What Not To Do in Thailand – respecting customs and beliefs

Customs Beliefs Thailand Asia Culture Responsible Travel

Going to a new country can be very overwhelming, especially when the culture is very different to that of yours. While there are many customs and beliefs in Thailand, most Thai people are used to tourists and are very tolerant when customs aren’t followed and cultural errors are made, providing it is not insulting towards their monarchy or religion. Thailand is marketed as the land of smiles and endless sunshine, it is however, also the land of cultural beliefs and unintentionally committing a social crime is easily done. To make sure you’re not breaking any “cultural rules” here are some of the definite DON’TS for Thailand.

Royal Family

  • Do not ever show disrespect towards the Thai Royal Family. Thai people have a deep, traditional respect for the Royal Family, deliberately failing to show some respect towards the King or the Monarchy in any situation where it is expected, is not only an offense, but can also get you in prison.

 

 

Buddha

  • Don’t show disrespect to Buddha images, large or small, ruined or not, they are regarded as sacred objects. This means no climbing onto them to take photos or do anything which might indicate a lack of respect. Sacrilegious acts are punishable by imprisonment even when they are committed by foreign visitors.
  • Don’t take Buddha images out of the country, this is against the law unless special permission has been granted. However, stores will sell them to you, but won’t necessarily tell you about the regulations. I’ve never seen anyone check this at the border, I read this online and heard from an expat living on one the of the Thai islands that people have paid heavy fees for taking out Buddha, but to be honest I wouldn’t worry too much about it.
  • Do not sit on the floor of a Temple with your feet pointing at Buddha, your feet should always be pointing away from him.

Customs and Beliefs in Thailand

 

Meeting a Monk

  • Do not cross your legs when you are in the presence of a monk, no matter if you are sitting on the floor or in a chair.
  • Do not touch a monk. Monks are forbidden to touch women and often won’t even hand them something directly. While men are allowed to be in contact with monks they must keep a respectful distance. No one should stand over, or be positioned higher than, and there should definitely be no head rubbing!

 

 

Eating

  • Don’t use your fork to put food in your mouth, instead, use it to push your food onto your spoon.
  • Don’t leave your chopsticks in your bowl after you’ve finished, this symbolises dead and is very bad luck.
  • Don’t look around for your knife, all the food is cut up for you so you won’t need one. Don’t worry when ordering a steak or anything else that needs cutting you’ll be getting a knife with your meal.

Customs and Beliefs in Thailand

 

Alcohol, Drugs and Gambling

  • Do not get involved with anything or anyone about drugs. Do not take any packages through Thai customs for anybody! Seriously, I know it may sound like I’m over exaggerating but there are some that actually do this stuff! If you are caught carrying drugs, you risk the death penalty or quite some time in prison. So be warned!
  • Again with the taking a bag from a stranger, or even from someone you know. Do not ever accept any bag or anything from someone you don’t know very well, as it may contain drugs. And beware of your own compatriots, there are many scams of all kinds run by foreigners and aimed at foreigners. Always check what is in a bag before you agree to take it anywhere! Trafficking or possession of drugs (including “soft” drugs) is in many cases punished very severally and can lead up to years in prison and even death.
  • Do not participate in any form of gambling. Gambling is against the law in Thailand and penalties are very severe!
  • Do not smoke in the street, or drop litter in the street. You can be fined 2,000 Baht for doing so. But seriously people, I shouldn’t have to tell you not to throw litter on the street, if you still want to enjoy Thailand in 20 years, you gotta respect the country now!

 

 

Meeting Thai people

  • Do not touch Thai’s heads or ruffle their hair. Thai regard the head as the highest part of the body, literally and figuratively. This also counts for the small kids that try to sell you stuff, I know they look cute and adorable, but even for them it would be looked down upon.
  • Do not point at people or things with your feet. This is considered very rude, as the feet are considered as the most inferior parts of the human body.
  • Do not be offended by questions about age, salary or marital status, which are common questions Thai ask each other when they first meet.

 

 

When in Public dont..

