While traveling to other countries, there are certain norms and cultural aspects you should know. This helps to make the trip very efficient because getting trapped in other countries for a thing you didn’t know about would not be a good situation obviously.
Bangkok, capital of Thailand is an alluring city for travellers and explorers. Situated over the banks of the most famous river Chao Phraya River, Bangkok is full of Wats (Temples), luxurious hotels, attractive transportation, markets and nightlife etc.
It had almost 21.6 million tourists in 2016 which was more than even London and Paris for that year. Also, Bangkok is full of culture; the monarchy is handled by a King. Hence, there are some customs to know before traveling to Bangkok.
1. The Wai Gesture
First thing you’ll be doing upon reaching Thailand is talking to locals. So, it’s a must know how to greet locals in their culture. The Wai gesture is same like ‘namaste’ in India. You press your palm against each other over your nose or chest and bow a little.
This is the most common thing you’ll see people doing for welcoming, while saying thank-you, when greeting a monk, in the temples or even just passing by. This gesture is a way to express respect.
The wai gesture can be united with greetings or hellos or thank you too. You can say "sa-waa-dii-ka" if you're female or "sa-waa-dii-krap" if you're male, “kap-khun-ka” for thank you and use the gesture ‘wai’ while saying. You can say only “sa-waa-di” in case you are confused or in a hurry.
2. Avoid Direct Contact
Thai people are very conscious about their culture. Though, you’ll see most of them always smiling and not smiling, but really smiling even if they are not happy. They are always in a welcoming mood and this is what makes the city referred as ‘The land of the smiles’.
A smiling Thai with wai gesture greeting tourists is common in Thailand. It’s preferred if you do the same and not the regular handshake and hugs. People in Thailand don’t believe in touchy culture, they consider the handshakes as dirty. Hugs are also not common in Thailand.
Only if you know somebody well enough, or your business partner, someone young then you may initiate for handshakes or in some cases hugs. Otherwise Thai greetings and Wai is enough.
3. Don’t be too Direct in Communication
Now that you know that direct greetings like hugs and handshakes is not a famous gesture in Thailand. Also, direct communication is not much of a trend there. Try not to become too direct while communicating to any local like shopkeeper, driver etc.
The concept behind this is the ‘saving face’ which means that the emotions should not be expressed suddenly but slowly and smoothly. The feelings should be hidden in case you are angry or sad as they believe in laughing and loving and expect the same from others.
So try not to be too frank suddenly or angry on anyone too. If you do want to express anything direct, use a polite tone with a smile on your face.
4. Respect the Reverence for Royal Family
The Royal Thai Government rules the kingdom of Thailand. The people respect their king very much and you can find the pictures of Royal Family and king in several places like currency, buildings, dashboards, posters etc.
It’s forbidden in Thailand to comment on their government or the King. So, never ever disrespect the King in anyway. Don’t pass comments, don’t step on currency as it has picture of the king too, don’t laugh on any poster or anything related to the King or government.
The Thai people revere the Royal Family a lot due to their public service and humble conduct. So, if found being offensive about it, you can get into trouble from locals or even a fine to police. So, stay alert.
5. The Nation’s Pride
The Thai government is taking several steps to conduct and introduce various things to increase patriotism. They believe that patriotism will keep people united and happy. One of the examples is the broadcasting of National Anthem twice a day.
So if you hear the national anthem or king’s anthem anywhere, just hold still and be in a standing position. It can be played in events, movies, malls, restaurants or even on the roads. The pedestrians, students or even cars should stop while National Anthem without considering the traffic jams.
So follow the rule carefully and follow the crowd too if you don’t want to be judged by the locals in a different country.
6. The Food Etiquette
Thailand is the perfect place for foodies due the delicious Thai delicacies offered by the country. Even in Bangkok you can find lots of restaurants serving some of the most mouth-watering food for a reasonable amount. So, eating is a common thing in Bangkok.
But, there are some eating etiquette a visitor must know to get a good farewell from the country without being judged. The rice and soup is almost common everywhere and there is a way to eat them and other eatables.
-Don’t eat the fruits at start because those are for desserts.
-Don’t mix your food as the Thai people may take that as an insult of food.
-Use the spoon instead of fork to eat. Don’t put the fork in your mouth; just use it to push items on spoon.
-Thai people don’t use chopsticks to eat rice, nor the spoon. So, get ready to eat with your hands.
7. The Body Parts Issue
Thai people believe that there head is most valuable & holiest part of their body and the feet are the dirtiest part according to their Buddhist culture. So be sure to give importance to both the parts of yours as well as others and not to be offensive about it.
Don’t touch anyone’s head ever in Thailand as they will take it as a huge disrespect and may create an issue about it. They are very conscious about their culture. You can’t put the bags anywhere on ground as it indicates disrespect to education.
Feet being the dirtiest according to them, shouldn’t be pointed towards anyone, no overstepping, touching anyone with your feet are all offensive. Make sure to remove your shoes while entering any temple or anyone’s house.
8. Temple Etiquette
There are more than 400 wats (temples) in Bangkok. There are certain Do’s & Don’t of temple visits you should know. Some of them are:
· Look for English signs first everywhere.
· Don’t walk with earphones or headphones on.
· Silent your phone and avoid much photography.
· Do not eat anything inside the premise.
· When entering any building remove hats, sunglasses, and shoes until others are not doing the same. Follow the suit.
· Don’t speak in loud voices or laugh loudly. It’s not a good time to joke.
· Don’t point at anything like monk, statues or anything.
· Do stand-up when monks or nuns enter the room.
· Walk around sacred objects in only a clockwise manner.
· Don’t touch anything until allowed to do so.
· Don’t take selfies with any Buddha statues as you’ll be directing your back towards it, which is not acceptable in Thai culture.
9. Dress Code
This is one of the important things to consider when visiting any temple in Thailand. Without a proper dress, you won’t be allowed to enter the premises. In that case there will be sellers right outside the temples selling the proper clothing which are sometimes a form of guilt to wear.
Some of the factors to take care of are:
· Knees and shoulders must be covered
· No rugged jeans or torn clothes.
· No religious themes
· No death, devil, demon related or negative T-shirts.
· No see through dresses or yoga or tight pants.
· Cover your Tattoos.
· No hat or sunglasses.
· No slippers. Wear shoes.
10. Women in Thai Temples
Thailand consists of 94% of Buddhist population. There are also so many monks in Thailand who practice to stay away from material things and be sacred by not touching any women.
Women should take more care in temples as there are monks hanging around all over the place. Women’s aren’t allowed to touch the monks or their robes. It’s a big cleansing process for them once they get in contact with any women. Sometimes it’s a big issue and needs a lot of explanation to resolve.
Other things which are included are the basic traveller discipline that you must follow in other countries. Traveling is all about unraveling a new place and finding peace. Locals of that place contribute a lot in how much you enjoy your trip.
Greet everyone you see, have a big smile always, start some conversation with strangers, pay respect to their culture, appreciate their architecture, and enjoy their cuisine just like they do. Try to be one of them till the time you are there. This will make your trip more valuable and memorable for sure.