10 Values to Live By in Thailand

Lady in traditional Thai dress with Thai flags behind her | © Binder.donedat / Flickr
Lady in traditional Thai dress with Thai flags behind her | © Binder.donedat / Flickr
Photo of Sarah Williams
6 April 2018

As with every culture, Thailand has several positive principles that can be adopted by everyone for day-to-day living. Here are ten Thai values that anyone can incorporate into his or her life.

Family first

Thai society places great emphasis on the role of the family, with the extended family taking on more significance than in many Western nations. Large families typically live close together, helping with raising children, finances, and everyday chores. It’s not uncommon for grandparents, for example, to take care of children while parents go to work. The communal living ensures that all members of a family are taken care of and there are strong bonds that promote a sense of fulfillment. Nobody lives in isolation and there are always plenty of people to help out.

Family is important in Thailand. | © Mark Fischer / Flickr

Sufficient is enough

In a world that is becoming more and more consumer driven, Thai society goes back to basics, considering basic needs and making sure that everyone has everything they need to survive. There are several projects around the country, particularly in rural areas, aimed at helping people to live a more sustainable lifestyle. The late Thai King introduced the Philosophy of Sustainable Economy to enhance the quality of life for Thai people.

Keep your cool

Showing extreme emotions in public is frowned upon in Thailand. As a result, Thai people are known for their self-control and seemingly calm nature. Thais rarely show anger in public and are generally non confrontational. You are more likely to hear a Thai person saying jai yen yen (“cool your heart”) and discussing problems calmly than yelling, cursing, and acting aggressively.

Wear your smile

Thai people are famous around the world for their smiles; indeed, the country is known as the Land of Smiles! While a smile doesn’t always indicate happiness, Thais know that putting a brave face on and presenting a welcoming face is more beneficial than a sullen scowl and surly approach.

Smiles are everywhere in Thailand. | © Mark Fischer / Flickr

No worries

Mai bpen rai is a phrase that Thai people use a lot. It translates to “no worries” and is used in many situations. Connected with maintaining self-control, Thai people know that getting worked up about something probably won’t change matters, so why waste energy and distress yourself unnecessarily?

Young Thai girl selling fish | © M M / Flickr

Inject some fun

Thais like to laugh and enjoy life, and there’s an overriding sense of sanook (“fun” ) in many elements of life. This may give the impression that Thais don’t care too much about anything, but that is certainly not the case; they know not to sweat the small stuff and to enjoy life’s small pleasures at any opportunity they can. From fun and games in the classroom, to karaoke nights after work, having a little fun each day is an important part of Thai life.

Respect yourself and others

Respect plays a big part in daily interactions in Thailand. Thai people show respect in many ways, from using the wai and ducking when passing between two people, to language and standards of dress. Respect for the self is as important as respect for others. When everyone shows respect for each other, it creates a society that is, at least outwardly, more tolerant, understanding, civil, and peaceful. Gratitude is also important, with people generally giving the utmost respect to parents, teachers, law enforcement officials, and medical workers.

Showing respect to monks in Thailand | © Mark Fischer / Flickr | © Mark Fischer / Flickr

Generosity and hospitality

Thai people are known for being especially welcoming, friendly, and hospitable. Showing kindness and generosity is often connected with gaining merit and more positive karma. Stopping to pick up hitchhikers, waking up early to give alms to monks, and going out of their way to assist tourists with language barriers or transportation advice are just a few ways that you may observe generosity in Thailand. Of course, as with any country, that’s not to say that Thailand is without its scams and people looking to cash in on tourists, but in general, Thai society is a lot more hospitable than many places around the world.

Cultural pride

Thais are very proud of their country, history, heritage, and culture, and great efforts are undertaken to protect and preserve cultural elements and teach people about the country’s past. Rather than trying to become a generic country that could be anywhere in the world, Thais invest heavily in conserving their traditional arts, dress, music, architecture, and so on.

A Thai cultural performance | © Dennis Jarvis / Flickr

Shoes off, please

With the head seen as the body’s spiritual high point and the feet seen as low and dirty, it’s no wonder that Thais take off their shoes before entering homes, places of worship, and some stores and restaurants. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, removing your shoes before going indoors can only be a good thing; after all, who wants the dirt and dust from outside traipsing through their home?