Things to Know When Travelling in Thailand
When visiting a new country it is important to learn a little about the cultural norms, since they are often quite different than those of your home country. Thai people are quite relaxed and tolerant but your journey will certainly be smoother if you just keep a few things in mind.
- Thais believe the head is the most sacred part of the body. Never touch a Thai on the head.
- The feet are considered the lowest part of the body; don’t rest your feet or put your shoes on a table, and don’t stretch your feet out in anyone’s direction.
- It is customary in Thailand to remove shoes before entering a house or temple.
- Thais feel strongly about their religion, so don’t wear your beach clothes to a temple, don’t climb over Buddha images, and always remove your shoes before entering a temple.
- The traditional Thai greeting is the “wai,” wherein the hands are brought together in front of the chin. The younger or the lower–ranking person “wais” first.
- The Royal Family is deeply loved and respected. Don’t speak ill of its members even in jest.
- Public displays of affection between the sexes are frowned upon.
- Modesty is appreciated in Thailand. Please don’t sunbathe topless or wear revealing clothing.
- Thais are quite respectful of Westerners and some may try out their English on you. Don’t be offended by questions about your age, salary and marital status; these questions are not meant to be intrusive.
Transport in Thailand, and especially in Bangkok, can be at times frustrating for tourists. The following information may make getting around a little easier.
Taxi Service: If you use a taxi, make sure the driver uses the meter while in service. The meter will start at 35 baht. Choose a taxi by stopping one that is available and actually moving on the road instead of one that is parked and waiting in front of the hotel. When hailing a taxi it is customary to extend your arm out to the street with palm facing down. Waving your hand in the air or pointing can be considered rude.
Public Transportation: In Bangkok you can use the BTS sky train and MRT subway to get to many popular places. When booking a hotel, it is always nice to check the location in relation to the nearest BTS or MRT station as these are both easy, reliable ways of getting around the city.
Tuk Tuks: These three-wheeled vehicles can be a fun, albeit loud and smoggy, way of getting around! It is definitely something to try at least once. Be sure to arrange the price with your driver before you start the trip.
The Thai way of life is strongly influenced by a few important concepts :
Mai pen rai – You will hear ‘Mai pen rai’ a lot during your trip. It translates into ‘not at all, you’re welcome, no problem, it doesn’t matter, no worries, never mind, or no thank you’. ‘Mai pen rai’ is typically Thai and shows consideration for others, avoidance of conflict and anger and a desire for peace.
Greng Jie – Loosely translated, this means ‘to have consideration for others’. In reality, it means thinking about how what is said or done will affect others. It allows Thais to avoid conflict, awkward challenges, conflicts and basically any difficult or unpleasant situation. In many cases, Thais will decide not to act or speak out more often than westerners would. Keeping their opinions to themselves avoids conflict and being disrespectful to their peers.
Jie Yen – This translates into ‘cool heart’. It refers to the Thai preference for keeping cool in difficult or frustrating situations. Being jie rorn or hot-hearted displays a lack of self control, rudeness and poor attitude which can make others ‘lose face’. In Thailand it is considered disrespectful to put someone in a position where they ‘lose face’. Whatever happens during your journey in Thailand, you should keep cool and refrain from raising your voice or losing your temper. This will make everyone happy and much more willing to help you in a difficult situation.
Sanook – Describes everything that is fun or enjoyable.
Thai people appreciate it when tourists try to learn a little of the Thai language. Just saying ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in Thai will go a long way. Don’t worry about saying it incorrectly! The effort is what really matters. And after a few good-natured corrections, you’re bound to perfect the pronunciation! You can download a brief introduction to the language here.