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Etiquette in Thailand

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  • Etiquette in Thailand

    List of Etiquette and Rules in Thailand

    Traditions and customs in Thailand differ significantly from the Western world. Since Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country, many of the customs and etiquette in Thai culture are based on Buddhist values. All the etiquette and rules may seem very complex for most foreigners. However, Thai people are generally very relaxed and rarely take offence if a foreigner fails to follow their etiquette. Still, that doesn’t mean that you can have it your way and disrespect the culture. As a visitor, you should at least have a basic understanding of Thai etiquette. It won’t only prevent you from accidentally offending someone and embarrassing yourself but also enhance your experience in the country.

    The Buddha symbol shouldn’t be underestimated
    One of the first etiquette you need to keep in mind is respecting the Buddha. Remember that Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country, so any statues and sites that have the image of the Buddha should always be treated with respect. Climbing on Buddhas in temples is not only offensive but also a punishable offence. Moreover, it’s illegal to take images of the Buddha out of Thailand without permission. Yes, some shops still sell them and some tourists may think that they’re nice souvenirs, but it’s best to avoid buying them. Additionally, you should avoid getting a tattoo of Buddha.

    Dress properly
    Make sure to wear modest and neat clothing while you’re wandering around Thailand. It might be hot outside, especially during the day, but keep in mind that Thai etiquette and culture encourages a conservative dress code in public. Therefore, bring comfortable, airy clothes that help you stay cool and look modest. For men, avoid sleeveless muscle shirts or singlets. For women, don’t wear tank tops and spaghetti straps unless you’re wearing a shawl or cardigan to cover your shoulders. Both genders should avoid dangerously short shorts as well. The dress code is stricter in temples. In Thai temples, everyone should cover their shoulders and knees. You’re likely to be denied entry if you show too much skin. The easiest way to avoid this situation is by keeping a big scarf in your bag at all times.

    Keep your cool
    In Thailand, losing your temper and raising your voice, such as yelling or exhibiting strong emotions, are typically frowned upon. Thais have a philosophy of keeping their cool; jai yen. This doesn’t mean that every Thai person you’ll meet will be the stereotypical warm and friendly person you see in travel guides and brochures. You’ll probably still encounter grumpy shopkeepers and angry taxi drivers. However, most people avoid confrontation and follow the rules of saving face. Keeping your cool goes a long way in the country. Therefore, when things go wrong, take it easy and deal with them calmly.

    Don’t bad mouth the Royal Family
    The King and the Royal Family are greatly admired and respected by the Thai people. Therefore, you should never disrespect the King or any member of the Royal Family. Don’t say anything insulting to the Thai royal family anywhere, in person, in private messages, or on social media. You should also respect the images of the King, which means you should be careful with your Thai baht as his picture appears on the money and coin. The lese majeste law is taken very seriously here, so bad-mouthing the Royal Family can result in lengthy prison time.

    Respect the Monks
    During your time in Thailand, you’ll encounter many monks. Make sure you treat them with respect. When you cross paths with monks, make sure to bow to them and avoid asking personal questions about them. You should not pass anything directly to them as well. Instead, put the thing down in front of them. If you’re a woman, be sure not to touch or brush past them because monks can’t have any physical contact with a woman.

    You should only use your feet for walking.
    Feet are considered the least clean and lowest part of the body in Thailand. Therefore, don’t use your feet for anything else other than walking (and running). It’s insulting to point your feet at someone, put your feet on a chair or desk, and raise your feet higher than the head. Also, you shouldn’t show the bottom of your feet to other people, so make sure to sit in a position that doesn’t show the bottom of your feet when you’re sitting on the ground. Pointing your feet at Buddhas is also strictly forbidden, whether you’re inside or outside of temples.

    Keep your romantic gestures private
    Like in many other Asian countries, public display of affection in Thailand may cause people to feel very uncomfortable. Kissing and hugging in public may be acceptable, but it’s undoubtedly taboo in Thailand. Therefore, always do your best to keep romantic gestures to a minimum. When you’re on a date with your special someone, whether it’s in a restaurant, a theme park, or on the street, try your best to avoid hugging and making out. Only show physical intimacy in private when you two are alone.

