Etiquette in Thailand


When travelling to any country, there are a number of customs that should be carefully observed. Here’s a short guide to etiquette in Thailand.

This is the traditional Thai greeting, much like shaking hands with a client or waving to a neighbour. It is a gesture of respect done by placing the palms of both hands together, as if you were praying, followed by a slight bow. The deeper the bow, the more respect is accorded. There are a lot of subtleties involved in a wai so chances are you won’t get it exactly right. In general, if someone wais you, acknowledge it with a smile and a nod, but your efforts will be appreciated if you do choose to return it. There is no need to wai a child or someone clearly younger than you. Stafff at our villas in Koh Samui will be happy to teach you.

Respect the Monarchy
The Thai people hold the monarchy and their religion in the very highest regard and any disparaging remarks about either will not be well-received. Also, do not show any disrespect to any images of the Buddha – it is perfectly acceptable to take pictures, but we advise guests not to climb or sit on them.

Shoes should be removed when visiting homes, temples and family-owned businesses but keep them on in high footfall areas such as malls, restaurants or anywhere you are likely to find broken glass. Some shops put up signs saying yes/no shoes, but if you’re unsure just poke your head in and ask. Showing respect to this custom will be greatly appreciated by the locals.

Be Aware of Your Body
Westerners do a lot of these without realising, so pay close attention. Don’t put feet on furniture or gesture with them.  Do not touch anyone’s head – Thais believe it is the most important part of the body and it deserves the most respect. Do not point, but if you must gesture do so with all four fingers extended and the thumb flat against the palm. Dress appropriately – keep your shoulders and knees covered in temple, do not expose yourself or sunbathe topless and breastfeeding should be done out of public view.

Tipping is a relatively new concept in Thailand so taxi drivers and villa staff won’t be expecting it and they may even find it embarrassing. Restaurants may add a service charge, but in smaller ones discreet tipping for lunch or dinner (10 baht per head) may be appreciated.

Be Happy
Thailand is a place where people are happy and relaxed, therefore you should avoid negativity by trying not to raise your voice in either anger or jest. Villas in Koh Samui are simply stunning and the island is exquisite – we doubt you’ll be able to wipe the smile off your face!


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