Cultural Taboos to Avoid While Visiting Thailand

Thailand is a country rich in culture and history. Thai people can be the friendliest people you will ever meet, however, take care not to cause insult as things could become nasty rather quickly. As a general rule of thumb, Thai people are inviting, warm, generous, and caring so if you’re looking to visit Thailand for the first time, here’s some valuable information to help you enjoy your cultural enrichment while staying in the good graces of your hosts.

cultural taboos to avoid in thailand

As with every culture around the world, there are things that people commonly do in one country without notice that may cause offense in another. This article is going to run through some of the biggest taboos to avoid when in Thailand.

 

Avoid Showing The Soles Of Your Feet

 

Thailand is predominantly a Buddhist country, and the soles of the feet are seen as being the lowest part of the human spirit. Therefore, to place such lowly parts on chairs, cushions, or in view of peoples faces are seen as rude and uncouth. Never point with your feet, and if you drop money on the floor, do not step on it to stop it. The King’s head is on all of the money in Thailand, and to place your foot on his face will lead you to inadvertently commit a crime in the country.

 

Try To Avoid Thai Swear Words

 

Thai’s may love to use western swear words, but they are not so receptive when they hear their own swear words used on them. Sure, you may think it is funny or in-the-know to call a Thai a buffalo or monitor lizard, but these are actually very serious insults. Also, not every Thai woman is a bar maid, nor is every teenager a troublemaker.

 

Don’t Touch Peoples Heads

 

The head is seen as the peak of the spiritual body. So, to touch someone’s head is seen as bad manners. This is more of an issue when it comes to touching the head of someone older than you. For children, it is typically not a problem.

 

Don’t Shout

 

Thais have the whole concept of ‘saving face’ down to a fine art. This means that Thais do not like being made to look stupid. The majority of Thai people are humble and reserved, so to raise your voice in public is seen as very bad form. Unfortunately, if you cause a Thai to ‘lose face’ you may find yourself in trouble with them quite quickly.

 

Haggle With Vendors

 

Haggling and bargaining for reduced prices are all part of the fun of shopping in Thailand. However, do not be insulting by offering a low-ball figure like 20% of the asking price. A good guide is to start at 60% of the stated price and work your way up to around 70%. If you can’t get a price you want, move along.

 

Topless Men In Malls

 

Thailand has got some of the most amazing malls in the world. However, all too often tourists enter the mall as if they were on a beach. Appropriate clothing for the mall is a minimum of shorts and a vest. It is not appropriate to enter a mall, temple, or public park without your shirt on.

 

Derogatory Words Toward The Royal Family

 

Thailand is fiercely proud of its royal family, and to talk badly of them would result in lèse-majesté. lèse-majesté is the breaking of the law by verbally or mentally insulting the ruling sovereign. These laws also apply to the army and religion too. This should really be common sense – most countries don’t take kindly to outsiders insulting their leadership (except maybe the USA and Canada who seem to encourage it at times). You’re probably in Thailand to enjoy yourself, either in business or as a tourist, so it’s not likely you’ll find yourself inclined to commenting on the nation politically – but if for some reason you get the urge, just don’t.

 

 

All in all, Thailand is a beautiful country, and one full of life, love, and luxury. Avoiding these few simple taboos will go a long way in making the most of your trip, and you will be guaranteed the time of your life.

 

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One Response to Cultural Taboos to Avoid While Visiting Thailand

  1. Jeanne King says:

    This article shows the subtle differences that tourists need to be aware of whenever they visit a new country. I had no idea about most of these taboos and I can see how someone could easily get into hot water by breaking them. What was particularly helpful was how you explained why the acts are considered taboo. I liked that extra detail and it makes for a better understanding of Thailand’s culture.

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