Thailand Culture and Thai Customs
By and large, Thai culture is deeply rooted in the historical and religious traditions of the Thai people and has a profound influence on the way of the kingdom's life. Thai cultural and behavioral habits are distinct with their own facets and in many aspects differ from those accepted in the West.
All greetings, such as Hi, Hello, How Are You, Welcome, Good Morning and so forth, as well as Good Bye and See You Later, are called sawasdee (sounds "sah-wah-dee") in Thai. To distinguish between men and women, Thai language uses the gender markers. So, women sound out as "sah-wah-dee-khaa" and men as "sah-wah-dee-kap!" Further info on Thai language and its distinct aspects is found at Thailand Overview - General Info.
Hospitality is the essence of Thai people's nature and while greeting guests into their houses or offices, first off, they cater guests with a glass of water. Likewise in the restaurants, first, you'll be served up cold water no matter you haven't order anything yet. Prior to entering a Thai house, make sure to take off your shoes. The same is true in Buddhist temples and in traditional Thai restaurants where guests are seated on the floor. Appropriate to mention that it's quite natural for Thai folks to sit whether squatted or right on the floor, rather than on chairs. In most households, the floor is also used as a dining table. Most houses don't have beds either, just the mattresses. Traditionally, rich Thai families has got large in size and short tables made of teakwood, used to serve food, and while eating, to sit on.
Thai Food Culture and Table Manners
Thailand ain't just the "Land of Smiles", it is every bit the Land of Gourmet Food as well. Thai table manners and a way the dishes are prepared and served, have its own distinct course. Normally, in restraurants serving the Thai food one will be given a spoon and fork for the main meal, and a short spoon with small bowl used for soups. No knifes, since the Thai food is whether already cut down into small enough pieces, or could be easily sliced by spoon. The idea is to eat with a spoon in your right hand and a fork in your left to help push foods onto the spoon. Chopsticks are typically served when ordering noodle dishes. Naturally, one will be given a knife and fork when ordered steaks or similar western food dishes.
Needless to mention that fragrant rice is the basic ingredient in Thai-style dining. It is prepared as Thai classic steamed rice called khao soway, and served right on a plate or in small bowls from which you put it into your plate. Except deserts, all other dishes are served in no particular order, just as soon as they ready, and are eaten all together as well. Typical Thai dinner consists of several dishes placed and occasionally even cooked (fondue style) right on the table, and are tucked in by taking small portions from selected dishes simultaneously and topping the rice in your plate. Thai herbs, aromatic spices, chili oils and numerous sauces are always at hand. As drinks, aside from the ice water, Thais opt for some light beer, or an occasional glass or two of whiskey-rocks-soda, rather than wines.
To further elaborate upon Thai habits, Thais like to add spice not only into the food they eat, they equally enjoy to add spice and excitement to everything they do, even in simple daily routine activities.
Whether you are a first time visitor or have been living in Thailand for longer than you can recall, there is always something new, exciting and exotic to experience. And especially, the multitude and availability of local dishes and cuisines (both traditional and fusion style) that truly express Thailand's culture, its flavor and attitude towards life.
Thailand is known as the "Land of Smiles" (LoS) for a good reason: you'll see the famous Thai smiles in a variety of situation, even in not-so-pleasant circumstances or as an apology.
Thai Peculiar Ways
A core principle in Thai culture is called "face", a.k.a. losing face. The issue of face in Thai culture is not amenable to reason, and it is ageless and genderless. It's maybe hard to comprehend this in the West, but to Thais, it is always perfectly clear that for the challenged sides (in confrontation), saving face had become an even higher priority than the fate of the nation. Actually, it's a conduct of saving face for the moment, no matter what's at stake and what are the consequences. And if someone (an antagonist) loses face badly, the outcome is unpredictable. For further info, refer to the concept of "Saving Face".
Rules and Exceptions
Modern Thailand is indeed an open and forward-looking society embracing almost everything that comes its way, even an advent of casual sex. Still, Thai folks are rather conservative in regards to the Thai women's behavior and dress. Despite some liberal remarks on that matter "The way we dress is the way we choose to express ourselves, and this is even more fundamental than the right to express our opinions." The well-favored female bodies may not flaunt and female fashion should vacate all foreplay matters to the imagination. And as far as the dress code is concerned, the vast majority of female office staff fancy wearing stockings regardless of the hot weather.
As a behavioral trait, the long-standing tradition of kowtowing is still customary among Thai girls. While passing nearby a respectful man, Thai woman bending her knees and bow in a servile manner. For further info on Thai girls as well as the assortment of photos of stunning Thai models, refer to the page entitled Thai Ladies.
The most vibrant genre in Thai traditional performing arts,
All mentioned above is certainly contradict the conduct of the bargirls working in a sex industry, tourists often come across. To endue yourself to behave with finesse in delicate situations, refer to the page entitled Nightlife, Tough Ladies and More... for some rigorous comments on that rather overblown, yet much intriguing issue. It is also advisable to check out the title called Thai Courtesans: Bargirls, Bimbos and Bitches. Furthermore, it's worthy of notice that in regard to the matters of marriage, according to the Thai law the age of consent is 15, and Abortions in Thailand are still illegal de jure, though some laws are blatant and ignored. Click on the following link for further info on social, religious, and spiritual issues, as well as legal aspects related to the Marriage in Thailand.
Thai Shopping Habits
|Click on the above image to take a virtual ride on the Thai Tuk-Tuk in Bangkok|
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The same is true with taxi drivers, though the taximeters have fixed taxi fares, yet occasionally, a meter "gets broken". In any case, one should tell a driver, or better show a card of the place to go (that's why, always keep your hotel card). Normally, they'd respond with a few fingers, indicating a starting price: five fingers – 50 baht. After agreeing on price, one should pay a driver just after arrival to the destination. Since enormous traffic problems, taxi prices in Bangkok depend not just on distance, but rather on time, estimated by driver, it will take to arrive. So, don't be surprised by lesser fares at night. As a sound indication of modestness of taxi prices, to show a price, drivers normally use no more than 10 fingers (equal to about US$3-5), with the exception of luxury hotels and Airport taxis.
Since a huge number of all kinds of taxis: limos, taximeters, tuk-tuks and even motorbike-taxis, which are handy day-and-night, it is rather typical that drivers are out there chasing passengers, those walking or standing near by roads. It definitely would be worthwhile to add a few words about Thai Driving Habits ... next.
To be continued...