Traditions of Thailand
Thailand is a country with an unusual culture and amazing traditions. Its culture is a very harmonious combination of components of several ancient civilizations.
The whole conscious life of Thais is connected with religion. Buddhism is not only a national religion, but also a special philosophy of life of the Thai people. They strictly follow the rules and laws bequeathed by the Buddha. That is why all the rituals are sacred and performed everywhere.
- Early in the morning you can always find Buddhists collecting alms.
- Every Thai at the age of 20 is obliged to go to a monastery to comprehend the teachings of the Buddha.
- Women can go to the monastery at any time, where there is always work waiting for them as novices.
Buddhists are always happy to donate to the upkeep of new shrines.
A great many temples dedicated to the great god have been built throughout the country. Throughout Thailand there are more than 10 thousand. For Thais, the best option is to build a new temple than to take care of the old one.
A Buddhist temple is a complex of monuments, holy places, located in an enclosed area. It is most often referred to as a vat. The complex usually includes the temple itself, libraries, a bell tower, schools, residential buildings, and a room for important guests. Wats of national importance are always supported by the royal family. The others are maintained by funds raised by the population. Almost every day the parishioners bring money to the temple in order to receive a blessing and ensure their good fortune and prosperity.
Even in every home there is a special corner where there is a statue of Buddha. There is even a special designed image, which depicts the god.
- New Year. It is celebrated annually from April 12 to 14. For Thais, this holiday represents the beginning of spring. According to tradition, on these days it is customary to pour water over themselves and their neighbors. In addition, there are rituals dedicated to Buddha.
- European New Year. This holiday is considered a secular holiday. Most Thais are not accustomed to mark it, and this day is considered the same as the others. In the resort cities New Year is celebrated with a great scope, given that a lot of Europeans come. In Thailand, the New Year appeared only in 1940, when the King decided to improve relations with neighboring countries.
- There is also a Buddhist New Year, which is celebrated in mid-December.
- Holiday of the King’s plowing . It is held in early May. This day opens all the land works. There is even a tradition in which the chief plowman plows the land with a golden plow, and the girls throw the seeds of rice into the holes. This day foretells the weather for the coming year.
- In May, there is also a festival to commemorate the birth and death of Buddha. It is held during the full moon.
- At the end of the wet season, the Ok Phansa Festival is held in early fall. It marks the end of the Buddhist Lent. On this day, townspeople give clergymen new clothes and paraphernalia that they may need.
- Kathin Festival. It is held in November and commemorates the end of the harvest. On this day it is necessary to go to church and give gifts to the clergy.
In addition to these holidays in Thailand there are many other significant events that seem unusual for tourists. Among all the festivities can be distinguished some rituals: kite flying, elephant catching festival.
If you want to move to Thailand permanently, then you should learn about the traditions of home, so as not to inadvertently embarrass the neighbors. The house for the locals is the most important thing in life. The doors should always be located in the east, as this is where the sun rises and life is born. Next to each residential building is always a brightly colored pile, which according to custom invites good spirits to visit. Near the stores, special small houses are built for them.
Entering the house, be sure to remove street shoes. According to tradition, in a new house you can not step on the threshold. This is because the ashes of the deceased relatives have been deposited under the threshold since ancient times.
Greetings are accepted not by the usual handshake, and a special greeting, which is a prayerful folding of hands and head tilt, which means respect for the person. It is forbidden to greet a child in this way. Parents may stroke him on the head. According to legend, it is in the head since childhood that a good spirit dwells and keeps the child throughout life. Normal touching the head is considered almost a sin and can lead to misfortune.
Thais are thoughtful people. They have each organ of man has its own special meaning. The head is in first place and is considered the purest. The hands are lower, so they have a lower status.
Also a lot of rituals and traditions are associated with childbirth and the restoration of the female body. There is a special ritual “yu-fi”, according to which a woman must stay in a hot place for several weeks. Nowadays, the ritual is also performed, but the Thais use a bath for it. Water with spices is boiled in large buckets, in which the woman is recuperated for several hours.