    Use your right hand
    The left hand is generally considered not clean in Thailand because it’s sometimes used for “toilet functions.” That’s why, in Thai etiquette, you shouldn’t use your left hand to receive gifts, eat, or shake hands. When you’re passing objects to someone or when you’re paying, always use your right hand. If you want to show more respect, use your left hand to touch your right forearm. It’s also good to use both hands when presenting or receiving things from those who are older than you or someone you’ve just met.

    Eat with a spoon
    Want to eat like a local? Use your spoon. In Thai etiquette, your right hand should hold the spoon, and your left hand should hold the fork. However, the fork should never go into your mouth. Instead, you should only use it to take food onto your spoon. Most dishes don’t use chopsticks, except noodle dishes and some treats.

    The head is sacred
    While the feet are the most unclean part of the body, the head is sacred in Thailand. In Thai etiquette, you should never touch other’s heads or hair, including ruffling their hair playfully or putting something on their head like a hat. If you’re teaching or volunteering with children, make sure to avoid ruffling their hair. Thai locals may touch a child’s head every now and then. Still, it’s inappropriate for foreigners to do so unless you’re family with the child. If you forget and touch someone’s head or hair accidentally, most Thais will forgive you for it, but be sure to apologise as soon as you can.

    Address people by their first name
    In most Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, people address each other by their first names. Most of the time, it’s prefaced by the equivalent of Mr., Mrs., or Miss: Khun, unless they carry a higher degree (such as a doctor). Khun is used for both men and women.

    Remove your shoes before entering a building
    It’s essential that you remove your shoes before entering someone’s home or a temple. Some restaurants, shops, and businesses may also require you to remove your shoes before entering. If you’re unsure, you can check if anyone inside is walking around barefoot or look to see if there’s a line of shoes in front of the door.

    Return a Wai
    Another Thai etiquette you need to know is how to greet people in Thailand. When greeting people in Thailand, it’s uncommon to touch and shake their hands. Instead, you should do a typical Thai greeting, called the Wai. The Wai involves pressing your palms together and bowing your head slightly. It’s considered impolite to not return a Wai. The only people who aren’t expected to return a Wai are those with high social status, such as the King and the monks. In addition, the person with the lower status usually offers the Wai.

    Pointing at someone is rude
    Pointing at someone with your index finger is rude in Thailand. It doesn’t matter who or what you’re pointing at; you shouldn’t use your index finger to do that. Lift your chin to a person’s direction if you have to indicate them. Pointing to an inanimate object with your index finger may be acceptable. Still, it’s better to use your entire hand to point at something. Always keep these etiquette and rules in mind, so you can have a wonderful and memorable stay in Thailand while still respecting the local culture.

    Don’t visit places with captured wild animals
    It might sound exciting to see wild animals like elephants and tigers from up close and take pictures with them. But did you know that these animals have to go through a brutal process and are often drugged to make them more compliant around visitors? Also, programs offering elephant riding are more likely to be exploitative, overworking the elephants and causing them to die due to exhaustion. Therefore, we advise you to avoid these places and help put an end to this cruel practice.

    Don’t pollute or destroy the nature
    Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you can be carefree about the environment. As a tourist, you shouldn’t leave your trash anywhere. Moreover, you should avoid using plastic as much as possible because plastic waste is a big problem here. If possible, bring your own bag and only take plastic bags from convenience stores when you really need them. In addition, don’t touch corals or step on them when you’re snorkelling. It would also be best not to take coral reefs and shells away from their natural habitat. While they can be a nice souvenir, you can actually get fined for taking them home with you. After a day enjoying the stunning beaches and soaking up the sun, take your trash with you instead of leaving it at the beach.

    Don’t overstay your visa
    Just like in any other country around the world, overstaying your visa can result in a fine. If you fail to pay the fine, you could end up in jail. Thai immigration will mark your passport as an “undesirable alien” if you overstay three times. This mark would make it harder for you to travel internationally. You may be banned from entering the country temporarily.
    Last edited by Logan; 08-07-2021, 06:37 AM.

  • #2
    Travel Guide: To tip or not to tip when travelling in Thailand?

