Thai Culture and Etiquette

We may think that we live in a nanny state, but the lengths to which every Thai person will try to avoid any confrontation, contentious talk or possible bad manners during everyday and business life can seem quite staggering to visitors, especially after reading the Thai Ministry of Culture’s guidance on Thai Etiquette -

This is a great article: do read it.

And after you have, do not despair! Foreign visitors (farangs) to Koh Samui will not be expected to know all the intricacies of Thai etiquette, or the proper and right way of doing quite ordinary everyday things. Thai culture offers guidance on how to conduct yourself in a wide range of situations, how to dress and how to converse. Of course these ‘ways to live’ have been handed down from generation to generation, and for the young Thais who are brought up with parents and extended families, especially away from the big cities, these customs are second nature, and probably need no formal teaching.

For example it is not expected that during a conversation there will be loud voices or much gesticulation – which many European visitors may find rather restrictive and alien! Younger people should not hold a conversation over the head of an older person. Your body language and the questions you may wish to ask while speaking to a Thai are very important – no folded arms, no personal questions, no rude language.

There are three things held in the greatest respect by Thais: 1. their Nation 2. their religion and 3. the Thai Monarchy. All must be given the greatest respect and should not be spoken about in a critical or patronising way.

There are of course exceptions to all rules, and you may well see someone clanging his spoon and fork together at the dining table, or speaking over the head of a more senior person. In Bangkok people may have chosen to ignore some of their ingrained codes of conduct but if you venture into the countryside, this will not be the case.

So the main things to remember while you are on Koh Samui are:

• Politeness to everyone is essential
• Do not lose your temper
• Do not shout
• Older people are to be respected
• The head of a person is sacred: not to be touched!
• The foot is not: do not point your foot at anyone, or touch anyone with your foot: it is an insult
• Do not be overly amorous in public
• Keep the bikini and the Speedos for the beach – cover up and dress appropriately elsewhere.

The Thais are amongst the most hospitable and friendly people on the planet, and if you are lucky enough to be invited into a Thai’s home on Koh Samui –

• Arrive on time – too early or too late is a no-no
• Take your hosts a small gift – it will be very appreciated (some cakes or biscuits, perhaps a small bottle of wine)
• Remember to remove your shoes at the door
• Try not to sit with one leg over the other, or both legs totally stretched out. Victorian prim and proper does it.
• Don’t stay too long!

Above all, enjoy your stay in one of our stunning Koh Samui Villas, and should you ever feel you have stepped over the line of Thai good etiquette, just say sorry and move on. As well as being friendly and happy, the Thais are very forgiving of these little farang mistakes.

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