Samui Wining & Dining
Essential Etiquette
 Dos and don’ts in Thailand.


You’re on holiday in a hot tropical country, and not just any country. This is Thailand, one of the world’s most exotic destinations. If at times certain places seem hyper-modern and western, everything here is underpinned by centuries’ old traditions. Things are just not going to be like in the country you’re from, and to get the best out of your time in Thailand, it really pays to master the etiquette that goes with being here. Here’s a brief lowdown on what’s done and not done here in the kingdom.


Respect the Thai Monarchy The King is the head of state and is treated by one and all with the greatest of respect. Everywhere you go you’ll see pictures of not only the current king, His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn but also his late father, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. You’ll also see pictures showing other members of the Royal Family. Discussion about anything to do with royalty is discouraged and you should be aware of causing offence if you don’t show respect in this matter. If you go to the cinema, you’re expected to stand during the national anthem. And when you hear it while outdoors, you should stand still and listen until it’s over. Any symbol or picture showing the Royal Family should also be accorded respect, as should be the flag of Thailand. Do not show disrespect in any form – and that extends to what you post on the internet.


Avoid pointing with your feet or touching people’s heads The feet are used for walking along on the ground, and the ground is usually dirty. Many Thais in olden times used to walk barefoot, and so the feet were viewed as being very lowly. Because of this it’s considered highly rude to be sitting with a foot or both feet pointing towards someone. It’s surprisingly easy to do, especially if you’re sitting cross legged,P112-2 so you will need to be very aware. Above all, do not rest your feet on headrests or any place where the feet could dirty anything. Shoes also have their own etiquette. You’ll need to remove your shoes if you go into someone’s house and also some shops. If in doubt, simply point to your feet and make a questioning face. If you see shoes outside a door and want to go in, then take off your own. At temples you’ll need to take off your shoes before going into any sacred building – this is an absolute rule.


Dress properly – even on the beach. Some vacationer’s balmy holiday mood causes nothing but raised eyebrows. You’ll see people doing things they wouldn’t dream of doing in their home country, like walking round shopping malls in bikinis or just shorts. Perhaps some of these insouciant vacationers think they look good, but whether they do or not, this kind of behaviour won’t make them popular. Except perhaps on a viral video. Dress appropriately for wherever you go.


If visiting an office, especially a government one, then you should make sure that you’re not wearing shorts or a t-shirt. Skirts should be down to the knees or wear long trousers. And don’t leave your shoulders bare. This is even more so the case when visiting a temple.
At temples there are quite likely to be free clothes you can borrow for covering up any skimpy attire.


But in any case, on the beach or at the pool, don’t wear anything too revealing. Look at Thais and you’ll see very clearly that they are very, very averse to showing too much flesh. It’s not done to go topless, for example. Less to do with manners and more to do with common sense,you should cover up if you are riding a motorbike. Wear shoes and a helmet. Follow the rules of the road – even if others don’t.


Temples The etiquette that governs temples is much as it is for most sacred spaces anywhere. We’ve already covered some of the aspects of visiting a temple, such as taking off shoes. You should also take off your hat and sunglasses. Remember to turn your mobile phone off but also take off any headphones you are wearing. You’ll need to be quiet and respectful. If you come with a child,P112-3 there should be no running around or making noise. Buddha statues are sacred and when taking a picture of one, it’s best to kneel. Do not point to any statue, monk or nun, as this is deemed a great lack of respect. If you are sitting in a worship hall and a monk or nun comes in to worship, then please stand up to show respect and only sit again once they have left the hall. Do not ever touch a Buddha image. If in doubt, follow the behaviour of Thai visitors to the temple. Step over the threshold of a temple hall, never step on it.


Avoid anger at all costs Of course, wherever you are in the world, it’s best not to lose your temper. Here in Thailand this is ten times more important. Getting angry won’t help you achieve what you want. On the contrary, Thais, who are brought up not to show anger in public places, won’t look on your behaviour favourably. Getting angry can include raising your voice, looking impatient and all those facial gestures that denote anger. Sarcasm won’t help either.


Be relaxed If anger is at one end of a sliding scale, being relaxed and calm is at the other end and is considered desirable. Naturally it also feels better. Thais appreciate being relaxed; it’s a mental attitude that seems to say, don’t worry too much about daily problems and cares; be optimistic and as light in spirit as possible. Generally, this is an attitude that most people will want to cultivate anyway, but here in Thailand it’s even more important. The overall sense of everything being laid-back is an intangible asset of the country and its people, and one of the reasons why holidaymakers like to come here.


That said, you definitely can’t afford to be relaxed all the time. Some people’s relaxed approach to riding motorbikes, for example, should not be emulated. You’ll see people riding on the wrong side of the road, heading straight into traffic, riding without helmets, etc., and the unwary may be lulled into a false sense of security.


Being in Thailand is all part of a great adventure. Do as the Thais do, always focus on staying calm and relaxed, and you’ll enjoy your stay here. It’ll be filled with amazing times, and when the moment comes to go back home, you’ll probably find yourself planning your next holiday here. Meanwhile, try to keep to the Thai etiquette, but if you’re ever in doubt, simply ask at your resort’s reception – they will invariably know what should be done or not done.




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