    Tipping can be expressed in a variety of ways depending on where you are. While it’s not considered standard in Thailand, it is happily accepted. But it’s not as simple as tipping a portion of your check. There are some scenarios where tipping is appropriate and others where it’s not. The tipping culture varies heavily depending on where you eat. The higher up the chain you go, the more common tipping becomes. This makes sense because those who dine at more pricey restaurants are much more likely to be able to pay a tip. So to tip or not to tip — that is the question. Keep reading to find out if, when and where you should leave a little change on the table while travelling in the Land of Smiles…

    Street food vendors
    To begin with, Thais don’t usually tip at street food vendors. It’s just not in the nature of those locations. If you decide to eat street food and tell the seller to keep the money, some vendors would insist of giving the change back. But most will appreciate your kind gesture. The order is commonly done verbally, and any change owed is pulled from the cook’s apron. If you ordered a few meals or more, they may have someone staffing the tables who will write up a receipt. In that case, you may choose to tip if you wish. It’s always a good idea to do what the locals do, and you’re unlikely to see a native tipping a street food place, so don’t be too concerned.

    Everyday restaurants
    This is where the ordinary middle-class person would eat, and a 20-50 THB tip on a 300-700 THB meal would be the standard rate. Believe it or not, not everyone tips, and most don’t intend to. It’s more a case of getting the change from the waitress and choosing to leave it, because it looks cheap not to – and in Thailand, we always want to save a little face. It’s important to remember that the staff in these places frequently work long hours with few breaks. If the meal costs 560 baht, then leaving 40 THB for them would be an ideal choice. It could also make a difference for them.

    High-end restaurants
    Most high-income Thais would tip at expensive or fine dining eateries, though not excessively. It’s likely they’d leave a 100 THB tip, though some would tip even more just to show that they can. Clearly, the more expensive the restaurant, the more you should tip. When your total reaches at least a thousand baht, you can consider tipping 10% or more. Some places will have a service fee included in the bill, so keep an eye on the fine print of your bill.

    Restaurants aside, some locals do tip taxi drivers, whether it’s the official bright coloured ones or lowly Grab drivers. You don’t have to tip a lot; anything is appreciated. If the taxi ride costs 160 THB, for example, paying 200 THB would go a long way — especially during the pandemic when tourism is at an all-time low. And if you don’t have change to pay the exact amount shown on the metre, then don’t expect the taxi driver to give back a few small bills. Demanding that 20-40 THB is NOT a hill to die on.

    Concierge boys will gladly help you carry your bags to your room and they’ll almost never ask for a tip. But an extra pause at the door should indicate their expected appreciation in the form of 20-50 THB. Even a modest tip is enough to express your gratitude for their bearing the burden of your luggage up the stairs or on the elevator all the way to your door, after you arrive at the hotel sunburned, sweaty and with tired feet. Just make sure you have a few small bills in hand BEFORE you get to your room. A moment’s delay, and they’ll promptly disappear before you can say, “Thanks, Mate.”

    To tip or not to tip?
    While travellers are not expected to tip in Thailand, it’s usually greatly appreciated, especially during the pandemic economy, where giving a little extra goes a long way. It’s usually easy to travel through a place you may never return to without leaving a tip. But tipping will ensure you leave a favourable impression on the locals long after you’re gone. So take a moment to consider just how little money the tired staff at restaurants and hotels make, before you grab the change out of the tray.


    • #3
      Survival Guide: Top taboos gifts NOT to buy a Thai…

      Thailand is a country full of superstitions. While the majority of Thais believe in spirits, others live in fear of some fairly strange myths. Even the most forward-thinking, city-dwelling Thais have their doubts. Giving gifts is a tricky matter, and it’s all too simple to get it wrong. Instead of being romantic and sweet, you may be stepping into the wrong territory. There are a variety of items that are considered bad luck in Thailand, especially if it’s for a loved one or a close friend. There’s also an array of traditional ceremonial items that, although appealing, are inappropriate as gifts under normal circumstances.

      Printed photos
      We all love taking photos, who doesn’t? You can see a lot of Thais taking selfies or photos when they’re out with family and friends, and also with their significant other. There is nothing wrong with that, but printing a photograph for a loved one is a different story. Why do we take a lot of photos when we’re on vacation? We want to have memories. It’s the same with printing out a photo for your Thai girlfriend. If you give your photo to a friend or family member, they might worry that you’ll soon become just a memory to them. (For example, funerals often feature large printed portraits of the dearly departed.) Some don’t care about this, but some will question your decision.

