Some Rules of Politeness
What could be more normal than to begin this section by listing some of the essential rules of politeness and life skills that are so important in this country.
The Thai greeting is called the Waï which consists in joining both hands gently and whose position changes according to the cases (see below) with a certain grace and not suddenly. It's not a military salute....
Take your time to do it, it will only make it more beautiful.
You'll see, you get used to it quickly.
In Thailand, you don't shake hands, you don't kiss, unless the person is familiar enough... and again...
- Your hands joined at chest level:
Is done to respond to a younger person or a lower social category.
Your hands joined at chin level:
Is done to respond to a person of the same age or social category.
Your hands at nose level:
Is done in relation to older people or people with a higher social level
Your hands at the forehead level:
It is done in relation to a monk or members of the royal family.
* * * * * * * * * * *
All this may seem a little complicated, but you get used to it quickly.
For Thai people, who learn this gesture from childhood, the reflex is natural.
For a stranger, this is not necessarily obvious when greeting a person, analyzing age, social rank... and finding the right hand position!
However, as a foreigner you will not be blamed if your hands are at chest level instead of being at nose level for example.
Personally, I don't worry more than that: I'm used to doing the Waï on the lower lip of my mouth... whatever the person in front of me.
Basic rules to follow
Visiting people's homes
Among the people or in some shops, there are also certain rules to observe.
If you go to people's houses, leave your shoes outside. We're not going to steal them from you.
When you arrive in a shop or at a dentist or doctor's office, you will see shoes outside, which means that you have to take off your shoes there too.
It is Thai politeness and a sign of respect to which we must comply.
This may also be the reason why we see more people in "flip-flops" than in sandals or lace-up shoes....
In shops or restaurants
Avoid walking around bare-chested. It looks very bad to the Thai people.
The head, the feet
In Thailand, people's heads are not touched or pointed at.
Some parts of the human body are considered noble, such as the head because the soul is supposed to reside there, others are considered impure like the feet.
The feet are the lowest, least important part, avoid pointing them at someone, this can be taken as an insult. Thai people are often shocked to see foreigners laying their feet on the bus armrests.
Thai people love their King, don't criticize him, don't make jokes about everything about the Monarchy, you could end up in jail!
Treat with respect any object representing a member of the royal family, even coins and notes bearing the King's effigy. In any public place, stand up like the others when they play the national anthem!
In the Temple
Women should not touch monks and likewise men should not touch nuns.
Dress properly to visit the temples, no short clothing and remember to take off your shoes before entering one of the rooms.
As with the Monarchy, all Buddhist objects, books and representations must be treated with respect.