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Updated by Joanna James on Dec 16, 2020
Headline for Top 5 Tips to Be a Polite Guest when Visiting Thailand – Respecting a Culture
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Joanna James Joanna James
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Top 5 Tips to Be a Polite Guest when Visiting Thailand – Respecting a Culture

If you're new in Thailand, you might feel at a loss with the range of customs and traditions that make Thai culture rather colourful – you might, at times, feel quite intimidated when visiting someone's home or attending native events. Here are five guidelines that will save your day!

1

Take off your Shoes

If you're invited to a house party, or you're visiting someone's house for any other reason, keep in mind to remove your shoes before you step inside the house. This is customary and conveys respect. This is strictly expected if you're visiting a temple or shrine in Thailand. Moreover, it is considered rude and a sign of disrespect if you keep pointing your feet at people – even if it's unintentional when you're crossing legs while being seated.

2

Respect personal space

Thai people have rather a strong idea of their personal space; not only do they consider patting on someone else's back or shoulders quite rude but touching one on the head is also considered pretty insulting. For greeting purposes and also as a means of conveying respect, Thai's use a wai, which is a gesture made with hands by placing your palms together in a praying position. However, three different types of wai greetings are used for people of varying statuses. If you just want to wai to a person of a similar status, however, the wai should be made by lowering your face until your nose touches your index fingers (when your hands are in praying position, of course!) As a foreigner, you will not be expected to initiate a wai, but it'd be great and appreciated if you do! However, it would be prudent to refrain from initiating a wai if you're unsure of its correctness.

3

Never speak badly of the king

Thailand is famous for its Lèse-majesté rules that actually forbid its citizens from criticising the king. Even if the rule wouldn't apply as strictly for you as a foreigner, you might still be detained if you choose to publicly demean the king. In any case, it is best to not mention the king at all, as you never know how your words might sound like to the natives.

4

Keep your head down

Thai people place great importance to their head, which you may have already noticed since they consider touching the head of a person downright insulting. So, you might also need to be mindful of keeping your head the same level of somebody to whom you need to respect. For example, if you're dining at a hotel Khon Kaen has to offer such as Avani Khon Kaen Hotel & Convention Centre, and your host sits down, you should sit down as well so that you're not towering above him. In situations where you don't have seating facilities, it would be respectful to step back a little bit if someone of a higher rank is seated.

5

Address on a first-name basis

Unlike in most western countries, Thai people find it perfectly acceptable to address each other by their first names. However, remember to preface each name with the word "Khun".