The following concepts are part of Thai everyday life:


Greeting somebody ( "WAI" - ไหว้ ) is an important action in Thai society.

The way to "WAI" depends on the person you greet. The highest rank the person is, the deepest and lowest your greeting must be. It is not like a hand shaking. People don't have to answer to it each time. For example if a waiter greets the guests, they don't have to answer. Answering to his greeting is a fault. The waiter would be embarrassed and would think the guests are kidding him. Younger people always have to greet first.

Thai society is changing in contact with westerner civilization. Now hand shakes happen especially in Bangkok. It is smart to act like foreigners. In Thai greeting there are no contact between bodies. The "WAI" is a greeting with no physical contact.

The namaskara (คารวะ) greeting - bending head low to touch the tips of cupped hands in a pliant and subservient manner - is to show utmost respect.

When dancing ( traditional "RAM WONG" - รำวง ) there is no physical contact. Only the hands are moving in a beautiful way in the air. Of course the westerner friendly punch on shoulder or back is not appreciated. Also head shall not be touched because it is the most valued part of the body. No one shall be pointed using the foot. It is the worst insult because the feet are the less valued part of the body. Also holding hands between girl and boy is not appreciated. On the contrary holding hands between girls or between boys is tolerated because it is a sign of friendship. Of course a kiss in the street in front of everybody is not imaginable. Thai people are shocked. Same for holding one's arm, put your hand in your girlfriend's (or boyfriend's) jeans rear pocket. These are not Thai customs. Some Thai people do it but it is only a reaction against society. It is only a way of shocking the others.

To show expression such as anger in front of other is not valued. It is the same for laughs. Especially for women. Most of the time they put the hand before the mouth when laughing.

When a gift is offered to Thai people, they always thank but might not open the gift immediately. It is not an offense. In Thai society, intense joy expression are not shown to others. So the gift is opened when the person is alone. Anyway if the person doesn't like the gift, nobody see her disappointment ! But now with the use of foreign customs in Thai society, the gift is often opened immediately. One thing not to do is to make a joke about the gift offered by a Thai people. The person might not appreciated the joke especially if she has searched for the gift during a long time. It is like losing the face in front of the others.


Often problems can happen with Thai people about timetable misunderstandings. From a Buddhist point of view, time is not so important because before reaching enlightenment many lives are needed.

Thai Time is divided in five sections :

When using Thai language no confusion is possible. But when using English language confusion may appear. Thai people often translate the Thai time into English language but without any English background. So when a Thai person says four o'clock, it is better to check if it is four o'clock in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening or the night. No problem with bus, train or plane because timetables are displayed through international standards (i.e. 24 hours mode).

Thai people don't bother about time as much as foreign people, especially about past and future. Past is not important. It's over especially bad events. Future is not so important also. What is important is present, the current time. For future they will see later.

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