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Thailand Culture


Thais usually don't shake hands but rather "Wai" which is to raise both hands gracefully and unhurriedly, palm to palm, fingers together, and close to the body bringing them in a prayer like gesture to the head while bowing slightly. Your fingers tips should be between your chin and the top of your nose. The higher the hands are raised to the persons head indicates the level of respect the person is paying. In Thailand, to "Wai" means not only to greet and say farewell, more importantly, it means to pay your respects. Therefore you will see Thais giving a "Wai" when they pass shrines or the statue of a respected king.

Thais are very honoured when Westerners return the polite gesture; a women must not offer to shake hands. Don't be surprised if you are always addressed by your first name, as this is the manner in which Thais refer to one another, although in formal situations it's appropriate to use "Mr.," "Mrs.," or "Miss" with personal or family names.

It is considered rude to pat or touch someone on the head. Do not point your foot at another person (or definitely not at a Buddha image in the temple) this is considered highly impolite, as is striding over a person who may be sitting on the floor. The head is the most sacred part of the human body while the foot is the lowest (and hence the least important). Objects are passed and received with the right hand only. Public displays of affection are frowned upon, and it is rare to see people even holding hands.

Mai Pen Rai

The expression mai pen rai ("never mind") expresses a general feeling that life is to be enjoyed and that problems and setbacks should not be taken too seriously. Thais value a sense of humour, but they are a reserved people who do not like loud behaviour, public displays of anger, or criticism of others. Visitors are expected to keep a cool head and conceal emotions-especially anger-at all times. Keeping Thai customs in mind will help you avoid inadvertently offending your charming and hospitable hosts.


The Thai people have a deep reverence for their royal family. The national anthem is played at all public events, with everyone in attendance standing silently. You will find portraits of Their Majesties and other members of the Royal Family displayed prominently in every home and office. The Thai people have a deep traditional reverence for their Royal family and a visitor should he careful to show respect to the King, the Queen and the Royal Children.


Buddhism is the major guiding influence of the Thai people. When visiting a religious place it is important to dress modestly - the Thais have great respect for their Buddha images. It is acceptable to wear shoes in the compound of a Buddhist temple, but not inside the chapel where the principal Buddha's are kept. Remember to step over the door threshold (a raised horizontal piece of wood at the bottom of the entrance) as it is considered disrespectful to step on it. Do be careful, too, about taking photographs inside a temple. In a Muslim mosque men should wear hats and women should be well covered. Everybody should remove his or her shoes before entering the mosque.

shadow puppetThailand Shadow Puppet Plays

Very seldom seen these days except in the south are the shadow puppet plays known as "Nang Yai" and "Nang Thalung". Nang Thalung is the more popular of the two where puppets crafted from cow hide have strings attached for better character movements. The puppeteers then move these along with the music and comical dialogs. Meanwhile, Nang Yai have become rather rare these days and the puppets are larger in size than those of the Nang Thalung.

Traditional Thai Music

Traditional Thai music is a blending of musical elements from a number of cultures, such as Chinese, Khmer, and Indian. This applies not only to the instruments but also to the melodies. Therefore Thai music can be said to be derivative. Notwithstanding that fact, Thai music has developed into a distinct form, which is regarded as belonging to the 'high' musical cultures of Southeast Asia.Khon


Amongst the most famous of Thailand's cultural show is the Khon. Khon masked drama evolved in the royal court of Siam, although its roots lie in folk dances of the countryside. Here, performers don elaborate jewelled costumes; men wear masks and women gilded headdresses. Music accompanies the dance and an off-stage chorus performs the dialog and songs.


It is thought that likay originated from Muslim religious performances. It was adopted by the Thais and in time become primarily a comedy folk art enjoyed by common people with singing and dancing. In recent years, likay artists have begun to incorporate political jibes into their repertoires. Cultured people in Bangkok used to look upon likay as rough and unsophisticated. But today, it has gain greater recognition as an art form.

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