      Buying a perfume may seem harmless and like a good gift to give. After all, buying a bottle of perfume from a well known luxury brand isn’t cheap, so what’s the fuss all about? Well, just as a photograph fades over time, perfumes don’t last long — the smell will fade away sooner or later. Take note, boys, You don’t want to buy your lady love a perfume that costs thousands of baht, for her to think that you want your love to fade away. Similar to what we mentioned about printing out a photo, some don’t care about it and will appreciate your generous gift. Just make sure to confirm before you make a pricey purchase.

      Watches and clocks
      Buying a nice watch, especially an expensive one, would make anyone happy. It’s an accessory that may people rely on ever day. A good-looking timepiece also tells a lot about the person who wears it. If your gal is someone who’s into sports, why not buy her a fitness tracker? If you want the “wow” factor factor with your hubby, a Swiss watch is sure bet. But the problem with buying a watch is that time runs out. All watches will stop ticking one way or another. A smartwatch needs to be charged every other day, while the standard ticking timepiece will eventually require a battery replacement. And a kinetic-charging watch needs your movement to keep it going.

      Glass and sharp objects
      While buying a gift made out of glass can be tempting, especially crystal glassware, it could be another potential gift to avoid. Indeed, there is are myriad cups and bowl with cute or classy designs that most women would love to own, whether it’s flowery printed mugs or a set of wine glasses for a special occasion. But as you know, anything made of glass can shatter. And you don’t want that to happen to your love life. They can also be dangerous. If the object is sharp, don’t pass it directly to the receiver. Instead, it’s wise to simply leave it on a tabletop and tell others to pick it up. Just like broken glass, it will likely cut the other person. You don’t want it to be foreshadowing your love life.

      Black clothes and handkerchiefs
      A handkerchief can be used for a few things from blowing your nose to wiping your face, or — you guessed it — wiping your tears. This’s why it’s on the list. We want you to avoid the appearance of bad luck. When you give somebody a handkerchief as a present, you are implying that you are expecting them to cry, and that they’ll need a handkerchief to dry their tears. As for black clothes, there’s a classic Thai myth that claims that if you offer someone black clothing, you’ll be attending their funeral.

      Ceremonial flowers and incense sticks
      Rounding off our list of taboo gift ideas are the a few common ceremonial items you’ll see on the street. In Thailand, proper flower shops are few and far between. Most streetside vendors are selling their goods for specific religious purposes and should not be repurposed as gifts to Thai people. Purple flowers or white lotus flowers wrapped in pandan leaves are given to monks to make merit, while garlands of yellow chrysanthemums are used to honor parents and elders on special occasions. And the small garlands made of “dokra” crown flowers are usually hung from objects like the rear view mirrors of busses and taxi cabs. Incense sticks are normally used in Buddhist ceremonies, such as worship and funerals — not to fill one’s home with a nice scent. And like a clock that stops ticking, an incense stick burns down — another potentially inauspicious symbol to avoid.


      • #4
        10 things foreigners find strange about Thailand!! | This is Thailand

