Every country has different customs, different social rules. Most of them are written down in books or even more of them in blogs. This is my entry about my experiences in Thailand, especially the Hua Hin region, and maybe some of you readers will find this helpful.
Europeans often shake hands when we greet each other. But the Thai people I encountered pressed their hands together and bowed. Most of them also said ‘sawasdee kaa/krap’ while doing this.
Sawasdee means ‘welcome’, can also be the equivalent to ‘wishing a good day’, but it’s also used when leaving a premise, when someone wants to thank you or when they’re sorry. ‘Sawasdee’ was one of the first thai words I came across when landing in Bangkok. It was written on a welcome poster in big letters. But also later, when being greeted by others I heard people use it.
The ending, however, depends on something else: females use the ‘kaa’, while males use the ‘krap’. From the little knowledge I gathered during our stay there, I think the kaa and krap endings are almost used every time. For example when you’re saying ‘thank you’ you say ‘khaawp khoon’ which I pronounced as ‘kap kum kaa’ or if you’re a man: ‘kap kum krap’.
I didn’t learn more words than these two, but I figured hello and thank you were the most important ones.
Concerning the greeting with the hands – hotel workers bowed lower than the manager. We, as tourists, did not need to return the bow all the time. Obviously it is enough to return the bow with a nod, but I still returned the gesture every time.
When travelling around tourists, such as we did, tend to want to take a lot of photos. You can take photos of almost everything, when it’s not allowed there will usually be clear signs. When you take photos of persons, always ask and respect if someone says no.
Dressing wise you can wear whatever you want to. But if you take a tour and visit royal places, your knees and shoulders need to be covered. Sometimes you can buy scarfs or other fabrics to cover your exposed skin, but there are also places where you’re not allowed to enter if you’re not wearing the correct clothes.
Some things which are not allowed and you need to be aware of: don’t touch another Thai’s head. Also never point to someone else with your feet and never step on anything royal – even if it’s money flying away, don’t step on it. Also, when entering temples, you need to leave your shoes outside. When entering some buildings you’re also expected to leave your shoes outside, but the owners will either tell you or you just closely watch what the others are doing.
Buddhist monks are not allowed to touch females, but you as a female should never try to touch him. Any depiction of Buddha is also considered sacred – so never do anything inappropriate. Be aware of their different culture and show respect.
That’s always the most important thing: be respectful