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Thailand Culture and Thai Customs

Thai culture and traditions

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 and differ in many respects from those accepted in the West.

First off, have to mention that Thais welcome each other by a salutation known as wai (see the animation), rather than by shaking hands, as "westerners" do. Thais call that gesture of bowing sawadee. It is one of the most distinctive and evident Thai customs, and it is also one of the first things they teach their kids. It makes Thai parents very proud to see their little children bowing.

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 also called sawadee in Thai. To distinguish between men and women, Thai language uses the gender markers. Further info on Thai language and its distinct aspects is found at: Thailand Overview - General Info.



Thai Hospitality

Thai cultural habitsHospitality 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 the 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.


Thai Gourmet Dishes To-Die-For

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.

Thailand

Thai chilies 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.



Thai style dining
Delicious Thai Food Dinner

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.

Thai Peculiar Ways

A core principle in Thai culture is "face", a.k.a. losing face. The issue of face in Thai culture is not amenable to reason, and it is genderless and ageless. It perhaps hard to comprehend this in the West, but to Thais, it became perfectly clear that for opposing sides, saving face had become a higher priority than the fate of the nation. Actually, it is the conduct of saving face for the moment, no matter what is at stake and what are the consequences. And if they lose face badly, the outcome is unpredictable.

Thais respect the elders and referring with regard to the older common people as pee, meaning an older brother or sister. It's also customary to call youngsters as nong, the younger brother or sister. And while in restaurants or similar places, a polite and more approprite way to address the staff is either as pee or nong, rather than a waiter or waitress. And if she is nice, you may call her teerak, darling in Thai.

All Thai people have nicknames, which are given to them shortly after the birth. These nicknames are commonly used in daily life, in informal casual contacts, and in fact, nicknames are used so much so that many people may not know their friends and colleagues real name. In contrast to the real names, which are quite long and hard to pronounce, Thai nicknames, by and large, made up of single syllable sounds: Lek, Nid, Na, Su, Sak, Som, Boom, Mem, Tae, Gai, Goong, Fah, New, Pook, Moo and so forth. Some of these are kinda hilarious, for instance, Moo means 'pig', yet no offence is intended or taken.

Smiling kingdomOne will not see Thai couples hugging, embracing, kissing, or any such acts of explicit affection on streets or in public places. It is unacceptable by the norms of Thai society. And for that matter, the display of strong emotions in public, especially when inhered in loud speaking or noisy arguing, is considered rude and disrespectful.



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 be 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 to wear stockings regardless of the hot weather.

Having said that, there is another contradiction related to the Thai student uniforms – the girls outfits are regarded as "too sexy". In fact, according to an online survey recently publicized in Japanese media, the iniforms of Thai girls are the world's sexiest student uniforms. Have a look at the charms of Thai Sexy Outfits.

Cultural Appropriateness

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,
Thai classic dance invokes the sweet nature of Thai girls.
Thai traditional dancing
Thai Classical Dancer

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 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 Marriage in Thailand.



Thai traditions, about Thailand
Cockfighting – the popular Thai pastime

Thai Shopping Habits
Haggling

Thai shopping habits are fundamentally differ from the western ones. Bargaining ain't only customary in Thailand, it is in the very nature of Thai folks. Since most shops and hawker stands don't show price tags, one must ask 'How much?'. As a music to vendors' years, this question starts the sell's gambit. First, vendors look at you to assess your interest in purchase and generosity. Then, to hook you up they enter an opening price into a calculator. While attentively keeping an eye on your reactions, they tempt you to type into a calculator the price you want to pay... Beware, Thai traders are skilled professionals in striking a bargain. Try to be nice and smile while you're haggling, as it is a part of the fun.

Thai tuk-tuk
Tuk-Tuk Taxi
Click on the above image to take a virtual ride on Thai Tuk-Tuk in Bangkok
(9 sec. 827 KB) MPEG movie.
Click me for instructions.
You will find more movie clips dispersed all over th4u.com.

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...  



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