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    Do & Don’t in THAILAND

    Getting Along in Thailand

     Thailand is justly celebrated for its tolerance and hospitality, and the average tourist will have no difficulty in adjusting to the local customs. All the same, as when coming into any unfamiliar society, a visitor may find it helpful to be aware of certain do’s and don’t’s and thus avoid giving accidental offense. Basically, most of these are simply a matter of common sense and good manners-not really all that different from the way one would behave in one’s own country-but a few are special enough to be pointed out.

    The Monarchy

    The Thai people have a deep, traditional reverence for their Royal Family, and a visitor should also be careful to show respect for the King, the Queen, and the Royal Children. In a cinema, for example, a portrait of the King is shown during the playing of the royal anthem, and the audience is expected to stand. When attending some public event at which a member of the Royal Family is present, the best guide as to how to behave is probably to watch the crowd and do what it does.

    Religion

    Thai law has a number of special sections concerning religious offenses, and these cover not only Buddhism, the religion of the majority of the people, but also any other faiths represented in the Kingdom. It is, for instance unlawful to commit any act, by any means whatever, to an object or a place of religious worship of any community in a manner likely to insult The religion. Similarly, “whoever causes any disturbance at an assembly lawfully engaged in the performance of religious worship of religious ceremonies” is subject to punishment, as well as “whoever dresses or uses a symbol showing that he is a priest or novice, holyman or clergyman of any religion unlawfully in order to make another person believe he is such person.”

    In less legal language, here are a few tips on what to do and what not to do on a visit to a religious place:

    – Dress neatly. Don’t go shirtless, or in shorts, pants, or other unsuitable attire. If you look at the Thais around you, you’ll see the way they would prefer you to be dressed — which, in fact, is probably not very different from the way you’d dress in a similar place back home.

    – It’s all right to wear shoes while walking around the compound of a Buddhist temple, but not inside the chapel where the principal Buddha image is kept. Don’t worry about dirt when you have to take them off; the floors of such places are usually clean.

    – In a Muslim mosque, men should wear hats and women should be well-covered with slacks or a long skirt, a longsleeved blouse buttoned to the neck, and a scarf over the hair. All should remove their shoes before entering the mosque and should not be present if there is a religious gathering.

    – Buddhist priests are forbidden to touch or to be touched by a woman or to accept anything from the hand of one. If a woman has to give anything to a monk or novice, she first hands it to a man, who then presents it. Or in case of a woman who wants to present it with her hand, the monk or novice will spread out a piece of saffron robe or handkerchief in front of him, and the woman will lay down the material on the robe which is being held at one end by the monk or novice.

    All Buddha images, large or small, ruined or not, are regarded as sacred objects. Hence, don’t climb up on one to take a photograph or, generally speaking, do anything that might show a lack of respect.

    Social Customs

    The don’ts of Thai social behavior are less clearly defined than those concerning the monarchy or religion-especially in a city like Bangkok where Western customs are better known and more widely accepted. However, what is acceptable in Bangkok may not be in the countryside where the old ways are still strong. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

    – Thais DO NOT normally shake hands when they greet one another, but instead press the palms together. In a prayer-like gesture called a wai. Generally, a younger person wais an elder, who returns it. Watch how the Thais do it, and you will soon learn.

    – It is considered rude to point your foot at a person, so try to avoid doing so when sitting opposite anyone, and following the conception that the foot is a low limb; DO NOT point your foot to show anything to anyone, but use your finger instead.

    – Thais regard the head as the highest part of the body both literally and figuratively. As a result they DO NOT approve of touching anyone on that part of the body; even in a friendly gesture. Similarly, if you watch Thais a social gathering, you will notice that young people go to considerable lengths to keep their heads lower than those of the elder ones, to avoid giving the impression of “looking down” on them. This is not always possible, of course, but it is the effort that counts.

    – Public displays of affection between men and women are frowned upon. You may see some very Westernised young Thai couples holding hands, but that is the extent of the displaying of affection in this polite society.

    – Losing your temper, especially in public, will more than likely get you nowhere. The Thais think such displays denote poor manners, and you are more apt to get what you want by keeping a cool head and concealing your emotions.

    – DO NOT be surprised if you are addressed by your first name; for instance, Mr. Bob or Miss Mary instead of by your surname. This is because Thais refer to one another in this manner, usually with the title “Khun” (Mr., Mrs., or Miss) in front. Follow the customs of any country as far as possible, and you will make more friends during your stay. The more friends you make, the more you will want to return to Thailand.

    Information from : Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)

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