For Thai locals on Samui, most are accustomed to tourists. They are accepting of foreigners and their sometimes odd behaviour, understanding that people from other countries have their own traditions and customs also. Most indiscretions or social misdemeanours are glossed over without a second thought.
Please don’t mistake the Thai smile and outward tolerance as an offer of Carte blanch.
Here is some information you should know about Thai culture before arriving;
- Thailand is a 99% Buddhist country. All images, statues and temples are sacred. Any form or sacrilege is illegal and punishable by imprisonment.
- The Thai Royal family are held in the highest possible regard. Always show respect.
- Do not raise your voice in anger or show excessive emotion in public, particularly towards a Thai. This is a serious social taboo in Thailand, considered a lack of restraint and indiscipline. Always be patient, relax, you are on holiday. If you have a serious grievance talk it up with the tourist police or local police. Always refrain from getting into an argument with locals, it’s in your best interest to walk away.
- The head is the most sacred part of the body, do not touch a Thai person on the head.
- The feet are the least; do not point your feet at a Thai person ever. Don’t show the soles of your feet while seated in a public place, and putting your feet up on a chair or table is not advised.
- In some buildings or shops, you are required to remove your shoes. Just look at the entrance floor before entering.
- Always dress appropriately when visiting a Buddhist temple, Speedos, bikinis or shirtless is not appropriate. Please remove your shoes where requested.
- Bikinis and Speedos are meant for the beach and pool, not walking down the high street. Thais are generally conservative people and consider this inappropriate behaviour.
- It is not cool to show intimacy in public, you have a hotel room.
- On occasion you may be greeted with a traditional Wai (press the palms together at the chest and a slight bow of the head). You should reply the same unless it is a child or by someone serving you in a hotel or restaurant.
Like anywhere else you travel in the world, the most important thing to remember is be respectful and courteous to those you are a guest of.