Today, in large Thai cities, the population mostly wears European clothes. National costumes are worn only for festive occasions. Traditional clothing is a combination of silk and other natural fabrics of various colors. Men’s modern attire is represented by pants and a long shirt. Until the middle of the last century, male representatives wore a panung, a piece of cloth wrapped around the hips and stretched between the legs. Girls knitted a large kerchief on the chest, with the shoulders uncovered.
Nowadays, the traditional garment is a narrow skirt and blouse. The skirt is interesting and worthy of description. It consists of three fabrics, decorated with a variety of patterns.
The literature of Thailand was shaped by the influences of India. The most famous literary monument in the country is Ramakiyan. It is a prototype of the Indian epic, but the Thai version has a more prosperous ending.
The first Thai work was written by the poet Sinton Pu and is called Pra Apaimani.
All Thai productions are complex and interesting, and each movement of the actors carries some information. The national Thai theater presents different directions.
- The Lakhon Theater can actually be called a women’s theater, since there are almost no male actors there. The main highlight of Lakhon is considered to be the play of mimics and gestures. In addition to dramatic productions, in the theater often you can see the ancient Thai dances.
- There are many puppet theaters in the southern provinces of Thailand today.
- There is a classical ballet theater in Thailand called Khon. It works mainly by men using masks.
- Rabam are miniature productions during the change of acts in dramatic plays.
- Leake. These are the religious performances that accompany all the feasts of the saints.
Vietnamese music is very similar to Thai music, but in different provinces you can find different features of the sound. To listen to the classics of Thai composers, it is enough to go to one of the music festivals or cafes with live performances.
This is one of the many traditions of Thailand. There are several techniques of drawing on the body. For the locals, tattoos are a talisman, saving them from evil spirits and bringing good luck. Exactly Thailand can be considered the birthplace of this art. You can get a tattoo everywhere, even in monasteries.
Traditions and Customs of Thailand: wai, smiles, Buddhism and everyday habits of the locals
The culture of Thailand is multifaceted and contradictory. The way of life of its inhabitants can cause our tourists not only surprise, but also a slight shock. In order to respond to everything and behave adequately (by local standards), it is important to learn the peculiarities of Thai mentality and traditions in advance, to learn the usual manner of talking, greeting, rules of visiting attractions of Thailand, and the street dress code. Remember that you are visiting first of all, and only secondly – for rest.
How to communicate with the Thais: the peculiarities of character and customs.
Thailand, the people: what are they like? Most guidebooks call Thais a peaceful, smiling, hospitable nation. Of course, it would be nice to get to a real paradise, where the atmosphere of universal love, every person smiling and ready to help. The reality: Thais are ordinary people with their virtues and vices. Chances are great to run into peaceful, hardworking, and good-natured guys, as well as crooks, cheaters, aggressive types, and complete inadequacies (on the dangerous personalities read more about what you need to know to travel to Thailand). This mix of characters, manners is unlikely to surprise even inexperienced travelers. But some of the traditions and habits of the Thais no farang (as they call the Europeans) will not seem commonplace.
Wai . Gesture of greeting (the classic handshake is not used here). Approximately it looks like this: hands folded “boat” on the chest, fingertips up, elbows pressed, head slightly inclined. The gesture seems simple, but do not hurry to repeat it, as there are many variations and rules of vay. The position of the hands (higher or lower), the degree of head tilt depends on the degree of expression of respect. Some people give a wai, others do not. Raising the head and lowering the hands should be done at a certain speed. It is, without exaggeration, a whole science. Watch some video tutorials if you want to make a wai, or better yet, find a mentor directly in Thailand.
Smiles for every occasion. Thailand, population. The romantic nickname “Land of Smiles” the country received not because of the constant happiness, good mood of the entire population. Just a smile is the most popular, universal gesture among Thais. It can mean admiration, sadness, fake cheerfulness, sympathy, pride, disguise bad intentions and hide complicated emotions. There are thirteen types of Thai smiles in total, but in fact there are more, and most importantly, it is extremely difficult for a farang to interpret them correctly, you have to guess what a Thai is smiling about.
Losing face, or rather, trying to avoid it. Thais rarely admit their mistakes and do not like to refuse, because they are afraid of “losing face”. They will cheat, postpone the meeting, postpone the order, but they won’t say “no”. To accuse a Thai of lying is considered “not decent”. Sarcasm and self-irony are alien concepts here. Feeling the fear of “losing face”, many locals wait patiently in line and try to avoid scandals.
