Thailand Customs and Culture

Cultural Attributes

Traditionally, success is measured by a person's wealth and education. Wealth is generally looked on as a reflection of virtue. Thais are reserved people and usually consider criticism of others to be poor taste. A sense of humor, laughter, and a pleasant, smiling attitude are highly regarded.

Wealth can be described in the following classes: Upper class: Can buy a big house downtown, have a European car or many cars, and they can travel out of the country every few months for vacation. The medium-wealth class can buy a house and have an SUV or sports car. Their children can attend an international school and they can travel up-country once a year. The poor typically rent a house in the "slum" community.

Family and Children

Members of the family (even adults) are usually expected to abide by the advice of their elders, although this is becoming less true with time and modernization. Thais have great respect for their parents and the elderly. Families usually have two or three children. A family's youngest daughter inherits the parents' home. In return, she and her husband care for the parents in their old age.

Dating and Marriage

In Thailand, girls have traditionally led a more sheltered life than boys, but this is no longer the case. Boys and girls generally have equal access to society. Although western-style dating is popular in Bangkok, it is not as common in rural areas. According to tradition, if a boy wishes to marry a girl, he must first become acquainted with the entire family and make himself agreeable to them. He then sends his parents to the girl's family to make his wishes known. The groom traditionally pays a bride price to the bride's parents as "compensation" for raising her. Some parents later return the items or cash to the couple as a wedding gift.

Thailand Clothing and Fashion

What do people wear in Thailand?

Personal Appearance

Sandals are popular, but shoes are worn in formal situations. Straw hats are popular due to the excessive heat. Western clothing is common, especially the larger cities. Traditional clothing is also often worn.

Thailand Gestures and Greetings

How do you greet someone in Thailand?


The traditional and most common greeting in Thailand is called the "wai". How the gesture is performed depends entirely on the relationship between the people, and there are many variations. Generally, a person places the palms of the hands together, with fingers extended at chest level, and bows slightly. A younger person will greet first, and an older person will respond with a "wai" in a lower position. The higher one's hands are placed, the more respect is shown. Bows and curtsies are also more pronounced to show greater respect.

Thai typically address each other by first name and use last names for more formal circumstances.


Items especially gifts, are passed and received with the right hand only, never the left. Never raise your fingertips higher than your face. Do not step on a door sill when entering a building because Thais believe that a deity resides in the door sill and stepping there will offend that deity. When passing in front of someone in Thailand, especially an elderly or more senior person, lower your upper body slightly.


The person of the highest social rank or age is treated with the greatest respect. In all cases, how one sits, walks, or otherwise interacts with others depends on the status of each person present. It is customary to remove one's shoes when entering a Buddhist temple or private home. When visiting one does not need to bring a gift, but it is not uncommon for guests on extended stays to present their hosts with a gift of appreciation. One does not stretch out their feet in front of them. Women generally tuck their legs to the side and behind them and men sit cross-legged.

Thailand Sport and Recreation

What sports are popular in Thailand?

Sports and Recreation

A favorite pastime in Thailand is "takraw", a game in which players keep a rattan ball in the air, using their feet, knees, elbows and heads - any part of the body except for the hands. In casual games, men and boys stand in a circle and bounce the ball back and forth. More formal games are played like volleyball, with a net separating two teams of players.

Thai boxing (muay thai) is a unique sport that requires coordination, concentration, and physical agility. Players box in their bare feet with boxing gloves on their hands. The use of fists, elbows, knees, shins, and feet is permitted. Certain rituals are associated with the game. Before engaging in a boxing match, competitors perform a slow, solemn dance called "ram muay". A phipat orchestra, consisting of gongs, drums, and wind instruments, plays before and during the match.

Children have their own favorite games. Girls play a game with small stones that is similar to the game of jacks. Children also play mon sorn pha, a skipping game like Postman, and pio, similar to Red Rover.

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