Thailand is well known as a tourist magnet, but some things will surprise you when you first visit. The following is some etiquette tips you must know when travelling in Thailand.
Never touch anyone’s head
A person’s head is considered sacred in Thailand, so even giving someone a pat on the head or touching their hair could be frowned upon. If you are volunteering or working with small children, be especially wary – it’s second nature for many westerners to ruffle kids’ hair. Thai masseurs may ask permission to massage your head first, so bear in mind that they are asking as a sign of respect.
Always return a ‘wai’
The wai is a common and polite greeting which involves bowing your head and keeping your hands in a praying gesture. Everyone you meet will greet you in this way, so always return the gesture and smile as you do so. If you are greeting a monk then you must bend from the waist with your head bowed and your hands together.
Cover up in temples
It is pretty likely that you will stumble upon an incredibly beautiful temple while wandering around the streets, but make sure you are respectful and cover your shoulders and chest before entering. Always keep a shawl or some long-sleeved clothing in your bag as you may be refused entry or cause offense it you aren’t properly covered.
Respect the monks
Many temples hold sessions where you can meet and talk to monks, to learn about Buddhism and help them improve their English. Don’t be over-familiar or ask personal questions when first meeting them. If you are female, don’t touch them or even brush past them: it is strictly forbidden for monks to have any physical contact with a woman.
If you need to pass something to a monk, put it down in front of them rather than handing it over directly. They can sometimes be nervous when speaking to tourists, so be patient. Some monks are in training and will be young boys, but you should still reserve the same high level of respect for them.