        If you have ever visited or lived in Thailand, you might find some strange things here. Today, I’ll talk about the 10 things foreigners find strange about Thailand!! Let’s see if you agree or feel the same!!
        Thai people have a nickname that is not related to their full- name
        In the past, Thais had no nicknames. Some historians assumed that it appeared during King Rama IV when Thai people started to derive Bali or Sanskrit language to create the full name they believed that it was a more beautiful word and had a good meaning. However, it is quite long and so they started to create nicknames for easy to use daily life names and the full-name Thai people to use for formality, especially for government or legal documents. Thai nicknames are created by their parents. It could be anything the parents can’t think of or want, something trendy at the time, a foreign word, a fruit name, an actor or actress name, and more.
        Thai people sometimes eat raw instant noodles as a snack
        Instant noodles, which we need to boil or put in some hot water before eating, Thai people eat them raw. We just tear a sachet of instant noodles, put its seasoning powder, shake the sachet and then eat it!! It is very popular, especially the MaMa flavour “TumYumKung”. However, it is pretty unhealthy for children and some parents will prohibit their children from eating this fusion snack or they will let the children eat “Chang Noi” instead which is adjusted to be made for kid’s snacks from instant-noodle but with a limited size of bag and quantity of seasoning powder.
        Thai people prefer to drink any beverages with ice
        Drinking any beverages with ice is normal for Thai people, because the weather is hot, whether it is water, coffee, alcohol or other beverages. It became a normal Thai behavior that you can find it at any restaurant or cafeteria you visit.
        Thai people mostly take a shower at least 2 times a day, In the morning before going outside and in the evening after arriving home
        The reason is similar to the previous topic. Because our weather is so hot throughout the year and it is easy to sweat and have a bad body smell. Thai people mostly take a shower 2 times a day. However, if they go to other countries where there is cold weather, they might still take a shower 2 times a day, due to habit.
        Thai Taxis have various different colors, just like candy
        Unlike taxis in other countries that have only one color of their taxi, Thai taxis have several candy-like colors: hot pink, vivid orange, bright blue, yellow-green, etc. You can choose any color because The fare rate will be the same by starting from 35 baht in every Taxi’s color. The colors difference between each type of Thai taxis are just classified by different organisations and individuals.
        There are a lot of street food shops here
        If you have ever been to a Thai market or some street-food market in Thailand. you will find a variety of food. Moreover, it only starts from 10-20 Baht (around 0.3-0.5 US Dollars), offerings of ready-to-eat meals, snacks, fruits, and drinks are sold by hawkers or vendors at food stalls or food carts on the street side in Thailand. There are many areas that are famous for being a street food centers such as Yaowarat or Chinatown in Bangkok and any markets in any provinces in Thailand.

        Thai people text you “555555555” which means they are laugh
        “55555” is internet slang for Thai people, not spam. It is not for conversations in Thai but is most commonly used in texting and on social media. “5” or five is called “Ha” in Thai. So, “555” in thai means “Hahaha” or the sound of a laugh. If they use many “5’s”, it means a big long laugh. Try to start typing “55555” to your Thai friends, it will show that you have some understanding of the Thai language and culture.
        There are spirit houses in Thai people’s houses and many places in Thailand
        Thai people who are Buddhist believe these spirits will bless their home or business or give them luck such as winning some money in the lottery. San Phra Phum can be found around Thai people’s houses or on the corner in every Thai city and town and are seen outside high-rise office blocks, restaurants, department stores, and everything in between. Thai people think the spirit needs food. so, we give rice, a platter of fresh fruit, desserts, and colorful drinks. Moreover, no one dares to steal food from the spirit house even if they are starving or homelesses. Because everyone believes in the spirit’s power. If you steal the food to eat, you will be haunted by the ghost, get bad luck, or be dead.
        You can normally find many lizards in all areas in Thailand
        Lizards are the most common reptiles in Thailand and are a big part of natural pest control. They would live in some houses for eating flies and mosquitoes. In the park, you could see a group of water monitors in the park’s lake although it is the park in the center of the capital city such as Lumphini park. If you live out of town, it is very common to find geckos in someone’s house or a water monitor walking on the street or at the convenience stores!! So, if you want to live in Thailand, you will need to accept and get used to living with those reptiles.
        In the morning, you might see the monks walking around streets and homes to collect alms
        The monks will bring alms bowls and walk barefoot around the neighbourhood while the local people make merit by offering them food. It is the ritual morning food donation to the monks or almsgiving, what Thais call “Tak Bat”, which is a custom that is practised in other “Theravada Buddhist ” countries like Laos, Myanmar, and more. Thai-Buddhist people believe that it helps to sustain the monastic community and it is also one of the ways that a Theravada Buddhist can make merit.


        • #5
          What are common miscommunications between Thais and foreigners?

          Thailand is an amazing country for foreigners because of its rich history and culture. However, Thais speak in a very different way to Westerners, and cultural misunderstandings can occur if you are unfamiliar with people from the Land of Smiles. Thai people are generally pleasant and laid-back, and they will forgive visitors who make unintended rude gestures. Making the effort to know some of these differences and knowing what you should and shouldn’t do can help you avoid an awkward scenario.

