The Thai Way of Life

Thailand is relatively known for its breathtaking scenery, lively nightlife, delicious food and ever-smiling people. However, it is also a country that prides in their customs and traditions, which is something good to know before you leave.



In Thailand, people usually greet each other with the word Sawatdi. This word can be used at any time of the day. A man adds the word khrap; and a woman adds the word kha, after Sawatdi to show her politeness. 


The word Sawatdi can also be used to say goodbye. If the people are friends or are about the same age, the word Sawatdi alone is enough to say goodbye. To greet older people, a wai is necessary. A wai is a gesture that consists of pressing the palms of the hands together in the position of a budding lotus at chest level, with the fingertips touching the tip of the nose. You must not maintain eye contact when doing this. It can be used as a greeting, to express goodbyes, as an acknowledgement, as an apology, or as a sign of gratitude or respect. 


The Meal

Thailand may be located in the heart of Asia, but that does not mean that Thais dominantly eat with chopsticks - except when eating noodles and spring rolls (which in those cases, are sometimes eaten with chopsticks). 

Thais generally eat with a fork and a spoon: the fork is held in the right hand and the spoon in the left hand. The fork never touches the mouth. Instead, the fork is used to "take" the food to the spoon, which is then brought to the mouth. Some foods are eaten with the hands. In this case, be sure to use your right hand, never your left hand, which is considered impure. Similar to many other countries, finishing all the food on your plate may mean that you are not full, so it is a good idea to leave some food on your plate. 


Feet and Shoes 

Feet are considered unclean in Thailand. Just as it would be regarded as insulting to step on an image of royalty, it is deemed extremely impolite to show something or someone with one's foot. Be prepared to take off your shoes when you visit someone's house. This is also expected in various offices, small stores and small restaurants. 


Don't touch Anyone's Head 

In Thailand, do not touch anyone's head, not even children’s, as it is believed to be the most important part of the body in their culture. 


Do not point: 

Pointing is considered rude in many cultures, most especially in Thailand. If you have to point at a person, do so by raising your chin in his or her direction. When waving at someone to come, do not use your fingers pointing upwards; make a tapping motion with your right fingers and the palm of your hand towards the ground. Pointing at inanimate objects and animals is generally acceptable, but it is more polite to do so with the whole hand rather than a single finger. 

Respect for the Royal Family

Never say anything critical or inappropriate about the Royal Family – whether from the past or present, not even in jest. Never disfigure images of royalty (such as on coins, stamps or posters); as this would result in a prison sentence. In cinemas, everyone is required to stand up to listen to the national anthem, which is played before each screening. 


Do your best to behave in accordance to what you have learned about Thai customs and local etiquette, and you will most likely leave Thailand with wonderful memories and the desire to return.