Food habits are a peculiarity of Thailand. Thais do not have a strict, even approximate order of meals for the day. You eat when you feel like it, usually a little, but often (5-7 meals is the norm). Meals are not tied to time, at least soup for breakfast, at least bananas. Home cooking is extremely rare – the prices in local catering establishments are low, everyone can afford to eat out. An interesting peculiarity is that no knives are used during meals. Anything that needs to be cut off is pinched off with a fork, but mostly eaten with a deep spoon. Chopsticks are seldom used by Thais. But the most interesting thing is the traditional Thai cuisine.
Life on foot. On the streets of the country it is difficult to find a bench to sit. Nonsense, but so revealing. Thais spend most of their lives on their feet or bike. Even the cashiers in most stores work standing up.
Attitudes of locals toward tourists. What tourists are not allowed to do in Thailand?
The attitude to tourists from Russia and Ukraine in the recent past was quite wary. The blame for this may well be our vacationers, who were disruptive at local resorts. Gradually the perception of Russian and Ukrainian travelers is changing for the better. Of course, behavior in the style of “Hey, entertain me,” will result in a corresponding reaction. Sincere interest in Thai culture will add pluses to your karma and help to attract Thais. At a minimum, it is important to follow the local rules – the laws and established customs of Thailand.
Be calm and patient, speak softly. It is customary in decent Thai society to conduct any conversation with restraint. Even if it is an argument rather than a conversation, do not raise your voice or shake your hands. In a conflict situation – immediately apply a smile. Too much fun with friends in a cafe in the afternoon, by the way, too, is not worth it, the exception is all the areas densely populated by tourists.
Women with children and pregnant women should not wait, and especially to demand help (not give way, not help with a stroller, etc.). Here it is simply not accepted, because the typical Thai woman – a strong woman who “all by herself.
Do not touch the head of the Thais. According to belief, Buddha sits on it, another deity guarding a person. The custom, in fact, is not followed by all modern Thais. But it is worth adhering to this rule or asking permission.
Do not point your foot or index finger at the person, his photo, sacred images – it is rude and disrespectful. If you really need to point, do so with your palm up (with your fingers pointing down).
Refrain from hugging, kissing in public. Holding hands, kissing on the cheek, embracing – please, but passion is not accepted here.
What is the language in Thailand? The official language is Thai. It is advisable to learn at least a couple of local phrases. The language in Thailand is very complex, you can not learn it quickly. But elementary “Khotkho_t” (“Excuse me”) or “Khop khun ma:k-ma:k” (“Thank you very much”) memorize. The reason is not only a language barrier (most workers in tourist places speak English, and in large resorts Russian). Using phrases in Thai, you’ll arouse respect from the locals, they are very proud of their difficult language and get an additional discount.
Temples in Thailand: rules of conduct.Take off your shoes before entering any temple, the Royal Palace, a private house/apartment. The rule works in many public places (pharmacies, cafes, stores, etc.), if the sign indicates it – be guided by a sign or other visitors.
About the King of the country – or nothing, or only the best. Do not dare to discuss and condemn the royal family, in any way express disrespect to them! It’s not just a custom, but a law and you’ll be punished not only by the authorities (up to 7 years in prison), because the local people won’t spare any blows for the sake of the beloved King. Remember: do not speak ill of the king and his relatives (living and deceased), at the sound of the national or royal anthem, it is desirable to stand up, do not spoil any images of the royal family (tear, draw on the newspaper with the picture of the king). You can not tear or even put in your back pocket local money – they have a portrait of the king!
