Thailand’s culture is a mixture of traditions and religions that all come together to form a unique and vibrant society.
Here are a few things to know about Thai culture that will help anyone landing in the Land of Smiles get around and mix with the locals.
Thai people typically consider family to be the most important aspect of their lives. As Thailand features a collectivistic society, most Thais are more respectful of the community as a whole.
This mentality also applies to extended family members. In fact, most Thais will call their cousins ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ as there is technically no translatable word for ‘cousin’ in the Thai language.
And, it makes sense if extended family members are not viewed as being less important to a Thai family’s core.
In Thai culture, everyone has a designated status. Titles are very important and are said before anyone’s name to show respect.
‘Pi’ before any name indicates that the person is of a higher status than the person speaking.
‘Nong’ before anyone’s name indicates someone is younger or holds a lesser status than the person addressing them.
Age, family connections, job types, education and income levels all contribute to one’s status or class in Thailand. However, Thai status’ can change, and is not fixed.
When greeting or thanking a Thai, the different levels of how high one holds their hands in a prayer-like gesture, indicate someone’s status.
Known as the ‘wai,’ holding this gesture higher indicates one is addressing someone of a higher status.
Upon arriving in Thailand, you may think the people are the friendliest in the world. That is until you understand that a smile can mean many things.
The famous Thai smile is actually used for many emotions and reactions, with not all of them being positive.
Embarrassment, annoyance, angriness, are also shown by smiling. But not to worry, as most Thai people really are very chilled out and don’t think too much of situations.
Loss of Face
Thais place great importance on showing and feeling respected. Thus, if you happen to embarrass or shine a negative light onto a Thai person, they may lose face.
It is best to be kind with your words if there is a problem or issue that involves a Thai. Giving them the benefit of the doubt is something that can go a long way when encountering any less than positive situations with Thai people.
And, by keeping calm and polite, your attitude will most likely be mirrored back.
Thais are famous for being chilled, laid back and serene. The slower, more relaxed culture is what makes the Thai people a delight to encounter.
The words ‘mai bpen rai’ will float through the air many times during the day, offering a nice reminder to not take things so seriously.
As not every person in every culture fits the mould of a stereotype, it is important to understand that Thai people are also just like any other person on the planet.
So, as these cultural features may apply to the Thai person in front of you, remember that not everyone adheres to societal expectations.
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