Do's and Don'ts in Thailand

Thailand Etiquette Tips

1. Dress Attire

  1. DO dress stylishly and modestly, particularly when visiting temples. Keep your attire neat and clean!
  2. DO wear nice pants and a nice shirt with or without a tie, if you are a man attending a business function. For women, wear a nice dress or a skirt and blouse for business functions. Don't wear tank-tops.
  3. DON'T wear shorts, short skirts, or tank-tops if you are entering a temple.

2. Table Manners

  1. DO use a fork and spoon when eating. Chopsticks are no longer traditionally used in Thailand. Hold the spoon in your right hand and push the food into your spoon with the fork.
  2. DO leave a little bit of food on your plate when you're done eating to indicate that you are full.
  3. DO put your spoon and fork at the 5:25 position when you are done eating.
  4. DON'T use your left hand while eating.
  5. DON'T snap your fingers or yell to get a waiter's attention when dining out.

3. Tipping

  1. DO leave a tip in all restaurants. Leave the tip with your change leftover from the bill, or tip 10% at a more upscale restaurant.
  2. DO tip a cab driver by rounding up your total fare.
  3. DO tip hotel porters 10-20 Thai baht.

4. Gift Giving and Accepting Gifts

  1. DO give and receive gifts with your right hand, not your left.
  2. DON'T open a gift until later.
  3. DO give gifts such as liquor, books, or sweets.
  4. DO thank the gift giver with a “wai” (see below).

5. Body Gestures

  1. DO understand the meaning of the “wai.” Wai is when a person puts their hands together close to their body at chest level and gives a slight bow. The higher the hands, the more respectful the wai. It can mean “Hello”, “I'm sorry”, or “Good-bye.”
  2. DON'T point with one finger. It's considered impolite.
  3. DON'T show affection in public or even touch someone of the opposite sex.
  4. DON'T pass something over someone's head. The head is considered sacred in Thailand.
  5. DON'T point with your feet or use your feet to touch something. Feet are considered dirty, because they are the lowest part of the body.
  6. DON'T talk with your hands or put your hands in your pockets while talking to someone.
  7. DON'T step on a threshold when going through a doorway. Step over it instead. Thais believe that a spirit lives in the threshold.

6. Greetings

  1. DO greet with a wai if you feel comfortable. However, as a foreigner, you aren't expected to initiate with a wai, but you must always return a wai to be polite.
  2. DON'T greet children, waiters, vendors, etc. with a wai. If they greet you with a wai, simply smile and nod back at them.
  3. DO shake hands if not offered a wai.

7. Visitors Etiquette

  1. DO bring a gift for your host. A nice host gift would be brandy, flowers, cakes, fruit, etc.
  2. DO take your shoes off upon entering a home.

8. Business Meeting

  1. DO expect men to primarily conduct business, although women are beginning to get more involved in Thailand's business world.
  2. DON'T rush negotiations. Business decision-making can be slow in Thailand.
  3. DO be subtle. Directness doesn't always go over well in Thailand.
  4. DO expect to be addressed by your title and first name, i.e. Mr. Bob. This isn't to be rude or disrespectful.
  5. DO introduce colleagues of a lower professional status before introducing yourself in a formal business introduction.

9. Religious Etiquette

  1. DO dress conservatively. Women should wear long skirts or pants and covered shoulders. Don't wear sandals.
  2. DON'T take photos at a temple.
  3. DO remove shoes upon entering.
  4. DON'T sit with your feet pointing towards a Buddha. Sit cross-legged or with your feet tucked under you.
  5. DON'T touch a monk, give him anything, sit next to him, or sit above him.
  6. DON'T touch a Buddha image. They are sacred. Don't climb on top of it, move it, or even sit next to it to pose for a picture. It's disrespectful.
Although the above list of etiquette may seem somewhat overwhelming, as a foreigner, you won't be expected to partake in all of their customs. Nevertheless, be conservative in your actions, especially in temples since they are such sacred places. Keep that in mind and have a wonderful trip to Thailand!

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