It goes without saying that cultures differ vastly from one another, even if they are not so obvious on the surface. While the Thai culture is a forgiving one and tourists are understood and catered to in many ways, keep these tips in mind to ensure you respect the local culture and avoid any social discriminations.
Do remove your shoes - unlike several Western countries, wearing shoes into one’s house or shop is considered to be dirty and disrespectful. On the island, more formal businesses ask you to leave your shoes outside. When entering a Thai person’s home or temple, ensure you take your shoes off regardless.
Do keep your cool in all situations - Thailand is a nation that places deep value in ‘saving face’ - that is, try not to lose your temper or display strong emotions, even if a situation incites you to want to do so. You will be respected for maintaining a calm demeanour, even if things are going wrong.
Do smile… alot - you are in the “Land of Smiles”, after all! Smiles hold more of a significant meaning than you might imagine, particularly when it comes into line with ‘saving face’. Besides, smiles are contagious after all, so pass it on and make someone’s day!
Do respect the monarchy - this goes without saying, don’t pass on any insults or judgements while you’re here.
Do respect the elderly - while you shouldn’t really have reason to insult anyone, respecting the elderly will gain you deserved respect in return. As in many Asian cultures, age is an important marker of one’s place in the community - as is someone’s social status.
Don’t expose the soles of your feet - as this may seem like it contradicts the ‘no shoes’ rule, you should take extra care to make sure the bottom of your feet are not pointing towards other people, as it is considered to be a taboo, as our heads are considered sacred and the bottom of our feet filthy. Think twice before you decide to lean your feet up on a chair or table.
Don’t touch people’s heads - In the same way that the soles of our feet are considered to be dirty, the top of our heads are considered to be sacred. Even if you are just being playful towards a child, it is best to avoid this action.
Don’t be overly affectionate in public - while PDA is not frowned upon to the extent of that in some other countries, it is impolite to be overly touchy with one another, especially when on religious grounds (such as temples).
Don’t step over people - if someone happens to be sleeping on the floor, step around them. Stepping over people is considered rude, even if it’s just their outstretched legs.
Don’t point your fingers - while this may come naturally to some Westerners, place extra precaution to make sure you don’t insult someone in this way. Even if beckoning to someone, use the palms and all the fingers on your hands.
Our last point: have fun, an open-mind and a good sense of humour! Come join us at The Challenge Phangan and we'll sort you out on all 3 aspects as you tackle Thailand's most epic water obstacle course.