Bangkok Tourist Etiquette

by Female Abroad

Did you know that in Thai, Westerners are referred to as "farang"? This means "one who comes to Thailand from a Western country." Sometimes people will use "farang" for Caucasians and then "farang dam" for Black people (dam = black). While terms like "gringo" are supposed to be seen as offensive, no matter which farang you are, it is not meant as offensive. The Thai people are very good-natured and welcoming, they love foreigners and are actually too polite to even point out when you are being offensive to them unless you really step out of line. If you travel to Bangkok however, remember that you are still in a different country with a different culture so it is good to remember a few key etiquette's.

  1. Wai
    Bowing of the head with the palms of the hands pressed together in the middle of the chest
    As in most Asian cultures, social standing is important so the Wai is preformed by those towards people who have a greater social standing then themselves. Foreigners are not expected to start the Wai but if someone who is not serving you preforms the Wai to you, then feel free to return it. If someone who is serving you preforms the Wai, it is okay to bow your head and smile.

  2. Don't Photograph People or Buddha
    Make sure to ask someone if you can take a photo of them before snapping away as it is seen as rude. There are also some places that will not allow you to take photos of the Buddha either, mostly in temples, so make sure that you ask before taking photos of either.

  3. Stay Calm
    Showing anger or fast movements in public is a huge no. The Thai's avoid conflict and heated situations so if the situation does become tough, they may walk away to calm down before addressing the issue. If you point or make rapid movements, this can also be seen as you being angry so just keep things nice a calm.

  4. Dress Conservatively
    Thai's do not show too much skin but with foreigners, females can wear skirts or shorts but you will want to cover shoulders and cleavage especially if you are going to a Wat or other sacred place. Men need to be clothes but if they are on a beach they can take their tops off.

  5. Respect the Royals
    Thai law actually requires you to pay respect to the Royal Family so if you are in public then you have to stop what you are doing and stand up if the Thai national anthem or the Song for His Majesty the King is played. You also cannot damage or graffiti any of their photos.

  6. Don't Touch the Head or Hair
    The head is the cleanest part of the body according to Thai's so touching some ones head or hair is a huge no same with putting anything over some ones head.

  7. Feet Are Gross
    Feet are seen as the dirtiest part of the body so you should never use your feet to move things, touch people, gesture / point with them, or show your soles. However, you do need to remove your shoes before you enter someone's home, most massage parlors, and some stores. If you are not sure if you have to then look to see if there is a shoe rack or shoes placed somewhere outside before you enter, then place your shoes with the others.

  8. Public PDA
    Usually Thai's avoid touching each other in public unless they are related or very close. However even then, PDA or even touching hands with the opposite sex no matter if you are married or not, you just don't do it in public.

  9. Respect the Wat's (temples)
    As briefly mentioned in a couple of the points above, the Wat's do have rules that you must follow such as arms and legs must be covered, shoes may need to be removed, monks are not to be touched, keep feet away from religious objects, and just generally be respectful. If you are unsure of what to do, observe and follow the locals that are there.

  10. Smile
    "The Land of Smiles" is Thailand's nickname and it is super easy to see why - everyone smiles! If you are lost or have no idea what is going on, just smile.