Thai culture for beginners

Ultimate Guide to Thai Culture

One of the main things you should do before moving to Thailand is learning a little bit about Thai culture, learn about the behaviors. Many aspects of life might be deferent from what you used to know. Taking a step to learn more about their culture can help you make the transition smoother.

Three main reasons to learn about the culture are:

  • to avoid offending people,
  • be able to make friends easier,
  • be able to understand more easily what you see around.

3 pillars of Thai society and culture

At young age, Thai schoolchildren are taught that there are 3 pillars of Thai society, those are:

  • Nation
  • Religion
  • Monarchy

Thai people consider that these 3 pillars are the reasons why Thailand is a unique country. How these pillars can affect you as a foreigner resident.

Nation

The nation of Thailand is quite recent. Until 1932, Thailand was known as Siam. Why this change? Well, it was part of the nationalization which gave birth to what we call the “Thai people” (as an identity) which speak the “Thai language” as the national tongue. 

A super-brief history of Thailand

Lines were defined quite recently to separate countries in Southeast Asia on a map. With time diferent kingdoms were born. For each kingdom, one capital city, for weaker kingdoms, it was possible for the ruler to pay a tribute to the bigger kingdom and be considered as part of it.

Before the emergence of Thai kingdoms, a big part of Thailand was controlled by the Khmer Empire centered at Angkor. The first Thai kingdoms to emerge were the Sukhothai Kingdom in the lower north and the Lanna Kingdom, with its capital Chiang Mai, in the upper north.

In the 15th century the Sukhothai Kingdom and the Ayutthaya Kingdom became one and were based in Thailand’s central region. Ayutthaya also known as Sian became the biggest city in Southest Asia controlled over central and southern regions of Thailand. In 1767 the Burmese army attacked the city and the new capital named Siam was born in what is now Bangkok. In the late 18th century, Siam took over the Lanna Kingdom to add Northern Thailand, and it also gained control of the Lao Kingdoms based in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. A big part of the Laotian Praband was taken away by the French but Siam kept a part of it that became Northeast Thailand.

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Thai land

As you read above, Thailand is now a country composed of land that belonged in the old years to several independent kingdoms and countries. The purpose by changing the countries name from Siam to Thailand was a process to include people of the North and Northeast regions under a new national identity. 

Thai people

The Siamese ethnic group represents a large part of the population of Thailand, however other groups are present. Several peoples are represented in Thailand such as the Lao people in Laos, the Shan of Myanmar and the Dai of southwestern China.

It is said that about 40% of the Thai population has Chinese ancestry. Also, Thai-Chinese is an important part of the wealthy class of Thai society.

The use of the term “Thai people” (khon thai) has created a unity where it did not exist before. 

Thai language

The central main dialect of the Siamese ethnic group became the Thai language that we know today. It can be difficult to understand the northern, northeaster and southern dialects if someone has only studied the central Thai dialect. We can also find other variations and dialects used in small provinces. It is believed that the Thai language family find its origins in Southern China and the other smaller dialect are branches and sub-branches find theirs on the Thai language.  The Thai language is thought in school nowadays and has been since a while ago that is how the national tongue was born known as phaa-saa thai or Thai language.

Foreigners should be thought standard Thai language since everybody can understand it. When the basics of the Thai language are mastered then it should be easier to learn the local dialects.

Thai is a tonal language just like Chinese and Vietnamese. Standard Thai has 5 tones (mid, low, falling, high, and rising), the change of the pitch can affect the meaning of the word radically. It can be difficult for foreigners to make it but for some it comes more naturally.

Even though the Thai script resembles to weirdly drawn lines it is actually an alphabet composed of 44 consonants (technically an abugida). The Thai language is composed of 32 vowels which are written by adding extra marks above, below, or on either side of the consonants. Plus, we can find 4 tone marks, a native Thai numeral system, and even some not-so-used punctuation symbols. Normally the Thai language is written with no punctuation and even without spaces between words.

With some effort, Thai language can be learned rally fast and easily contrary of the common belief that it is a hard language to learn to speak and write. The Thai alphabet is quite simple as it has more letters than English but there is no ambiguity when it comes to the sound that the letter makes. Also, there are no individual characters memorize like in Chinese and Japanese.

For the tonal aspect there are some sounds that might be unfamiliar but in general it is easy to pick up. If you want to change the tense of a sentence you can just add other words which will affect the meaning.

The best thing you can do if you want to understand Thai culture is learning their language.

