
Thai Family Structures
In Thailand there is a much stronger company in the family
compared to our western culture. Often live several generations
under one roof. The parent’s house for example is bequeathed
to the youngest daughter, she together with her husband in
return accommodate her parents when they are older. The oldest
man of a Thai family is the patriarch, the other family members
have to act in accordance with his decisions. In Bangkok every
days live adapts more and more to the western developed nations
but in the country the old traditions continue to exist almost
unchanged. As a tradition a Thai man has to meet the whole
family of the bride and get the total consent before he can
get engaged. Only then he can propose to her parents for the
hand of their daughter. Do both families agree the date for
the wedding is fixed. But the date for the wedding is delayed
until the groom has finished his apprenticeship. The bride’s
parents get bride-money from the groom, a kind of compensation
for the upbringing consisting of natural produce or money.
Many a time this is returned to the bridal couple on the wedding
day. In the country the newly married often stay with their
parents until they have the first child.
Greeting in Thailand –
the correct Wai
Although in Thai business- and government circles meanwhile
shacking hands has become accepted the traditional reception
in Thailand still is the Wai. The execution of the "right”
Wai is for us Farangs not easy to understand as it depends
on the relation of the people to each other. The Wai must
be understood as a highly important sign of reciprocal demonstration
of respect. In normal cases the palms with outstretched fingers
in breast height are held against each other the thumbs pointing
to the body. Furthermore you slightly bow. The younger one
respectively the one who has the lower social status always
greats first, the senior or more important one answers with
a lower Wai: by this the palms are held little lower in front
of the breast as the younger or less important one does. The
heights of the palms is the most crucial criteria of respect
to be demonstrated to the opponent. The higher the more respect
is paid. Thus no Thai will use a Wai for reception or leave-taking
with children, servants or beggars. Only for members of the
royal family, monks or as an obeisance to Buddha the finger
tips are held over the eyebrows. Are important people welcomed
the finger tips can be held in between the eyebrows, the thumbs
at this can touch the tip of the nose.
As a role the following can be said:
With less important: Thumbs about on breast height.
With ones of equal rank: Thumbs about on chin level.
With important and older people: Thumbs on level of the
With very important people: Thumbs on level of the nose
With monks (and members of the royal family which you will
even throughout a longer stay in Thailand only meet very rarely…):
Thumbs on level of the eyebrows.
For the bows as a consequence thereof the same applies: the
deeper the higher is the respect of the opponent.
A Wai is always returned unless there is a very big social
or age difference in between the two persons. Then the more
important or older one leaves the Wai unreturned. Also as
a matter of principle the Wai is not returned by Buddhist
monks (and of course not by members of the royal family).
Apart from using the Wai as reception it can be used as thanks,
adoption or excuse.
Leisure Time in Thailand
Football is probably the best liked sports in Thailand.
But also badminton, basketball, table tennis and volleyball
are very popular. Most notably people are seen everywhere
playing Takro. At this, a very popular game in many Asian
countries, two teams consisting of 3 players each play against
each other trying to play the ball made of basketwork over
the net positioned in the middle of the two playing fields.
The ball must not touch the ground and has to be played
over the net without the aid of the hands. Apart from football
and Takro fight sports are quite popular, mainly of course
Muay Thai the traditional Thai boxing. Going to the movies
but also to fly a kite or Thai chess played under special
rules and without queen also enjoy great popularity.
- In general
Thailand has one of the best and richest kitchens in the world,
it resembles the Chinese kitchen, but also has Malaysian and
In contrast to western culture, Thais do not differ between
breakfast, lunch or dinner. Rice, the basic food in Thailand,
is offered with almost every meal. Thus in Thai 'to eat' is
called gkin khaao (eat rice),
dishes are called gkap khaao (with
In restaurants, hotels and bungalow-resorts in the tourist
regions however, western breakfast is available everywhere.
- Thailand's Food
In Thailand normally only forks and spoons are used, only
very rarely are knives offered. The meal is pushed with the
fork, which is held in the left hand onto the spoon, which
is held in the right.
In the northeast (Isaan) and the
north of Thailand very often sticky rice (khaao
niiau) is served, which is separated with the fingers
on your right hand(!) into small lumps, which are then dipped
into the various sauces. Chop-sticks are only offered with
soup except in Chinese restaurants, where you get them with
every dish. These are used to shift noodles, meat, vegetables
etc. either onto the short soupspoon or directly into the
mouth. Besides rice, meat and seafood, various types of fruit
and vegetables are also served. There are various spices including
among other things garlic, coriander, sugar, lemon grass,
fish-sauces and -pastes, coconut milk and chillies. Often
the traditional Naam Phrik, which
consists of salty fish-sauce, lemon-juice, garlic, soya-sauce
and small cut chillies, is served with dishes. Otherwise if
necessary, you can spice up your meal, which is normal in
Thailand, especially with soups. Usually you will find spice-containers
on the tables, which contain at least red, dried chilli-powder,
fish-sauce, sugar and vinegar. The possibility of a western
dish in the main tourist areas including Ko Chang exists,
however one should consider the more expensive prices, since
many added ingredients need to be imported.
- Thailand's Snacks and Sweets
The Thai kitchen offers various delicious snacks and sweet
foods, not only deep fried pastries, dried squids and grilled
meat-sticks but also small cakes, grilled bananas, deep fried
pineapple and much more besides, let Thailand become a true
- Fruits in Thailand
There is an abundance of fruits in Thailand above all there
is bananas, papayas, watermelons and coconuts which are always
available. In addition, you find apples, pineapples, durians,
mangos, strawberries, jackfruits, lychees, pomelos, rambutaan
and much more besides, depending upon the season.
- Beverages in Thailand
Besides water, tea and coffee many other alcohol-free beverages
are available, such as soda water and almost all western soft
drinks just like fruit juices and shakes, milk and Soya-milk.
Beside Thai whiskey (Mekhong)
and rum (Sang Som), the local
Singha-beer is everywhere to be
found. Chang-beer enjoys a larger
popularity and also European beers such as Carslberg and Heineken
are available in almost all restaurants and supermarkets.
In many bars and restaurants it is possible to drink wine,
western liquor, long-drinks and cocktails, which are very
expensive however compared with the local spirits.
- Vegetarians in Thailand
Being a vegetarian is not always easy in Thailand, since traditionally
almost all Thai-dishes contain either meat or seafoods. Many
restaurants offer tofu or cook meat- or fish-free dishes on
request - and a vegetable fried rice can be found everywhere.
|Sources: Microsoft Encarta Weltatlas 2001,
Data Becker Lexikon 2002, Kauderwelsch Band 19 - "Thai
Wort für Wort" by Martin Luttherjohann.