          Giving advice or feedback
          Indirect negative feedback is preferred in Thai culture. If a Thai friend or coworker wants to tell you something bad, they will do it discreetly and politely. They could try to pass off bad comments as helpful advice. The Western communication approach favours straightforward negative feedback, which Thai people loathe, and avoid. This leads to misunderstandings since foreigners are used to communicating directly, whereas Thais would see it as being lectured to and judged. When foreigners refuse to accept what Thais suggest they change or adapt, Thais become upset as to why they won’t listen. It sounds like kind advice rather than something serious. For example, Michael is being reviewed by his Thai boss, Nat, in a typical Thai way. Michael receives Nat’s feedback like a friendly piece of advice rather than proper constructive criticism. Instead of Nat guiding Michael in the right direction, Nat gives his idea of how he would approach the tasks.

          Conflict Avoidance vs Confrontation
          Thais don’t like confrontation. Arguments will likely cause a stir in relationships between friends and coworkers. They also believe that arguing or voicing their opinion is disrespectful and embarrassing. While foreigners are more likely to voice their opinions, and being open minded. Differences of opinion are beneficial to the development of a workgroup. Personal relationships are not affected since business and personal relationships are kept separate. This leads to misunderstandings since foreigners often believe they can challenge a Thai coworker without compromising the relationship. The Thai coworker will think about it for days on end and question why their foreign teammate can be rude at times and nice at another time. For example, Jason and Vichai are having a meeting about their upcoming project that their boss has given them. Vichai proposes his idea to Jason, who disagrees with him and would rather take a different angle. Vichai’s mind is glued to Jason’s choice of words, and he just let his foreign coworker take the lead rather than challenge him with his idea.

          Hierarchy vs Equality
          In Western countries, everybody’s voice and opinion are heard and valued. In Thai culture, this is not the norm. The boss is rarely questioned, and whatever he or she demands is just accepted. Being polite is more important to Thais than being correct, coming up with a creative answer, or having different ways to do things. When deciding whether or not to express what’s on their minds, your Thai coworkers or friends must consider their age, rank, and social status. Also, Thais don’t like losing face. Here is an example of hierarchy vs equality. Robert just got a job in Thailand and is over the moon about his new experience. He has many fresh ideas about what he could bring to the table. On his first day, he lays out his thoughts to his Thai new coworkers, but the response didn’t go as expected.

          Explicit vs Implicit
          It’s Friday night, and the company that you work for is going out for dinner. Your Thai coworker, Bank, is late for the meal after having to finish a last-minute assignment. The team have ordered pizzas and there is only one slice left as Bank arrives. However, William asks if he can have the last slice, and Bank agrees even though he has not yet eaten and his stomach is growling. For Thais, it’s completely different. They communicate in a high-context manner. Whatever they express, there is a level of complexity that most foreigners ignore. When a Thai asks if you have had your lunch, for example, they’re asking a lot more than just if you ate. They’re interested in learning about your day, and your plans. When foreigners are expecting their Thai friends to speak their their minds and interact in Western ways, they get into problems. Low-context communication is normal for foreigners. If foreigners say they don’t want something, then they don’t want it. Direct and simple communication is preferred when speaking to others.


          • #6
            Be respectful when visiting a Buddhist Temple in Thailand

            Not all tourists do their research before going to a temple. Some take photos with Buddha statues in a way that is disrespectful to some Thais. Some don’t dress appropriately. Before Covid-19, a security guard at the popular Wat Arun in Bangkok would blow a whistle at many tourists, telling them to cover their shoulders and knees. Here’s a guide to on how to be respectful when visiting a temple in Thailand. These are merely suggestions and there are variations. A good guide is to watch what the locals are doing. The dos and dont’s are not black and white, but a helpful guide to general customs and expectations.