  • Do not sunbathe nude, this is offensive to most Thai people.
  • Do not be too affectionate in public. Kissing, cuddling and similar behaviour are frowned upon if in public, especially amongst older Thais.
  • Do not shout in public in anyway (to anybody). In Thailand shouting is seen as annoyance and is entirely frowned upon, whatever the situation. There may be times when you face frustrations, do so quietly and calmly, and to be fair, shouting is probably not going to help the situation or will make them understand you better.

What NOT to do in Thailand. Thailand is known as the land of smiles and sunshine, but did you know it is also a cultural minefield? Read on and find out what you definitely shouldn't do in Thailand. - by http://wonderluhst.net

 

Safety

  • Do not get involved in prostitution in Thailand, which is not only put your health at serious risk, but also high chances of getting robbed.
  • Do not keep your valuables in a hotel safe deposit box. Some safe deposit boxes are the most unsafe places for safekeeping. Entrust your valuables only to respectable hotels.
  • Do not accept any offers from strangers to assist you in finding the right places to do your shopping. You don’t know what their intentions are, most will just try to help you and earn some money, others might have different ideas.

Pin now, read later!

Customs and Beliefs in Thailand

Want to read more about Thailand? 

11 Thai dishes you must try

Everything you should know about the Full Moon Party (on Koh Phangan)

The Ultimate Guide to Island Hopping in Thailand

The Impacts of Sex Tourism on Thailand

5 reasons why you shouldn’t skip the Similan Island when you’re in Thailand

 

 

Safe travels

xoxo Anne

——————————–

Share your Wonderluhst
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

15 Responses

  1. Wow I’ve been to Thailand and didn’t know like 80% of these tips. Especially not crossing your legs in from of a monk. Eeek. This is a great guide and I think its so important to have respect for the local culture.

  2. Anisa
    | Reply

    I wish I would have known these before my trip to Thailand. I guess I will just have to go back!

  3. erikastravels
    | Reply

    This would have been good to know before I went to Thailand a few years back. I didn’t know you couldn’t bring Buddha images/statues out of the country. That is surprising, considering how prolific they are in souvenir shops!

    • Wonderluhst.net
      | Reply

      I know I was so surprised when I heard it for the first time!!

  4. thetravelpockets
    | Reply

    So informative! Do you know why you can’t cross your legs in front of monks?

    • Wonderluhst.net
      | Reply

      It’s not in so many words that you can’t cross your legs, but when you cross your legs you point your feet automatically to the front and since feet are according to them the least sacred part of the body and therefore shouldn’t be pointed at monks and Buddhas etc. etc.. They say that it’s best to sit on your hands and knees with your feet pointing backwards

  5. Aditi
    | Reply

    Yes, I agree with all that you’ve mentioned. But I felt that people weren’t that friendly in Thailand.

    • Wonderluhst.net
      | Reply

      Thank you for reading! That’s a shame that you had that experience, in my opinion every country has some bad and some good people but especially in the more touristy parts you often find that locals have become more “aggresive” in their behaviour towards tourist, which is indeed a shame but very understanding if you ask me!

  6. suzannahsylvian
    | Reply

    Posts like this are really important. I had no idea about bringing Buddha statues and such out of the country. What do you mean by images by the way?

    • Wonderluhst.net
      | Reply

      Thank you for reading! About the images, for as far as I understood it only concerns photos of Buddha (not the little statues you find in almost every souvenir shop). I’ve seriously got no clue why this is, I’ve tried looking it up but no specific reason is ever given! Find it so random, would almost be like going to a church here in the Netherlands (where I live) taking a picture of a Christ statue and not being able to take it out of the country… But to be fair, I don’t think customs ever checks this!

  7. Marteen Lane
    | Reply

    It’s so important to respect another country’s customs and beliefs. It makes your experience so much easier and the locals really appreciate it ☺

  8. Mel Sak
    | Reply

    Great post, very informative. Love that you don’t need a knife when eating.

  9. Nuria Vidal
    | Reply

    Such an interesting post! Would considering it when I fly to Thailand! Thanks for share:)

  10. thejetsetterdiaries
    | Reply

    This is really great! It would’ve been amazing to have this before I visited Thailand!

  11. carla
    | Reply

    I have an upcoming trip to Chiang Mai in October. SAving these handy tips. Thanks for sharing!

Don't be shy, leave a comment!