5 Thai Customs You Should Know

  • Posted onJuly 27th, 2013

customsWhether you are new to Bangkok and Thailand or just wishing to brush up on your manners, there are  a number of local customs which can really help you win over the locals and earn some of those Thai smiles. While most international greetings and gestures are used and accepted in Bangkok society, using local customs to show your gratitude and respect is only going to make you new friends, so to prepare you for your next Bangkok trip here are 5 Thai customs we think you should know:

MonarchyRespect the King

The Thais love their monarch without exception, and the royal family is at the centre of so much positivity and closeness of the Thai nation. You will see images of the king and the monarchy everywhere you look, and you should show these image respect at all times.

Whenever you hear the national anthem played it is best to stand, especially during events and at the start of movie screening. If you don’t have anything positive to say about the monarchy it’s strongly advised to say nothing at all. Being negative or rude towards the monarchy is not only disrespectful but it can get you arrested and in some serious hot water.

BuddhaRespect Buddhism

The Thai national religion of Buddhism should also be given a high level of respect. Around 95% of the population are practising Buddhists, and the religion is very much at the centre of Thai culture and society. You will see Buddhist imagery all around you, with many Thai’s wearing amulets.

Always be respectful towards Buddhism and Buddhist imagery. If you are not a Buddhist it is unwise to get into an argument about belief and religion, and you should avoid making contact with shrines or Buddhist display, which Thais strongly believe will disrupt harmony/karma.

waiThe Wai

While a warm handshake will suffice in many social greetings, the wai is the way to go if you want to show a little more respect to the locals. The wai is an integral part and Thai etiquette, and most tourist and Thai newbies give a rather sloppy version. To perform a correct wai you need to press your palms together, bring them to your chest or nose level, and then bow your head slightly in a slow and graceful manner.

The wai can be used for saying hello, goodbye, or thank you.

feetHuman Touch

While Thais are very warm and sensual people, there certain forms of bodily contact which should be avoided.

The head is believed to be the most sacred part of the body and unless you are extremely close or intimate with someone it is very disrespectful to touch someone’s head without good reason. At the other end, feet are seen as the lowest part of the body and raising your feet to show or point at someone (or a religious object) is seen to be extremely offensive.

smileMai Pen Rai

Mai Pen Rai translates to mean ‘never mind’ and it’s more a philosophy and way of life rather than just a phrase you will often hear in Thailand. It’s all about keeping cool and calm, and not worrying over the small things.

Adopting this positive, laidback attitude is another key to living like a local, and not a bad philosophy to live by. You should never take anything too seriously in Thailand, and anything you have to do should always be done with a smile and sense of enjoyment!


  1. larry says:

    The thai women will not sit ,speak or touch a monk.It just isn’t done.

  2. Epigenes says:

    Not sure about about farang attempting the wai. There is more to this than is at first apparent. Different wai for different folk. The Thai learn this stuff at school. I just bow my head a little.

    It is like using pee and nong to address native Thai. It can cause offence because many Thai regard this custom as exclusively for them.

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