Temples of Thailand: Thai religiosity and rules of conduct in sacred places
Thailand: religion. Here everything is clear with the degree of religiosity of the locals. Suffice it to see a huge number of Buddhist temples, statues of Buddha and other shrines in every city, the mass celebration of religious holidays, houses and food for the spirits. However, in the eyes of the European, the religious customs of the Thais sometimes reach the point of absurdity. For example, incense to zadavit spirits lighted not only in temples and homes, but even in front of strip clubs, and even spirits are brought gifts in the form of fruit and. red “Fanta”! Of course, marvelous rituals do not reflect the true faith of Thais. To understand it (at least try), you can visit any of the Buddhist temples. Their doors are open to all comers, as long as you follow the rules:
Clothing is quite modest, covered, neat. Women are allowed pants, the head need not be covered. Shorts are knee-length, the top should cover the shoulders. Before entering often rent clothes or semblance of stoles with which to cover.
Women are forbidden to enter all temples while they are menstruating, and some temples have a total ban on entry. Women are not allowed to touch monks or give them any items from their hands.
Do not step on the threshold of the temple, but cross it as you enter. Remove your shoes as you enter. Socks may be left on, in some you must take them off.
Do not sit on the floor with your feet stretched forward, pointing them at anyone or at the shrines. Tuck your feet under you or sit down stool style.
Before entering temples in Thailand you can buy candles, flowers, incense to present them to the Buddha: go to the temple, sit down, clasp the “offering” in your palms on your chest (as in the “Wai” gesture), say a prayer and gratitude to the Buddha, and then go to the krathan in front of the Buddha statue, light a candle, incense and leave a flower. Do not turn your back on the krathana.
Rules related to religion also extend beyond the boundaries of temples: it is customary for older monks to give way in transportation. Any image of Buddha or other deities outside the temples is considered sacred. It is forbidden to climb on statues or deface images. There is a fine for desecration of Buddhist shrines.
Thais’ Attitude to Drinking and Smoking
In Buddhism, smoking and drinking are strictly prohibited, but Thais, of whom 95% are Buddhists, can easily have a drink and smoke. Of course, no one condemns foreigners for their bad habits.
Alcohol of all kinds is on sale from 11:00 to 14:00 and from 17:00 to 24:00. But in tourist areas these time limits are not relevant, and the sale of alcohol occurs around the clock. Read more about shopping in Thailand. There are no strict restrictions on drinking alcohol on the street, but it is prohibited by law in public parks. Choosing other places for drinking alcohol, choose wisely. Do not drink alcohol with Thais – they like to drink, but do not know how, quickly get drunk and lose control.
Cigarettes can be bought in a regular supermarket, such as 7-Eleven. Please note that Thai tobacco is of disgusting quality, it is better to bring your own cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes are strictly prohibited in the country, and regular cigarettes can not be smoked in public places, beaches (only allowed in special places).
Dress Style in Thailand, how to dress on vacation
The majority of Thais dress simply. Predominantly – street style and business. For fashion watch only in Bangkok, in other cities, many residents are dressed like hello from the 90’s. Thai women often dress modestly, rarely wear makeup, hardly wear high heels, but love jewelry, jewelry “like gold” (mainly bracelets and charm pendants), various hair accessories and beautiful handbags.
Thai girl with bright provocative makeup, dressed in short shorts or barely covering something skirt, open top in all likelihood is a transvestite or call girl. In fact, to meet a transvestite diva in full outfit in the daytime in non-tourist areas is unlikely. There are many transsexuals in Thailand, among ordinary people, politicians, athletes, and artists. They usually do not look flashy. Ladyboys with carnival makeup (go-go bars and prostitutes) – is, contrary to stereotypes, not the entire country, but only a small part of it, which is concentrated in the nightlife districts of Phuket, Pattaya, Bangkok, and has no relation to the culture of the country. The real life of Thais is simple, modest, revolves around work and children, and to the ladyboys people treat mostly either neutrally, or with silent censure.
The shyness of Thais is especially noticeable on the beach: many swim in shorts and T-shirts. Tourists don’t have to follow Thai puritans’ example: you will not be condemned for conventional bathing suit and short shorts on the beach. Walking around town in beach clothes is definitely not worth it. Plain t-shirts, jeans, moderately short shorts and sundresses (just decent clothes for recreation) – that’s the best choice. Men should not walk down the street with their torsos exposed and their shirts unbuttoned. Because of inappropriate clothing, no one will judge or admonish foreigners on the street, but they will definitely think condemnation. In official places (for example, the immigration center) in overly open, beachwear may not be allowed.
Elena Soromitko Author of the article