The majority of people come to Thailand to enjoy a two or three week holiday and usually go home without ever really getting to know or experience authentic Thai culture. If you stay in one of the fantastic Thai resort hotels you will enjoy luxury at its best. But the downside of this is that you usually won’t venture further than resort. If this is the case, you’re missing out on a great chance to mix with the welcoming locals and taste real Thai life.
The vast majority of Thai people practice Theravada Buddhism. This gentle and serene religion is also sponsored by the Thai government. In fact, Buddhist monks have a special status in Thai society and even benefit from special government schemes, such as free public transport.
Buddhism is a highly spiritual religion, incorporating the traditional Thai beliefs that surround ancestral and natural spirits. You will not fail to notice the miniature spirit houses that embellish many Thai properties and public places up and down the country. You will find these displaying food and drinks that are intended to please and pacify the spirits to prevent them from invading the home.
Thailand is awash with stunning temples and displays of traditional Thai architecture – no Thai vacation is complete without exploring at least some of these breathtaking buildings.
The first thing that you will be welcomed with upon arrival in Thailand is the customary ‘wai’ – a bow of the head accompanied with a prayer-like gesture of the hands. Don’t worry, after just a few days in Thailand this endearing greeting will have become almost second nature!
Thailand is often referred to as ‘The Land of Smiles’ and with good reason. It is difficult not to be charmed by the happy-go-lucky nature of the Thai people. Thai culture actively promotes the display of positive emotions and there is a strong belief in the concept of ‘Sanuk’, or the notion that life is meant to be fun. It is no wonder that Thai people always seem so cheerful and friendly!
Conversely, open conflict is avoided at all costs and displays of public anger are extremely rare in Thailand. You should be careful not to incite an argument or cause a Thai to ‘lose face’ while you are in this courteous country. Don’t be surprised either, if a disagreement or argument is met with a confusing smile!
Similarly, public displays of affection, although common amongst friends, are commonly frowned upon between couples. It is also important to be aware that Thai people believe the foot to be the dirtiest part of the body. As the Kings Head is emblazoned on Thai coins, stepping on one can provoke dismay and indignation. It is also customary to remove your shoes before entering a Thai home or the sacred areas in a temple.
Monks are forbidden any physical contact with women. It is usual therefore, for women to generously make way for passing monks, to avoid the possibility of even accidental contact.
Thai culture is so rich and diverse that it is better to experience it firsthand!