The words you use, and the politeness you will have in your speech can change depending of the age or the social status. Thai culture has a high consideration for elders and those who hold an elevated position.

Respect for the Thai nation

People will only expect you to show respect when the national anthem is played. It is played twice a day, in the morning at 8.00 and the afternoon at 6.00, in public places such as parks, schools, government buildings. When the anthem starts you must stop everything you are doing until it’s finished and if you are seated you must stand up. All Thai around you will do the same thing. The national anthem is not long, so you will be back to what you were doing in no time.

Religion

95% of Thais follow Theravada Buddhism. Muslim are still a minority and you can especially see them in the southern provinces. When Thai refers to a religion as pillar of the society it is mainly Buddhism.

Under all the major schools of Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism is considered as the most conservative one. It is present in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos. 

A super-brief summary of Buddhism

The history say that The Buddha lived about 2500 years ago. Born into a royal family of a small kingdom at the border of modern day India and Nepal. He had a prosperous childhood, but he realized later that material comforts weren’t the purpose of life. Indeed, for him material comfort couldn’t protect against sickness, old age or death. In that regard he decided to leave home at 29 in a quest of answers.

Buddha spent around six years living in forests and learning what he could from the meditation masters of his day, but he couldn’t find his answer. He finally decided to go off on his own again, and, it was while meditating that he saw the answer of his question about human suffering. There under a tree at a spot called Bodhgaya. His Enlightenment and teachings can be summed up in the Four Noble Truths:

  1. The Truth of Suffering
  2. The Truth of the Cause of Suffering
  3. The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering
  4. The Truth of the Path to the Cessation of Suffering

(1) Nothing in life is in the long run satisfactory, and so we constantly suffer to several degrees. (2) The root cause of this suffering is longing and clinging to impermanent phenomena. (3) Removing the cause of suffering—craving and clinging—will in the end remove suffering. (4) And the path to realize the remove of craving is an 8-step process that stats with having proper views and moral behavior and peaks in using meditation to gain insight and understanding of our true condition—that our “self” or ego is an illusory construct.

It took 45 years to the Buddha to spread his message around northern India. His most dedicated followers became monks—they respected the monk’s rules and tradition by shaving their heads, wearing simple robes, and eating only food offered to them. A series of 227 rules of conduct evolved for monks to furnish a structure for morality that would be most favorable for progress in meditation. As an example, we have celibacy which was put in place not because sexuality is “sinful”, but because it distraction. 

Buddhism in Thailand

Buddhism has therefore extended from India to become the dominant spiritual tradition in most of Asian countries, including Thailand. It is with its extension that Buddhism has been slightly transformed according to local traditions. In South-East-Asia, however, the animist concepts of the spirit and ancestor worship coexist with Buddhism to such an extent that most Thai do not make a distinction between them.

All houses in Thailand have a small spiritual house where offerings are given to the local spirit who is the “owner” of this place on earth. This is the same for hotels and business.

Making offerings to a spirit does not go against Buddha’s teaching. In the end, the offerings, if they allow one to prosper, they don’t prevent death. Therefore, older people often go to the temples to pray.

Some people think that “once a monk, always a monk”, but this is not the case. While some Thai men become lifelong monks, others do that only temporary ordination which is common. Tradition say that a man would ordain for a short amount of time before starting a career and family. In some part of the country, the tradition wants boys to ordain as novice monks during the summer school holiday. This is also common for man to ordain (temporarily) after the death of a relative (this usually happens for the mother’s death) to make merit to them.

“Merit making” is the elementary Buddhist practice for most Thai people. Donations and offerings are seen as a way to build a positive Karma. People make merit in order to have a better situation in their next life.

Temples are not only places for monks and meditation, they are also center of activity during festivals. Many of them also have schools.

Temple is called wat, and the largest building there is the wihan which is the assembly hall. At a Thai wat (“temple”) is usually the wihan, or assembly hall. You will usually see a large Budha image and maybe other statues. The place called bot is where ordinations take place. A kuti is the name we give to a monk’s small bungalow. You will see around a dozen or so kuti set off in one area of the wat. There also is a bell tower, drum tower, and manuscript storage hall.

The chedi, might be the most eye-catching structure in a temple, it is a cone or bell-shaped mound containing relics. It can be relics of a personality such as a monk, a king, or possibly even those of the Buddha himself.

