It’s important, when visiting another country, to understand its customs and show respect for the local people. It will avoid offending the locals by mistake and will add street cred and make you feel good –a real win-win situation.
1) How to exchange greetings
In Thailand, people greet each other with a gesture called the ‘wai’, where they put their palms together in a prayerful gesture at chest or nose level, while slightly bending their heads. The higher you hold your hands, the more respect you are showing. This gesture can mean “thank you”, “hello” or “goodbye”.
Thailand is known as ‘The Land of Smiles’ as Thai people are very polite and friendly. Always return a smile - not only is it proper etiquette, but you’ll ensure you are kindly received, too.
Sometimes however, different smiles are used by Thai people to express various emotions - perhaps a person is feeling embarrassed or confused or maybe there is a problem. Try to be observant and acknowledge the situation.
3) Don’t touch the head
The majority of Thai people are Buddhists and believe the most important part of the body is the head (where Buddhists believe the soul resides), and the lowest part constitutes the feet (man’s attachment to earth that is seen to cause human suffering). It is thus highly improper to touch anyone’s head and shoes are always removed before entering a house or a temple.
4) Don’t point
It is offensive to point in Thailand, even if you don’t realise you are doing so. If you need to indicate something, bend your hand downwards with your fingers leaning toward the floor and your palm facing upward.
5) Keep it cool
Thai people believe in controlling emotions; raising one’s voice is unacceptable. The phrase ‘Mai pen rai’ means ‘never mind’, and describes the country’s unofficial laidback mindset for keeping cool in stressful situations. Nothing is taken too seriously, and anything worth doing should contain some element of light-hearted ‘sanuk’ (fun)! A quiet, relaxed and humble approach is always best in any situation.
Try to follow these few simple points in Thailand and you’ll enjoy your visit to The Land of Smiles a huge amount more.
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