Dos and Don'ts in Thailand

One of the main reasons people travel is to explore otrher cultrues and establish how other countries and cultures do things.

It is then quite remarkable then to see people wandering around the kingdom imposing their cultural approach on the situations and events they encounter. Often the leads to confusion, worse. itsometimes leads to ugly scenes that are entirely avoidable with a modicum on insight on how things are done in Thailand.
What follows then is a list of Dos and Don'ts for when you are in the kingdom:

Monks Buddhist monks are not allowed to touch or be touched by a woman or accept anything a woman might offer. If a woman wants to give something to a monk it must first be given to a man, or put on a piece of cloth. The monk will trhen drag the cloth to him before picking the item up. Likewise a monk will not shake a man's hand-that type of contact is forbidden. Monks travel on public transport and require the same respect there as they would receive at the temple. If a bus or train, etc. is crowded and a monk is likely to come into contact with people, do not hesitate to give the monk your seat. Often special seats are allocated for monks only-don't sit in them!

The Head Where as in the west a friendly pat on the head, especially the head of someone a bit younger than you, will be regarded as a friendly and supportive gesture, in Thailand any gesture towards the head will cause Thais to recoil and will be greeted with shock and possibly annoyance. Thais regard the head as the highest part of the body-the temple of the body as it were. As such touching someone's head is entirely unacceptable.

Shoes Do not wear shoes inside a temple where Buddha images are kept. Take your shoes off before entering someone's home.

Greetings Thais do not shake hands; they 'wai'-a gesture made by placing your hands together in front of your face a bowing a little. Generally, you should not wai to a child and a younger person should wai an older person first. However, these rules are possibly a little more flexible as far as a foreigner is concerned, the Thais you wai will generally very much appreciate you delving into the local custom and practice.

Buddha Images Buddha Images are sacred, whatever size or condition. Never climb on a Buddha image, and be very careful about taking photos-some images are so sacred photographs are forbiddin. Abide by this rule or you may even be asked to leave. If you can't cross your legs, don't sit on the floor in front of temple's Buddha image-in doing so you will point your feet at the Buddha which is an act of sacrilege (see Feet below). The 2004 film 'Hollywood Buddha' caused an uproar in Thailand and other Buddhist countries in the region when advertising posters for the film showed a central character sitting on the head of a Buddha image. Their reaction was most un-Thai like. Be warned.

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