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Although known worldwide for its vibrant nightlife, delicious food, stunning landscapes and friendly people, Thailand is also deeply proud of its customs and traditions. As a tourist you will be much more likely to gain local people’s respect and friendship if you adapt some of your behaviours. Here are a few suggestions to digest before heading to the beautiful, tropical destination of Thailand.
Make sure to dress respectively while wandering around the country, especially if you decide to visit Thai temples. Shoulders and knees must be covered for both sexes, and the more conservatively you dress, the better. Yes, it is hot outside and yes, it is uncomfortable, but you may be turned away and denied entry if showing too much skin. It is better to dress properly, than be denied entry and risk losing out on seeing inside a gorgeous temple, or worse, attract disrespectful stares from locals.
Thailand’s beloved monarchy is highly respected within Thai culture. It’s against the law and a serious offence to disrespect any members of the royal family – journalists have been threatened with expulsion for doing so. Leading on from this, you should also stand up when the royal and national anthems are played.
In Thailand, feet are considered dirty. You should always remove your shoes before entering a temple or a person’s home. Some shops may even ask for you to leave your footwear at the door. Stories regarding ‘shoe thieves’ waiting outside temples have proliferated, so perhaps wear cheap flip flops rather than your best sandals. After entering a temple, remember the soles of your feet should never point towards a Buddha statue or symbol – instead crouch down on your knees and tuck your feet behind you.
In Thai culture, the head is the most important part of the body, and it’s therefore considered extremely rude to touch the top of a person, or figurative statue – especially if a representation of the Buddha.
Tuk-tuk drivers are notorious for taking people to undesired locations, such as a men’s tailor, or a jewellery store. They do this to receive a gas card or some sort of commission from the shop owners in payment for rounding up potential customers. When travelling by tuk-tuk always negotiate a price, and be sure to assert that you don’t want any stops other than your destination.