Respect for Thai religion

If you happen to visit a temple be aware of some common rules and traditions such as, and for both sexes, wearing clothes that will cover your shoulders and thighs. For women’s you should be careful about wearing short shorts. Also, remember to remove your shoes while entering a temple building, it is the same as entering a Thai home. Popular temples charge tourist an entrance fee, but others are entry free. It is customary to give a small donation while visiting. You will often see some boxes, usually they put a sign explaining who the money will be given to (monks, education, water, electricity…).

Feet are considered an unclean part of the body. Therefore, it is really rude to sit with feet outstretched in front of you pointed at a Buddha image, a monk, or anybody else for that matter.

Monarchy

The third pillar of Thai society is the institution of the monarchy. Thailand has always been ruled by kings. Even now, the monarchy plays a central role in the life of the country. For example, when the previous king passed away in October 2016, he had been on the throne for 70 years. A lot of Thai people were wearing black (or black, white, and gray) for a hole year mourning period.

Be careful while speaking of the monarchy and the royal family. It is illegal to defame, insult or threaten the royal family. If you break the law, you can be sentenced to 3-15 years imprisonment.

Also, even some Hollywood movies featuring historical Siamese kings are banned in the country.

Be also careful with social medias, don’t post anything that could be consider as an offense to the law. This is the same with politics, avoid discussions about Thai politics. 

Respect for the monarchy

This is something you might probably experience while going at the cinema. And this is the place where it will be expected from you to show respect to the monarchy. The royal anthem will be played before the screening. During the anthem you will have to stand. If you don’t you might get into trouble.

Another thing is to be aware that all Thai currencies contains the image of the previous king. So do not deface or damage them, because people will see that as an insult to the monarchy.

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Thai Greetings

This is something you might even experience while entering the place. The standard greeting in the Thai language is “Sawat-dii”. It is used at any time of the day when greeting someone. You will add a polite particle at the end of the greeting, and it will also be according to the gender. While women will use the “Kha” male will use “Khrap”. A man will say “Sawat-dii khrap”, and a woman would say “Sawat-dii kha”. Transgender individuals will use whichever version they prefer.

If you greet someone, you should always accompany it with a gesture called a wai. You just have to press your hands together and held below the chin while bowing the head slightly. To show a greater level of respect, the hands can be held higher, between the nose and the forehead. The protocol says that younger people or those with lowest social status should be the first to wai. And, depending on the circumstance, the second person can wai back.

Plenty of foreigners make this same mistake of wai-ing too much. There is no need to return a wai when someone is greeting you because it’s part of their job. Wai-ing back sometimes can just make you silly and make them uncomfortable.

On the other hand, if you meet an older Thai person, remember to wai to them and be the first to wai.

With people you are very familiar with, common greetings are bpai nai (“Where are you going?”), bpai nai maa (“Where have you been?”), and gin khao rue yang (“Have you eaten yet?”). The last one is used as an ice breaker, and not to invite you to dinner.

Family

For Thai people, family ties are very important. Even if people are leaving their hometown for work, they always speak to their family several times a week.

Taking care of the elder is an obligation in Thai culture. It is common that the elder sibling finding himself helping his parents and at the same time taking care of his other siblings. It is also usual to see some Thais sending money to their family each month.

Extended families can be very large. When visiting a Thai village, you will have this impression that everyone seems to be a relative of some sort.

Status

As we explained before seniority and status play a large role in Thai life.

While speaking to someone older, it is common to use phii and nong, which mean “elder” and “younger” sibling. Those get attached to the front of someone’s name, so that Phii Sam means “older brother Sam” and Nong Marie means “younger sister Marie”. These terms even if they are used with brothers and sisters are also used with friends and even when talking about celebrities.

If someone is much older than you, the terms you will have to use those terms: “aunty,” “uncle,” “grandma,” and “grandpa” instead. You don’t need to be related to that person to use it.

Face

A common problem to foreigners is understanding the idea of “face” because this causes with Thai people. They want to create and keep up a good image in public, and anything that damages their image damages their “face”.

A clear example of this is when someone is giving out criticism. A boss should not criticize an employee in front of the others because it makes the employee lose face in the eyes of the others. The boss should instead talk to the employee in private. In other words, people should avoid signaling a Thai person out in a way that could be embarrassing for them.

Other example can be making a show of wealth and status. If someone is wealthy they will gain face by paying the check for a large diner party. This is why normally they won’t split the bill when eating at a restaurant, unless it’s a group of equals.

When it comes to making a large donation to a temple, Thai people will not do so anonymously. This time, they want everyone to see how much they are giving in so they can gain face in the community. One traditional ways of making a donation is to make a money three from sticks of wood with many different bills and currencies attached to form the leaves. If there is a temple fair a parade might be held that includes donors each carrying their tree to the temple. Donors can easily spotted from the color of the bills and get some idea of how much is being donated by that person.