            Dress appropriately
            Thailand is hot, with Bangkok being regarded as one of the hottest cities in the world. And humid. Visitors to the country may have trouble getting used to the heat, opting to wear short shorts and shirts. But, in order to take part and experience the some 34,000 open temples or wats in the country, a certain attire is required in order to keep the sanctity of the Buddhist culture. And, it’s not just your clothing that needs to be adjusted; your behaviour, too, needs to be kept in check to keep from offending the culture and people.
            • For Women
              Skirts or long pants that go past your knees are in order. Covering your shoulders as well is a requirement. Clothing that is too tight, such as leggings, are not allowed. See‐through clothes like and sleeveless tops are also not allowed as they reveal too much skin. Men have the same requirements as women, but are expected to wear long pants and shirts with sleeves. Some temples are stricter than others, like Wat Phra Kaew, but the recommendations of keeping covered are acceptable at all temples in Thailand. But don’t worry if you come to Thailand and forget to pack conservative clothing, as it is very hot here and most Thais understand you may not be acclimated. To show their understanding and tolerance, many larger temples have clothing on hand that you can wear for a small fee. Before entering the temple, it is important to take off your shoes at the door. Your hat and sunglasses should also be removed out of respect. But don’t worry about taking off your socks as they are acceptable to wear in the temples. Don’t step or stand on the door threshold going inside where the statues are held. As clothing is important to consider when visiting a temple, it is also important to adhere to behavioural guidelines.
            Be quiet, turn your phone to ‘silent’
            Such behaviours include staying quiet as the temple is a sacred place where people go to pray and observe Buddhist rituals. Being a “chatty Cathy” will be frowned upon, so save your musings for after you step outside of the temple. Don’t forget to turn your phone on silent as well and ask before taking pictures or look for the rules posted on a sign inside or outside the temple. If you must snap a photo, do not get too close to the Buddha statue. Taking selfies, however, could be considered disrespectful.

            Don’t point
            As with Thai cultural norms in general, it is important not to point at anything with your fingers or feet, especially at a monk or Buddha statue. People, too, don’t point at each other or even objects and instead use their right hand, with the palm facing upwards to indicate something. You may wonder why Thais place so much importance on behaviours, and that is because the feet are considered the lowest and dirtiest part of the body. So, when talking or sitting by a monk, you must never sit higher than him. Women should kneel with their toes pointing behind them, while men should sit with their legs crossed. As interactions with monks are usually quite delightful, it is important for women to not leave the monk in a worse place than before. For, as a woman, you are not allowed to touch monks. If you do, the monk will have to go through a lengthy cleansing ritual to purify himself. If you must hand a monk something, put the object down with your right hand and let the monk pick it up. Women are not allowed to sit next to a monk and in some areas of the temples, they are not allowed to enter.

            Pay respect to Buddha statues
            The temple itself hosts a variety of Buddhists from around the world and it is important to be respectful in the temples. Don’t touch or climb on Buddha statues as it is considered very disrespectful. If you are a foreigner wanting to pay respect to the Buddha, bowing to the statue or monk is acceptable. But remember to keep your head below the level of Buddha statues, monks or nuns, or even images out of respect. If you want to merge with local Thais in paying respect to Buddha, it is customary to wai 3 times (pronounced like ‘why’). A wai is how Thais greet each other, say thank you, and pay respect. It involves placing your palms together in a praying motion while bowing your head slightly. When monks or nuns enter the room, stand up and wait for them to finish before sitting again. When ready to leave, don’t raise yourself higher than the Buddha statue and try not to turn your back to it. One suggestion is to back away from the statue instead. If there are pillars or statues in the middle of the room, walk around sacred objects in only a clockwise manner.

            Be aware of ‘off-limit’ areas
            There are certain areas in which tourists or visitors are allowed to enter. These areas are called prayer halls, or viharn in Thai. The viharn is where you can pray or see images of Buddha. It is important to not trespass into the monk‐only areas known as bots. But sometimes, it is hard to distinguish which areas are forbidden to visitors. Fortunately, a few hints can be found to direct visitors to the appropriate areas where to congregate.
            Most bots, or primary areas for monks, contain a Buddha statue and are surrounded by 8 sema, or decorative stones in a rectangular shape surrounding a prayer hall. So, if you see a statue, look around and see if other visitors are gathering in the same place before you enter. Other signs that you may be in the right spot, include signs in English and donation boxes.

            Give donations if you’d like
            Upon seeing donation boxes, visitors may want to give money, but it is okay if you don’t. Other ways to support the monks and temples include buying trinkets at the temple. Be careful, however, bringing small Buddha statues out of the country as it is technically illegal. But, as long as the statues are not rare or antique, you may skip being reprimanded. As with all visits to foreign countries, it is important to experience and appreciate the host country’s cultural traditions and practices. In Thailand, as long as you show respect and the willingness to adapt to the culture, Thai people are known for being very tolerant and understanding. Showing respect to them by doing a bit of research before entering such sacred sites as temples is always a good idea.​