Thailand is one of the most visited countries in the world. Each year, it welcomes millions of tourists from around the world. Just like any other country, Thailand is also based on certain traditions and values that everyone needs to respect. However, the Thai culture is quite different from the western culture. Religion is a strong aspect of Thai people, to begin with, and the family holds significant value. What may be ignored or overlooked in other religions is mostly kept intact and held close to the heart of Thai culture.
The first most important aspect of Thai culture is family. As mentioned earlier, Thai people have a strong family bond and value it above anything else in their personal lives. For them, family bonding is the strongest connection and relationship. As a result, family always comes first. Furthermore, families in Thailand are quite extended. The reason is that they do not have cousins, they simply consider each other brothers and sisters.
Moreover, Thai families are accustomed to living near each other and even if a family has to move to a faraway location, they ensure that they maintain strong communication with the people back home as well. Such is the role of families in Thailand that it is very common to see aunties and grandparents raising children since their parents have to work elsewhere. Meanwhile, younger family members are expected to take care of their elders either financially or by carrying out other chores.
Status is important
Although you might not notice it first but status happens to be a huge thing in Thai culture. Income, connections, culture and Age, etc. are all contributing factors to determining a status of a person in society. However, in Thailand, status is not fixed. The status of a person changes according to the circumstances, which is very unlike in Western cultures. As a result, Thais perform several different versions of Wai depending on the social status of a person.
Furthermore, there are some social rules as well related to who should offer Wai first. Moreover, when in a social gathering, status tends to be very important. According to Thai tradition, the highest earner is expected to pay the bill when socializing. Additionally, when Thais talk to each other, they use different words such as pee and nong to indicate a person’s age and show respect to the elder accordingly. However, things are not that simple.
Sometimes a younger individual maybe referred to as Pee, which is usually used to indicate an older person, due to the individual having a higher status. Even though these minor social rules are hardly noticed by the outsiders but are strictly woven into Thai culture.
Loss of face and respect are big deals
Respect, shame, and the concept of face are comparatively more important in Thailand than in any other western culture. Apart from the use of language and Wai, there are several other ways used by Thais to show respect. For instance, it is considered disrespectful and bad etiquette if you were to visit someone’s house without taking along a small gift.
Furthermore, not removing the shoes before entering the house is another disrespect. You cannot publicly humiliate someone that will result in losing face or becoming embarrassed. Loss of face can lead to extremely violent actions. With that being said, Thai people in rural areas are used to dealing with perceived injustices according to the families, individuals, and social norms that simply dish out punishments as they see fit.
Patriotism is huge
Patriotism is huge in Thailand. The people of Thailand stand proud of the fact that their country is the only nation in Southeast Asia to have never been colonized by the European countries. This is perhaps the biggest difference between western and Thai culture. Their traditions, values, and cultures do not show any signs of European influence, unlike many western cultures. Patriotism is so huge in Thailand that the national anthem is played twice everyday and everyone is expected to stop in their tracks and stand in respect of the anthem.
Moreover, the King’s anthem is played in cinemas before movies are shown. Since Thailand and its people stand proud of the fact that their country was never occupied by the Europeans, they do not go head over heels for the tourists that visit. They are given the same treatment and valued just like Thai people themselves.
Thais are expressionless
Thais being expressionless is not something new. It is a well-known fact that Thais do not throw tantrums and show negative emotions in public to lose face. However, that does not mean that the expressions are not there or not shown in private but it is just that the Thais are accustomed to hiding their emotions in public.
As a result, you will mostly see Thais with a laid-back attitude. A common phrase you will hear is mai bpen rai, which means to not worry. This phrase makes tourists believe that Thais are a completely carefree group but the fact of the matter is that they do care in some cases. They are just conditioned to respond in such a way.
Public Display of Affection
Although Public Display of Affection is quite common in the west, you will hardly see that in Thailand. In Thailand, it is not considered culturally appropriate to indulge in inappropriate acts in public. It is considered offensive by the older generation. You can hold hands or wrap your arms around a person but kissing and other types of acts are not allowed.
No Dual Pricing
Dual pricing is a common case in many countries. It means that the tourists usually have to pay more than the local people to avail services. Although it is considered discrimination amongst the tourists but no such thing exists in Thailand. The country charges more or less the same from its visitors as it does to its local people.
Yes might mean no
Even though Thais tend to be mostly expressionless but they are kind and warm-hearted people as well. With that being said, in rare cases, they will come out and say no to your face. However, in other situations, they will say yes but that does not always mean yes. Since Thai people do not like letting other people down, they will agree to something just to help someone out. Moreover, it is also rare for a Thai person to not know anything. For instance, while giving directions if a person does not have the answer, they will most likely say something positive to make you happy instead of feeling disappointed.
Superstitions are rife
While the west is divided when it comes to superstitions, Thailand on the other hand strongly believes in them. For instance, when arranging a wedding, it is common for Thai people to visit and consult a monk or a fortune teller for an auspicious date. Additionally, the practice and tradition of giving babies nicknames is done to trick and prevent evil spirits from stealing the babies. Moreover, people avoid complementing newborns as well in fear that it would make them too desirable to spirits. And then there are a lot of other superstitions involved with not cutting children’s hair, male and female twins, dreams, animals, and more.
Concluding, Thai culture is somewhat unique but very tolerant when it comes to understanding foreign visitors. Thai people have lived by their culture and traditions for centuries and expect those who are visiting the country to do the same. What may be assumed too conservative for visitors holds significant value in Thai society. Therefore, the differences that exist between western and Thai culture are the same differences that make it a proud nation.