One of the bad consequences of the face is for example the ratio of household debt as they have the largest ratios of household debt to GDP. An average worker might purchase a house , a car, and the latest phone all on credit, with the payments surpassing  up to 60-80% of their monthly salary.

Relaxed attitude

“Mai pen rai” meaning “It’s no problem” or “Don’t worry about it” is very often said by Thai people. The mai pen rai attitude can spill over into many aspects of Thai culture. This can be a really good thing sometimes. It encourages you to not get so affected by minor incidents and disappointments in life. Punctuality is not a big deal. If someone is 10 or less minutes late for dinner doesn’t really matter that much. Not keeping it cool and making a scene is not acceptable at all.

Personal appearance

Thai people will judge the appearance of others. Mainly by the person’s grooming habits and how they are dressed. We can use as an example backpackers, as Thailand is a popular destination for young backpackers, and they have  the  bad reputation of not washing frequently and trying to get things for as cheap as possible. This is why you might be treated like one if you dress like a backpacker, especially if the cases you are dealing with officials such as the Immigration.

There is a phrase Thais use for poor, grubby and undesirable foreigners and it’s “farang khii-nok”. Usually, Thais think that all foreigners have money, so a farang khii-nok is a bit of a mystery to them.

Dress smart if you want Thai people to show you more respect. For example, wearing a shirt with a collar will look more proper than a shirt without a collar, or wearing long pants with good shoes.

There is a tropical climate in Thailand, and, some foreigners always do this mistake of thinking that the country is just a giant beach and go around the city topless. But you shouldn’t it just makes you look a clueless lowlife.

You’ll see even at the beach Thai people are dressed, even if Bikinis are becoming more common, so you will still see some people wearing jeans and long shirts in the water, mostly because they want to protect their skin from becoming darker.

Thai people, with their natural tan skin prefer light skin. Most actors and actress are either Thai-Chinese or half-Western (luk-khrueng) with light skin. And to make sure that everyone on TV is glowing white producers and advertisers will run the image through a heavy filter to lighten everyone’s skin tone. The result that the entire scene can have an angelic glow, with shadows completely washed out.

You’ll find all sort of skin whitening products in store. A lot of Thai women will avoid the sun at all costs. You’ll see them wearing a jacket when riding a motorbike to keep the sun from hitting their skin, even in 40-degree heat (100+ F).

For darker skinned Thai women, you might hear people teasingly call them a “foreigner’s wife” (mia farang) by their friends. All, because Thai men are known to prefer women with lighter skin, while foreign men have a reputation for preferring dark skinned women.

Majority of Thai men don’t have beard because most of them struggle growing one and, this is not convenient for them because of the hot weather. The one’s you’ll see with a beard or moustache will be villains on TV. So there is this perception that beard are for bad guys.

This is not uncommon to see people with tattoos. There is a tradition of protective magic tattoos (sak-yan), a lot of older men have these. The person having the tattoo will have to follow and respect some rules if he wants the magic of the tattoo to work properly. Even with all those traditions a Budha tattoo will be seen as disrespectful.

Personal hygiene is taken seriously by Thais. It’s not unusual to see them shower many times per days to keep the sweat out of their bodies. It is important for them to take a bathe before going to bed. Being clean is a must for them before sleeping.

Thai bathroom is really different since they don’t separate the shower from the bathroom, so the floor will get wet. Therefore, they wear special shoes for that.

The traditional way to shower that you might be able to see in small villages, is scoop water up from a large basin and pour it over your body.

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Personal questions

Don’t be surprised or offended if a Thai ask you personal question. For example, they can ask you, if you’re a man, if “you like Thai girls?” Or “how much money you make?” And “how much your rent is?”. By asking those questions, they are not trying to be rude. It is only out of curiosity or they might be trying to make small talk. It is also a way for them to be able to put you somewhere in the hierarchy. They also need to know if you should be addressed as phii (“senior”) or nong (“junior”).

Nicknames

Usually Thai people use nicknames in daily life. They tend to use their nicknames to present themselves. The popular ones have an English origin such as “Golf”, “Benz”, “Bird”, “Pancake”, “Ball”, “Beer”, “Oil”, “Guitar”, “Arm”, “Ice”, “Bank”, it can be weird for English speakers.

