While Bangkok is now known as a global city that seems to be a world within itself, with Westerners travelling in and out of the place everyday, still it is in Thailand. Notwithstanding the hordes of westerners, known as “farang” in Thai language, that have made the city as their permanent residence, it is still best to remember that the place thrives in its own culture and etiquette. In fact, Thai culture has a rather particular appreciation for proper etiquette, and Thai people, who are characteristically good-natured and welcoming to foreigners, are too polite to point out when you are being offensive to them. That said, it is well to remember the following key etiquette points when you are on your Bangkok tour:
Smile is known as a cultural habit in Thailand, earning the kingdom the title of “The Land of Smiles”. Smile being a universal language, you can take it to your advantage when in Bangkok. So when you are in doubt, smile!
The wai is one of the most important of thai customs. It is a form of greeting made by bowing slightly while having the palms of your hands pressed together. Status plays an important role in Thai culture, and as regards wai, one is expected to offer it only to those who are on the same or greater level of social standing. Foreigners, however, are not expected to initiate a wai, but they can best return one by using the strangers’ wai, where hands are placed roughly at the center of the chest. Make you hand motions smooth and graceful, beginning from your sides and slowly moving them upwards until pressed together close to your chest, and bow slightly.
Thai people will do their best to avoid conflict even in the most heated of situations, choosing to walk away and take a moment to calm down rather than lose their cool. The Thai cultural temperament is best summed up in the expression “Mai pen rai”, which translates “Don’t worry, no worries, never mind”. So,showing anger in public is a big no.
Thai tradition considers the head as sacred, and this is as much true in Bangkok as anywhere else in Thailand. So it is not okay to touch the someone’s head, or to pass something over it.
Feet and Shoes
The feet are seen in Thailand as an unholy part of the human body. Accordingly, the feet should never ever be used to point or to move any object. It should never be used, too, to touch people, nor should one make any gesture with it. Soles should never be shown, and in temples, the feet should never be pointed towards any buddha images.
On the other hand, always remember that the owner of any home you might happen to visit would expect you to leave your shoes at the door. You have to take your shoes off before entering and the same rule goes for most establishments such as massage parlors and stores. Look for a shoe rack located near the entrance, but if you are a bit clueless about where to leave your shoes, follow the lead of patrons who are ahead of you. That way, you will be sure about what to do.
It is Thai custom to avoid touching one another in public, unless they come from the same family or are otherwise very close friends. Accordingly, even Thai couples avoid public displays of affection, not even touching hands when in public. Touching someone of the opposite sex is also a big no, even if you are friends with each other. The same thing goes true for lovers.
Most Thai people are conservative with regards to clothing, and is best to avoid dress that shows too much skin, especially so when you are going to sacred places such as temples. In Bangkok, skirts and shorts are generally considered to be fine for women but they should not expose their shoulders and cleavage. On the other hand, men should never remove shirts when in public, unless they are on the beach.
While you are indeed having fun exploring as much as possible with your Bangkok tour package, remember that you should never ever take peoples’ photographs without asking for permission first. Ask yourself, would you ever want your photograph taken by a stranger without your knowledge? It is rude. It is never worth it if a photograph will make anyone feel like an object of a show.
Temples, particularly Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Rachabhophit, enforce strict dress codes. Arms and legs must be properly covered, and monks are not to be touched. As already mentioned above, shoes must be taken off prior to entry, and the feet should never be used to to point to or touch any religious object. Be careful and observe what Thai visitors do so you will have a clue of the proper thing to do.
The Royal Family
Thai law requires paying respects to the Royal family. At all public places or establishments, everyone is expected to stop whatever they are doing and stand up whenever the Thai national anthem or the Song for His Majesty the King is being played. It is against the law to damage or draw on his picture.
While reveling on your Bangkok tour, it is best to use your best judgement and follow the lead of the locals, but the tips given above will be noteworthy to remember.