Thai Culture - A Handy Guide for Tourists
Thailand is awash with dazzling temples and displays of traditional Thai architecture – no Thai vacation is complete without exploring at least some of these breathtaking buildings.
Although Thailand is home to many Muslims, Christians and Mahayana Buddhists, the overwhelming 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 cannot fail to notice the miniature spirit houses that adorn Thai property and public places up and down the country. You will find these crammed with tasty food and drinks that are intended to please and pacify the spirits to prevent them from invading the home.
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 of holiday in Thailand this endearing greeting will have become almost second nature!
Thailand is often called ‘The Land of Smiles’ and it is 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 then, 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 provoke an argument or cause a Thai to ‘lose face’ while you are visiting this gracious country. Don’t be surprised either, if a disagreement or argument is met with a confusing smile!
Similarly, public displays of physical affection, although common amongst friends, are frowned upon between couples. It is also important to be aware that the 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! Next time you plan a holiday in Thailand; why not opt to stay in your own Thai holiday villa? Having your own kitchen will force you to shop in the local supermarkets and markets, where you can learn to experiment with new and unusual ingredients. You will become familiar with your local neighborhood and get to meet the locals who can recommend the best restaurants in the area. They can also suggest places to visit that are off the beaten track, to add an extra dimension to your holiday in Thailand. You may even get to join in a chance game of takraw (similar to volleyball, but played with the feet and a rattan ball) or be invited to a thrilling Thai Boxing match!
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