Avoid Awkward Cultural Gaffes! 8 of Thailand’s Traditional Customs to Know

This is a guest post by Sandra James

When you visit a new country, there are surefire way to always avoid cultural gaffes or to avoid culture shock. Even if you’re not going very far from home, you may very well be surprised by a new culture’s cuisine, traditions and lifestyle. Once you choose your destination you will research places to visit and things to do, but the local norms, greetings, and daily ways are just as important to learn. Every nation has its own mentality and traditions, and despite the mega tourism that has impacted Thailand in the last 30 years, Thai customs remain strong and unique.

Having a well-planned vacation will keep you concentrated on discovering new places and adventures. In Thailand, many folks head to the South for a vacation in Koh Samui for a dream trip due to the region’s friendly people, awesome views, delicious foods, great variety of traditions and superb Koh Samui rentals and accommodation. Let’s discover the most popular traditions on the luxurious Thai island of Koh Samui and maybe figure out how to avoid culture shock in Thailand!

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Greeting the Thai way

Those who have been in Thailand even for a day will surely mention that they have a special way of greeting.

Thai people often use the “wai”, the traditional way of greeting by pressing your palms together at chest, chin, or forehead height and bowing the head slightly. You can use the ‘wai’ when saying hello to someone, goodbye, or thanking them. It shows respect and makes people smile at you.

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I met a guy who was selling cold drinks to some tourists. I was amazed to see that after they paid him he thanked them with the Tai greeting. It was overwhelming and so simply beautiful.

Thailand’s Days of Color

One of the most beautiful traditions you’ll meet in Koh Samui is the “days of color”. It’s a tradition of wearing different colors depending on what day it is. According to pre-Buddhist Hindu legend, each day has a special color associated with it for people to wear. This is based on the color of the God who protects that specific day.

Mondays are all about bright yellow shirts in honor of the day the King was born. Pink is worn on Tuesday, and green on Wednesday though the color changes to grey by night. Orange is worn on Thursday, light blue on Friday for the Queen’s day of birth, purple on Saturday and red on Sunday.

Pick up colors for each day and join the locals during your time in Thailand, you will be sure to get some approving nods.

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Buddhist Religious Objects and Places

Every nation comes with religious traditions that are unique to that country. The Thai people are about 95% Theravada Buddhist, so Thailand is home to many religious sites as well as small altars in homes, hotels, and businesses. And Koh Samui is no exception.

It’s recommended to avoid touching or disturbing the altars, as they often contain fruit, food, garlands, or even money for the honored gods, goddesses and saints.

Always Take Your Shoes off

This one is important! When you enter someone’s home or a religious place make sure you always remove your shoes. It’s better to leave them by the front door. This is another way of respecting this country and its people.

Insider’s Tip: It’s a great idea to travel in shoes that are easily slipped on and off, saves you a lot of time going in and out of temples.

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Names and Nicknames

Thai people are usually called by their first names. However you may be surprised to Know that it’s preceded with the honorary title which indicates respect, “Khun” for both men and women. More casually, a wide array of nicknames is often used between relatives and close friends. These nicknames are mostly inspired by colors, fruit, animals, money, and even automobiles!

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Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles. Almost everyone on the streets smile at you, and you should definitely smile back. Not only will you feel safer, happier and welcomed, but Thai people are also very communicative and they like to help people around them. After a few days in Koh Samui, and smiling at all of the neighbours, I definitely felt right at home.

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Simple Sayings in Thai

“Mai pen rai” is a phrase used in the Thai philosophy for “never mind”. This way people are showing their way of letting worries slip away.

“Sabai Sabai” is the friendliest vibe Thailand has to offer. It means “take it easy” and is full of happiness. All the tourists are using it from the first day they reach Samui.

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Reverence for the Monarch

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and like in any country with the same system, people take respect for their King and royal family seriously. You can meet the King’s likeness everywhere – on money, photos in every restaurant, in the newspaper, in taxicabs, on billboards, etc. Never say anything to disrespect the King or his likeness, this could land you in hot water even the largest of smiles won’t get you out of!

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Thousands of people visit Thailand every year. The palm trees, white sand beaches and the clear waters make Southern Thailand in particular the perfect deal for a relaxing getaway. But with some tips on Thai culture in your pocket, you’re all set for the ultimate Thailand experience.

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Thailand has very unique cultural traditions and daily norms. The best way to avoid gaffes or culture shock is to learn some of the customs and traditions before your trip! Check out these simple Thailand travel tips for culturally aware travellers!

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