Gender roles

Traditional gender roles predominate in Thai society. On a date, the man is expected to pay. Also, school uniforms with skirt for girls and pants for men. It also applies for the working world. In marital situation, women take pride in taking care of their husband, and they don’t see it as an oppression of any kind.

“Ladyboys” in English and Kathoey in Thai do not suffer from any controversy for public bathroom usage in Thailand. They just use the women’s room. On the other side, “tomboy” in English and “toms” in Thai, which are lesbians with masculine appearance also use women’s bathroom. The feminine lesbians’ toms dates are called “dees” which means “lady”.

Even if homosexuality is accepted in Thai society, gay marriage is not legal. It is possible to hold a marriage ceremony “small one” but there is no possibility of registering afterwards.

Thai Schools

Schools uniforms are common in the country. Thai students are easily recognizable by their school uniforms. This is only recently that hairstyles are no longer mandatory by law. Even though short hairs are common for schoolchildren.

A lot of universities students who wears school uniforms take pride to it, and it is even better if they attend a prestigious school.

Thai Food

Rice is the center of all recipes in Thailand. “Gin khao” term used for “eating a meal” literally means “eating rice”. A lot of Thai will say that eating a meal without rice might make them feel with a feeling of un-satisfaction.

Usually people eat outsides, with affordable price, street food offers a lot of traditional dishes. Having a kitchen is not something common in small apartments, therefore people eat outside.

Thais love to mix the four-main flavor; spicy, sour, salty, sweet and give a proper balance with it. Thai food served in foreign restaurants will adapt to the foreigners’ taste. If you want to eat real Thai food head to restaurants with many Thai customers.

When eating in a group, several dishes will be placed in the center of the table. Each person takes food from the center plates to their own plate and eats it with rice. You should just take a little bit at a time from the center dishes—2 or 3 spoons at most. Scooping up half the food from a center dish and plopping it all on your plate would appear rude.

Thais mainly eat with a spoon and fork. The spoon is held in your right or dominant hand and is used to carry food to your mouth. The fork is held in the other hand and simply serves to help you push food onto the spoon. Chopsticks are generally only used when eating noodle soups.

Drinking

Beer, whiskey, and rice whiskey are the main alcoholic drinks in the country. Lot of brands and mass-produced. Lao khao is a local rice whiskey. We advise you to stick with the professionally bottled variety and not the home brewed one.

You will notice while drinking at some restaurant someone coming and top up your glass from the opened bottle. Usually it will be a girl, sponsored by the company brand who’ll do this task. They will also come and add ice cubes to your glass, if you don’t want it, just tell them.

You can find wine in certain supermarkets and liquor stores, although be aware of the price of the wine, which can be quite high. Also, even if a lot of restaurant serves wine, they don’t seem to know how to store and conserve wine at the right temperature.

Alcohol can only be served between 11am-2pm and 5pm till midnight. It can also be prohibited for selling in some Buddhas holidays. And since it is considered that drunk people cannot vote properly, alcohol is also forbidden on election days.

Drugs

Drugs such as marijuana are forbiden in Thailand, despite the wide population of backpackers. On Koh Phangan full moon party, there was undercover police which have been known to make a lot of arrests. The police can sometimes clear out an entire nightclub and subject patrons to drug tests, but it happens rarely. They will to some drug tests and if it is positive, the person will be arrested, even if that person used that substance in a country where it is legalized, it will be irrelevant.

There is an addiction to methamphetamine pills (yaa baa “crazy drug”) in Thailand, which is a big problem for the authorities.

Coffee shops

Coffee in Thailand is known to be quite good and inexpensive. The iced coffee can be tasty, with an addition of both sweet condensed milk and syrup. When you go to a coffee shop you can leave your stuff and go to the bathroom without any fear of your stuff getting stolen.

If the coffee shop is in an area with a lot of student, it might be difficult for to finding a seat, Thai student are known to stay long in those coffee shops, sometimes they live their books there and go outside the coffee for lunch.

Gambling

Any forms of gambling and casinos are considered as illegal in Thailand. Even playing cards in exchange of money with friends is forbidden. It happens that some underground gambling getting busted.  Even if it’s still common in some villages, you’ll see a lot of families into heavy debt because of gambling’s. They then become targets of loan sharks that can charge up to 20% interest compounded monthly.

Only lottery is legal in the country, it holds drawings twice a month, on the 1st and 16th. Lottery tickets are printed ahead of time and consist of a 6 digit number. One can find sellers in random places like malls, roadsides and even bus depots. Normal cost is around 80 baht, but one ticket is actually a pair of 40 baht tickets. So, gif you get one winning ticket the amount will double. So, you will get 6 million baht if you match the grand prize with an 80 baht ticket.

