Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Culture of Thailand

A Cross-Cultural Understanding Assignment
(If you find inaccurate info in this article, feel free to tell me.) 


Name: Thailand (ประเทศไทย), officially the Kingdom of  Thailand, formerly known as Siam.
Capital: Bangkok
Ethnic Make-up: Thai, Chinese, other
Religions: Buddhism, Muslim, Christianity, Hinduism, other
Government: constitutional monarchy.
King: Bhumibol Adulyadej

The name "Thailand" is associated with the dominant ethnic group, Thai. Thailand was never under European colonial rule. It was an absolute monarchy until 1932, when it became a constitutional monarchy. In 1939 the country's name was changed from Siam to Thailand.


The Wai 

The wai is the common form of greeting and adheres to strict rules of protocol. Raising both hands, palms joined with the fingers pointing upwards as if in prayer, lightly touching the body somewhere between the chest and the forehead, is the standard form. Showing greeting, farewell, or acknowledgement, comes in several forms reflecting the relative status of those involved.

Wai, the Thai greeting, is considered as the greatest aspect of Thai culture. 

In Thailand people do not normally say 'good morning', 'good afternoon', 'good evening' or 'good night'. They greet each other with the word Sawadee or sawadee krab.


Meeting Etiquette

  • *      The wai (as mentioned above) is the traditional form of greeting, given by the person of lower status to the person of higher status.
  • *      Thais generally use first rather than surnames, with the honorific title Khun before the name. Khun is an all- purpose form of address that is appropriate for both men and women
  • *      In general, wait for your host and hostess to introduce you to the other guests. This allows everyone to understand your status relative to their own, and thus know who performs the wai and how low the head should be bowed.

Gift Giving Etiquette

  • *      If invited to a Thai's home, a gift is not expected, although it will be appreciated.
  • *      Gifts should be wrapped attractively, since appearance matters. Bows and ribbons add to the sense of festivity.
  • *      Appropriate gifts are flowers, good quality chocolates or fruit.
  • *       Do not give marigolds or carnations, as they are associated with funerals.
  • *      Try to avoid wrapping a gift in green, black or blue as these are used at funerals and in mourning.
  • *       Gold and yellow are considered royal colours, so they make good wrapping paper.
  • *      Only use red wrapping paper if giving a gift to a Chinese Thai.
  • *       Gifts are not opened when received.
  • *      Money is the usual gift for weddings and ordination parties.

Dining Etiquette
If you are invited to a Thai's house:

  • *      Arrive close to the appointed time, although being a few minutes late will not cause offence.
  • *      Check to see if the host is wearing shoes. If not, remove yours before entering the house.
  • *      Ask another guest to confirm the dress code.
  • *      Step over the threshold rather than on it. This is an old custom that may be dying out with younger Thais, but erring on the side of conservatism is always a good idea.

Table manners

  • *      A fork and spoon are the usual eating utensils. However, noodles are often eaten with chopsticks.
  • *      The spoon is held in the right hand and the fork in the left. The fork is used to guide food on to the spoon. Sticky rice, a northern Thai delicacy, is often eaten with the fingers of the right hand.
  • *      Most meals are served as buffets or with serving platters in the centre of the table family- style.
  • *      You may begin eating as soon as you are served.
  • *      Leave a little food on your plate after you have eaten to show that you are full. Finishing everything indicates that you are still hungry.
  • *      Never leave rice on your plate as it is considered wasteful. The words for food and rice are the same. Rice has an almost mystical significance in addition to its humdrum 'daily bread' function.
  • *      Never take the last bite from the serving bowl.
  • *      Wait to be asked before taking a second helping.
  • *      Do not lick your fingers.


Rice is the staple food of Thailand and is eaten at every meal be it with soup, curry, vegetable or nam phrik. Nam phrik is a hot sauce prepared in different ways depending on which region of Thailand you are in. The basic ingredients for nam phrik are shrimp paste, garlic, chilli, fermented fish sauce and lime juice.

The unique Authentic Thai Food Recipes come from garlic, chillies, lime juice, lemon grass, coriander leaves, fermented fish sauce and shrimp paste.  In fact, these are the basic ingredients for Thai food.

Generally, three types of marriage patterns have been observed in every Thai society. These include traditional arranged marriages with parents’ involvement in the choice of spouse, modern arranged marriages with self-choice of spouse and live-in relationship. 

