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Ten Taboos in Thailand

Home > Bangkok > How To | Places of Worship | Lists
by Sanet Schoeman (subscribe)
Adventures of an English teacher living and teaching in Thailand.
Published June 6th 2016
What you should avoid doing when in Thailand
When visiting a culture that differs significantly from yours, it is advisable to research the cultural and social differences you will encounter beforehand. Thailand is a place of wonder with a gentle, easy pace of life. The Thai people are very easy-going and generous in nature, but there are a few things the traveler should be aware of that can cause great offense in Thailand.

Photo by Per Meistrup -

1. Never touch a person's head.
The head is considered to be the most important and holy part of a person's body, and touching a Thai person's head will cause great offense.

2. Don't point the soles of your feet at another person. The soles of the feet is considered the lowest and most dirty part of a person's body, so when crossing your feet, take care that your soles are not pointed directly at someone.

3. Never step on money when you drop it by accident.

Photo by author

Since the king's head is depicted on all coins and notes, stepping on money to prevent it from rolling or blowing away essentially means that you are stomping on the king's head!

4. Don't move or pick up objects with your feet.
The feet are considered to be the most unclean part of the body. Shoving a book aside with your foot, for example, is offensive to the Thai people, because you are moving learning and knowledge, both held in high regard, with your foot.

5. Criticizing the royal family

Photo by author

The Thai royal family is very popular and loved by their subjects. Criticizing the king or any member of his family directly or even indirectly is considered a very serious offense that carries with it the punishment of imprisonment for Thai nationals and deportation for non-nationals. To avoid an unpleasant misunderstanding, it is in fact better to simply avoid the subject of the royal family and the king altogether.

6. Dressing inappropriately when visiting a temple
The Thai people have very strict rules with regard to modest clothing and behavior at their holy places and temples. Sleeveless tops, shorts, miniskirts, and flip-flops are not allowed inside temples.

7. Touching holy relics

Photo by author

While it is perfectly acceptable to photograph any relic or statue inside a Thai holy place or temple, it is forbidden to touch or climb on the buddha or any holy relics. Please be respectful.

8. Touching a monk
It is forbidden, especially for females, to touch a monk, although having a polite and respectful conversation with a monk is perfectly alright. Before taking a picture of a monk, or any other person for that matter, please ask first if they mind.

9. Kissing in public
The Thai are a modest, non-confrontational people, not given to public displays of either anger, frustration or affection, any of which will cause great embarrassment to them. Please be considerate to the culture and avoid outbursts of anger or frustration, as well as kissing or other demonstrations of love other than holding hands in public.

10. Stepping over objects
An action that might seem very innocent and normal to westerners, but is considered highly offensive in Thailand, is stepping over an object lying in your way. Rather than step over a bag of groceries, a box of books, a pile of clothing, toys or any other object in your way, please bend down and move it aside using your hands.

Although the people of Thailand are very generous and kind in nature, remembering these ten things when you visit will prevent uncomfortable situations and go a long way towards making your stay in Thailand even more enjoyable.
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Why? Avoiding uncomfortable situations in Thailand.
Where: Thailand
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