Thailand Culture Basics | 7 Customs to Know Beforehand

For most travelers visiting Southeast Asia for the first time, Bangkok is usually the first stop in Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia. The port city of Bangkok has an organized yet chaotic feel.  Traditional Thai customs can be easily overlooked in Bangkok. We suggest that anyone visiting Thailand should take a moment to show a small but meaningful token of respect for the Thai people by knowing a few cultural points before starting your journey of a lifetime to Thailand.

Thailand Culture Dance Video

Thai Language – Learn to “Wai” ! The Most Versatile Greeting in The World

Wai-Thailand-CultureThe “way”, or Thai greeting is done by simply joining your palms together at or near the chest or nose while bowing your head very slightly. The Wai is a universal gesture that you will encounter throughout your stay in Thailand. Mutual respect and honer is an integral part of Thai culture and etiquette. The way denotes respect &/or reverence when performed in temples or in front of an image of Buddha. The Wai can be used for many things including saying hello,goodbye, thank you or even to apologize “Wai im sorry.

Thailand Culture History and Reverence towards Royalty

The country of Thailand is a constitutional monarchy. The King and royal family are highly revered throughout the country. The King of Thailand is especially beloved in Thailand for his nearly 60 years of public service, humble demeanor and grace. The images of the King and Queen are everywhere. From posters on the exterior of public and private buildings to restaurants and taxi dashboards. The national anthem is played twice daily (typically ~ 8am & ~6pm) and also before every film at the cinema. Everyone is expected to stand whilst it is playing. You should never insult or joke about the king or royal family. The Strict lèse majesté laws are taken seriously and offenses are punishable by imprisonment.


Thai Culture – A Popular Thai Phrase ” Never mind!”

The phrase “Mai pen rai” sometimes pronounced as “mey bey lie” or just “never mind” describes Thai peoples unofficial philosophy for keeping cool in annoying or taxing situations. In the grand scheme of life, why should we stress about such trifling matters? right? Mai pen rai!

This very laid-back way of life goes hand-in-hand with Thai’s inherent sense of light-heartedness. Nothing is generally taken too seriously, and anything worth doing should contain some element of “sanook” or fun! “sanook mai? ” are you having fun?


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Thailand Culture of Religious and Sexual Tolerance

Thailand and Thai society has embraced a longstanding reputation for religious and sexual tolerance towards others. Thai society is generally based more on a more non-confrontational attitude towards those with opposing beliefs and practices. This is the reason why the country is very safe to travel for people of all races,colors and creed along with GLBT travelers.

Transsexuals, also known as ladyboys or kathooeys, are highly visible in mainstream Thai society that can range from teens to high-profile celebrities.

Religious Objects in Thai Culture

About 92% of Thailand is comprised of Theravada Buddhists. Most Thais worship Buddha and make regular offerings to images and men can often be seen donning elaborate amulet necklaces for protection. Most public buildings including hospitals boast public alters or spirit/ghost houses where offerings of food and flower garlands are presented to appease the spirits inhabiting the lands.

Thailand Culture – Physical Conduct in Temples and Sacred Grounds

Buddhist believe that the head is the most valued part of the human body while to the south, the feet are the lowest value. The feet symbolize attachment to the ground which is a cause of human suffering. Touching someone’s head (Including children’s heads) is considered offensive, as is pointing your feet or raising them at people or religious objects.


Most types of clothing is tolerated in tourists areas, but Its a good idea to cover up when visiting shrines and temples. Wearing sleeveless tops, short skirts/shorts, and flip flops may cause you to be denied entrance to holy sites. Also please try avoid touching religious displays as some Thais can be highly superstitious, fearing disruption of harmonious balance. Also, while polite conversation is fine it’s considered taboo for women to touch a monk or pass things to them directly.

Thailand Culture Basics – Thai NicknamesThailand-culture-thai-language-nicknames

Thai people are generally very jovial and light hearted. Thai generally address people by their first names, preceded by the title “Khun” or “Mr/Mrs” Using Khun is appropriate for both men and women. In more casual or social settings, Thai will use unique,funny and sometimes bizarre mono-syllabic nicknames. Traditional monikers cover a broad spectrum of categories such as fruits, colors or animals. Nick names such as Daeng (red), Moo (pig), Apple and Lek (small) are pretty popular these days. During your stay in Thailand you will most certainly encounter unique nicknames such as Cool, Money ,Good, and Benz.

To learn more about Thailand Culture or to learn more about taking a Thai medical Vacation please contact us.

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**Updated 2015