The Thai dowry system is known as the 'Sin Sodt'. Traditionally, the groom will be expected to pay a sum of money to the family, to compensate them and to demonstrate that the groom is financially capable of taking care of their daughter. Sometimes, this sum is purely symbolic, and will be returned to the bride and groom after the wedding has taken place. Traditionally, Thai marriages are simple. 

The engagement ceremony is called ‘Thong Mun’, where the groom gifts his fiancée with gold. The wedding ceremonies are performed inside the house in the presence of a local temple priest.


Traditionally funerals last for a week. Crying is discouraged during the funeral, so as not to worry the spirit of the deceased. Many activities surrounding the funeral are intended to make merit for the deceased. Copies of Buddhist scriptures may be printed and distributed in the name of the deceased, and gifts are usually given to a local temple. Monks are invited to chant prayers that are intended to provide merit for the deceased, as well as to provide protection against the possibility of the dead relative returning as a malicious spirit. A picture of the deceased from his/her best days will often be displayed next to the coffin. Often, a thread is connected to the corpse or coffin which is held by the chanting monks during their recitation; this thread is intended to transfer the merit of the monks' recitation to the deceased. The corpse is cremated, and the urn with the ash is usually kept in a chedi in the local temple. The Chinese minority however bury the deceased.


In the past, young boys attended school in a nearby Buddhist monastery, where they would be taught to read and write. Girl's education took place mainly at home as they learned to perform domestic tasks. After 1932, the government secularized the public school system by replacing monks with trained teachers. In the late 1990s, eighty-eight percent of children of primary school age were enrolled in schools and ninety-three percent of the adult population was literate. However, the economic crisis of the late 1990s resulted in an increase in the number of children leaving school. The government raised compulsory education requirements from six to nine years in 1999 and is attempting to improve educational standards. 


There is no tradition of spoken drama in Thailand, the role instead being filled by Thai dance. This is divided into three categories- khon, lakhon and likay- khon being the most elaborate and likay the most popular.Classical dance developed from folk dances and incorporated elaborate Indian hand gestures and arm and leg movements.


®  astrology and the supernatural heavily influence the daily life and decisions of a large number of Thai people.
®  should not make merit in the house or have a haircut on Wednesday. Friday is considered inappropriate day for funerals.
®  Thai people still have a strong belief and fear of ghosts.
®  To make the spirit happy, Thai feed their statues.

Here are a few of the beliefs concerning ghosts:

®  If you make jokes when eating a ghost will steal your rice
®  A ghost will enter your house if you stand in the doorway
®  A ghost will curse you if you sing while eating
®  You will see a ghost if you bend down and look between your legs
®  Never say a baby is cute because a ghost will come and take it away.

Other superstitions:

®  Do not look at naked people because your eyes will become swollen
®  Do not throw money away because you will lose your finger
®  Bite your shoes before you wear them for the first time to prevent them from biting your feet
®  Your finger will fall off if you point at a rainbow
®  Do not taste food with a large serving spoon because it will make your child ugly
®  Bad luck will come to a house if you enter through the window 


®  Public displays of affection between men and women are not acceptable.
®  Thai's consider the head as the highest part of the body, both literally and figuratively. As a result they don't approve of touching anyone on the head, even as a friendly gesture.
®  Loud voices, calling attention to yourself, pointing at people or things, throwing or dropping things, and making big hand gestures all seem graceless to the Thai sensibility.
®  The feet in Thailand are considered spiritually as well as physically the lowest part of the body. Don’t step over people’s legs, even in a crowded place such as on a train.
®  Do not stare at Thai people. They may be smiling, but still do not look into their eyes too long.
®  The Thai people have a deep traditional reverence for the Royal Family, and the visitor should also show respect for the King and the Queen, and the Royal Children.



®  Chang tie tung tua ow bai buor phid mai mid (A dead elephant cannot be covered by a lotus leaf.)
®  Chang puak gird nai pa (White elephants are born in the forest.)
®  Ngom kem nai mahaa-sa-mut (looking for a pin in the ocean.)
®  Kee chang jahb thak-a-thaen (Ride an elephant to catch a grasshopper.)
®  Kra-tie' mai jhun (A rabbit aims for the moon.)
®  Khob nai ka la ( Frog in a coconut shell.)



  1. hehe, english saya pas2an tuk menerjemahkan maksud di atas,, tapi pd intinya tau sih maksudnya,,hehe met siang aja dech y mbak

  2. eh, mas al kahfi terlalu merendah... met siang juga :)


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