Customs and traditions
In Thailand, people generally have great respect for the king and his family, for Buddhism and the monk as well as for Thailand as a nation. The famous Thai smile is often used to hide negative emotions and mitigate conflict-related situations.
The customs and customs described in this chapter primarily affect the Thai people who make up a large majority of the country’s population. Life patterns, beliefs, customs and traditions among ethnic minorities, such as Khmer, Chinese, Malay, Hmong, Yao, Akha, Lahu, Lisu and Karen, are not very different from the Thai people.
- Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of Thailand, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
To greet each other
According to Abbreviationfinder, Thais greet each other with a so-called wai, when you place your palms against each other roughly in height with the chest, with your fingertips pointing upwards towards the chin tip. At the same time, the greeting person should bend lightly on the head.
A younger person should health first, while an older person responds by placing his wai slightly lower than the younger one. The higher the hands are placed on the body, the deeper the respect shown. In cases where a Thai greets the Buddha or a royal, the fingertips should be placed at least above the eyebrow height. Buddha is usually greeted with a wai completely above his head. For monks and significantly older people, hands are placed at the nose. Two equal ones make each wai at chest height.
Westerners should not start with a wai before a Thai does. Children and service staff (for example, in hotels and restaurants) are greeted with a nod, not a wai. For foreigners, it is recommended instead to learn the greeting phrases sawatdee krup for men and sawatdee kaa for women. Thais appeal to each other by first name. The surname is used only in formal contexts.
Conversation and gifts
A conversation often starts with personal issues that aim to establish the status relationship between people. Questions like “how many children do you have?” or “how much do you earn?” are therefore common and should not be seen as impetuous and intrusive.
Speaking and acting dignified is the same as acting calmly, tolerantly and patiently. Losing mood and showering is highly inappropriate behavior.
It is not necessary – but appreciated – to hand over a small gift when visiting a Thai home. Give and receive an item, especially a gift, with your right hand, never with your left. It is considered unfair to open a gift when the donor looks at.
Giving food to the wandering monks is an honor for the giver, not the monk. It is the donor who is expected to thank the monk – not the other way around.
Holy and forbidden
Thais have a great deal of respect for the country’s king and his family. The monarch has almost a “half-holy” status for many residents. Never joke or say anything negative about the king! It is even punishable by law to insult the royal house. It is also a criminal offense to offend any religion, which it may be.
A human’s head is considered sacred. Do not touch anyone else’s head. The only exception is parents who can pat their children on the head. Don’t put an object over someone’s head either.
The feet are considered the least sacred part of the body and should not be lifted in the direction of anyone else. Never touch a person with their feet. Do not cross your legs while sitting in a chair, especially not near an elderly person. Also, do not put your arm over the backrest on someone else’s chair. It is perceived as offensive. Never place your fingertips higher than the face height.
Images of Buddha are considered sacred: do not touch them, do not turn their backs, place yourself no higher than Buddhan. Do not point your feet at a Buddha image. Never intentionally kill an animal – not even a spider or insect. All life is sacred according to Buddhism.
At the dining table
Rice is staple and is usually served with spicy curries of beef, pork, chicken, vegetables, fish, eggs and fruits. Coconut milk, garlic, coriander, lemongrass are common ingredients. A dinner often consists of a variety of small dishes as well as rice. The table drink in front of others is water that is consumed at the end of the meal.
Thais eat with fork and spoon. The spoon is held in the right hand, the fork in the left. Only the spoon should enter the mouth – the fork is used to bring up the food on the spoon.
Guests are usually offered food in two rounds and are encouraged to eat as much as possible. When you have finished eating cutlery, glasses and more should be collected on your plate.
It is not uncommon to sit on the floor while eating. Don’t stretch your legs in front of you. Men usually sit with their legs crossed, while women sit on their knees with their legs and feet underneath.
Western clothing is now commonplace in most of Thailand, especially in Bangkok. But traditional clothing is also used.
In the countryside, both women and men often use wide straw hats to protect against the hot sun. Foot-side fabric pieces tied around the waist are common among both men and women (called sarong in the south, phasin in the north and phathung in central Thailand).
Thais prefer to wear sandals rather than regular shoes. The latter are used on more formal occasions. Always take off your shoes when entering someone’s home. Not infrequently, you should take off your shoes also when visiting shops and offices.
Thais do not dress in bikinis or shorts, but they accept that Westerners do it on the beach and in touristy beach resorts. In other environments, arms and legs should be covered, especially in the temples.
Traditions and holidays
The Buddhist calendar year begins in mid-April with song tap, when Buddha figures and statues are washed and the monks receive extra alms. During the festival, people walk around and splash water on each other, and you dance, sing and perform small pieces of theater.
In May, Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and road into nirvana are celebrated with the festival visakha puja. Among other things, the banyan tree is ceremoniously watered (it was under a banyan tree that Buddha according to tradition reached enlightenment). In July, the three-month Buddhist fast, khao phansa, begins. At this time it is common for young boys to start their period as monks. The fasting period for monks is a time of spiritual retreat as they spend all the time in the monastery. Thawt Kathin marks the end of the fast in mid-October. Then the monks get their typical orange clothes, and in many parts of the country it is customary for people in a village to sew the clothes together for the monks. By magha puja In February, “Buddha’s sermon to enlightened monks” is highlighted, among other things, by light processions in the country’s temple.
According to Countryaah, holidays not associated with Buddhism usually affect the royal house: on April 7, the Chakrid Day is celebrated in memory of Rama I, who founded the present Chakrid dynasty, on May 5, the coronation of the former king Bhumibol is celebrated, the second week of May, the ancient, royal, ritual plowing is performed. outside the palace in Bangkok to mark the start of the rice planting season. On August 12, the widow queen’s birthday is celebrated, on October 23 is the Chulalong Korn Day in memory of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) and the present King Vajiralongkorn’s birthday is celebrated on July 28.
Other important days are the Constitutional Day of December 10 and New Year’s Day.
There are also special local festivals that attract a lot of people. In Narathiwat in southern Thailand, a special festival is celebrated in September with colorful painted fishing boats competing against each other. In Bang Phli outside Bangkok, the lotus festival is celebrated by throwing lotus flowers at a Buddha statue drifting in the river on a small barge. In November, an elephant parade is held in Surin.
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