THAI RULES AND CUSTOMS TO BE OBSERVED
BY BELINDA WILSON
If you are leaving Pattaya over the Songkran period it may be a good idea to consider the following customs and traditions especially if your travels take you to Temples, Shrines, Palaces or places of cultural importance:
Remember as regards The Thai Royal Family Thais simply will not tolerate a lack respect towards any members of the royal family - past or present. If you come from a culture like the UK where royals are often in the news and sometimes the subject of criticism be careful not to treat the Thai royal family in the same way. Criticism of them is against the law and taken very seriously.
Buddhism is Thailand's national religion and it is very important for visitors to be respectful as far as this is concerned. For example you should always dress appropriately when entering a temple or religious shrine which generally means shorts, bikinis, tops that show bare arms short skirts that show legs or generally dirty and unkempt attire will be considered inappropriate. In some of the larger temples guards may actually forbid you from entering if you are dressed inappropriately, At the Sanctuary of Truth for example you will have to hire a sarong before being permitted to enter. Whereas at smaller temples there may just be a sign at the entrance with pictures and crosses alongside advising what not to wear
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 then 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 is crowded do not hesitate to give the monk your seat. Often special seats are allocated for monks only - don't sit in them!
Buddha Images are sacred, whatever size or condition. You should never climb on a Buddha image and be careful about taking photos - some images are so sacred that if you do take photographs you may be asked to leave. Also when seated in front of a Buddha image you should cross your legs never sit with your feet pointing at the Buddha as this is considered an act of sacrilege.
The purchasing of Buddha heads and especially the transportation of them out of the country is frowned upon.
The Head is regarded as as the highest part of the body and touching someone's head, for example a pat on the head, is entirely unacceptable.
The Feet are regarded as the lowest part of the body and you should not point at things with your feet and certainly not point the soles of your feet towards anyone Shoes should be taken off before you enter someone's home and especially when entering a temple.
When Greeting, Thais will generally not shake hands, instead they 'wai' - a gesture made by placing your hands together in front of you and bowing a little. Generally, you should not wai to a child and a younger person should wai to an older person first. A little more leeway may be afforded to foreigners however if you do make the effort Thais will appreciate your participation of this practice.
Shouting and Shows of Annoyance In Thailand is frowned upon, whatever the situation. There may be times when you face frustrations but, do so quietly a calmly. Shouting and showing annoyance are considered signs of a lack of discipline and may lead the Thai you are talking to try to help you 'save face' by smiling and even laughing to defuse the situation. For westerners in particular, this reaction may exasperate so it is simply best not to get angry as usually things will work themselves out much better if you can avoid it.
Drugs should not be taken or traded in as Thailand is trying to eradicate unlawful drugs entirely. Clubs and places of entertainment are sometimes raided and people made to give urine samples. If you test positive the penalties can be harsh and trading in drugs may lead to decades in prison.
Kissing, cuddling and similar displays of affection are frowned upon in public - especially amongst older Thais. Younger Thais are unlikely to be as shocked, but generally Thais are shy people.
Smoking and Dropping Litter in the street is illegal and may carry a fine.
Do not purchase wild animals whether protected or not. Aside from the moral issues, punishments are very harsh.
Also beware anyone coming up to you to ask if you wish to purchase gems, gold, jewellery or other such items. Beware, often people get caught up in purchases of items at entirely inflated prices because they are told they can sell these items at a profit in their home countries. Remember if it looks too good to be true generally it is !