There are lots of lists of things to see and do in the exotic destination of Thailand, but sometimes knowing what NOT to do is just as important. It’s good to know some of the local customs and etiquette expectations when visiting any foreign culture. The Thai people are among the most friendly, welcoming and hospitable on earth, but its best to be an informed and respectful traveler when visiting their country. This video outlines a couple of things to watch out for so you don’t unwittingly commit any faux pas, or worse, do anything illegal when in Thailand.
Here’s a transcript of the video:
12 Things NOT to Do in Thailand
Thailand is often called the “land of smiles”, however, that does not mean that you shouldn’t be versed in some of the local customs before visiting. Here are 12 things NOT to do in Thailand.
1. Don’t Hug Monks
You’ll find the monks are super friendly, but hands off, please. Monks are not allowed to touch women. Even on buses monks are not allowed to sit directly next to a woman. It is also forbidden to stand over or be positioned higher than a monk.
2. Never Use Your Feet
Feet are considered the lowest, dirtiest part of the body in many Asian cultures and the head is the highest. So do not hold doors open with your feet, point your feet towards the Buddha images or angle your feet towards people. Be especially mindful of your feet position when you’re sitting or eating on the floor.
3. Don’t Disrespect the Royal Family
You will see many pictures commemorating them throughout the country and it is disrespectful to say anything negative about them. Don’t stomp on a Thai coin as it rolls away as you’re not only disrespecting the Crown, but also breaking rule 2.
4. Don’t Take Your Clothes Off
Walking around town in beach attire is considered impolite. Be extra-conscious of your attire when visiting temples. Dress preferably in white and women should wear long skirts or pants and have their shoulders covered.
5. Avoid Pointing with Your Fingers
When hailing for a tuk-tuk or beckoning a waiter, do not point your fingers up. Never clap, snap your fingers, or whistle to get someone’s attention, as Thais regard it akin to calling a dog.
6. Don’t Touch a Thai’s Head
Thais see the head as the highest part of the body so refrain from ruffling people’s hair. If you happen to by accident, apologize immediately. Thai people will sometimes pat a child on the head, but as a Westerner it’s best not to. Now if you stomp on a coin you’ll be breaking 3 rules!
7. Can’t Take Buddha Pictures Out of Thailand
It is technically illegal to take or send any pictures of Buddha out of the country! Nonetheless, many shop owners will still try to sell you pictures, and many tourists snap selfies in front of sacred Buddha statues. Just be discreet and respectful about it.
8. Don’t Lose Your Temper
Thais have a philosophy of keeping their cool;”jai yen” (cool heart). Thais see raising one’s voice as bad form. Don’t get frustrated, “mai pen rai” as the locals say.
9. Don’t Eat with a Fork
There are no specific dining times so visitors can enjoy cheap yet delicious food all day and night but watch your utensils. You may be given a fork and spoon, but it is only the spoon that touches one’s mouth (the fork is just for shoveling food onto the spoon). Also, chopsticks are only to be used when eating Chinese dishes.
10. Never Whistle at Night
Thais will become very uneasy if they hear a whistle after dark as they believe that whistling at night is bad luck because you’re calling the evil spirits.
11. Don’t Let a Tuk-Tuk Driver Take You To a Gem Shop
This is one of the biggest scams in the tourist areas of Thailand. Drivers will try to persuade you to visit a special gem shop, often a dodgy kick-back shop where tourists are harassed. In extreme cases, they are sometimes drugged and are cheated out of money in exchange for fake jewelry.
12. Don’t Shake Hands
Thais do not like to have personal contact when greeting strangers. Rather, they place both their open palms together at chest height and bow slightly. Do not bow to children or a person of lower status however, as you would be embarrassing them. If you are greeting a person of high importance, bow slightly deeper.
Now that you know how to properly respect the Thai culture, you can enjoy some of the most welcoming and hospitable people in the world.