A lot of people choose to play the underground lottery instead of the official one. It’s played by picking the last 2 or 3 digits of the state lottery correctly. To try to discourage illegal gambling, the state lottery added prizes for matching 2 and 3 numbers a few years back, but the underground lottery persists due to its higher payout.

Tipping

Tipping is not in Thai culture. In some restaurants it is OK to leave a tip. A lot of people, leave the coins while picking their bills. Other people will give a more substantial tip.

No need for tip with taxis and hotels. Where leaving tips is more common is massage therapist or hair stylist.

Bargaining

Bargaining is something you will find in a regular market, even if the difference of price will not be much. This is more a friendly interaction. Usually if you find an item you are interested into, you’ll the seller how much they are ready to sell it for you. They can propose a price a bit lower by 5-10% than the original price.

In a touristic market, we advise you to strongly bargain without any hesitation because it will mean that you’ll be overpaying. If on the other hand you see an item with a fixed price on it, it will mean that you should not try bargaining it down.

Dual pricing

“Dual pricing” is when one price is charged to Thai people for a product or service, while a higher price is charged to foreigners. For example administration fees. Also, if you go to Thai national parks you will often get charged a 400 baht admission if you are a foreigner while Thai will only get to pay 40 baht. The same applies for grand palace, free for Thai people.

Foreign residents here object about the dual pricing since they pay taxes and work in Thailand. To encounter that, sometimes you’ll see the price in English for foreigners and Thai will write the prices in Thai for Thai people so the foreigners won’t be able to understand.

The main argument people use for dual pricing is that foreigners have a bigger salary than Thais. But even though, you’ll see a lot of Thais driving luxury cars and pay the local fee.

Even if it’s rare, you will sometimes get to pay Thai price if you show your Thai working permit or driving license.

Thai Dating and marriage

Dating has become something common in Thailand, there is still a large part which is conservative, believing on the one partner in life.

Usually if you date a Thai woman, she will always come with a friend for a couple of weeks until she gets comfortable going alone with the man. If you date a woman who does that, it’s a good sign since it will mean that she’s careful with the development of the relationship.

Even if holding hands are more common now. Other displays of affection, such kissing, are still a taboo.

 

If you visit your girlfriend hometown or parents, it will mean an intention of marriage. If the woman is the one inviting a foreigner to her house to visit her parents, and the man doesn’t show any interest or break up with her afterwards, she will lose face in front of her family, and will be ashamed.

The groom in Thai culture weddings must give a monetary gift to the bride’s family. It is called sin sod. In the tradition, it is kind of a way of showing respects to the parents of the bride, and a way to compensate them for losing someone who could’ve helped around the house.

The amount of the sin sod can vary and need to be agreed on between the two parts before the wedding. For example, a daughter from an elite family can receive around the millions of baht, and for parents coming from a working class it will be around 100,000 baht.

Sin-sod is more a tradition than something that must be done, some modern families won’t ask for it sometimes. Usually the money is used for show during the wedding and then a part will be returned to the new couple. In some other cases, the sin sod can be spent with whiskey, TV, motorcycle or other items for the in-laws.

Disagreements over sin sod can be a problem to the marriage. Foreigners can often have a bad perception over the sin sod and the idea of him buying the daughter. Some family can lose face in the society if it is known that they gave their daughter to a foreigner who didn’t give them a sin sod.

In some cases, foreigners can be played by greedy parents who ask them a high amount of sin sod. In the major cases the marriage doesn’t last long, because they keep some resentment.

Thai Entertainment

Music

In Thailand music labels are used to make a copy of all pop music. However, the country has a lot of popular singer in the country and Thais have a passion for karaoke.

You can try to sing some Thai pop music, which could help you improve your Thai. Many of these songs are on Youtube.

You’ll hear more Western/ American pop music at cafes, shopping malls, and restaurants. Also, you can hear some on bars and nightclubs. You’ll see that a lot of restaurants have a band playing there. 

Movies

Theaters play both Thai and Hollywood movies (Hollywood movies with Thai subtitles, or in some cases just Thai). Be sure that you picked the right one before paying for your ticket.

With different type of seats, you can make a reservation of the seat you want, of course depending of the seat, the price will be different. Some theaters will have VIP’s sofas.

You will have to wait at least 20 minutes before the movie start, there are a lot of commercials and trailers. There is also the royal anthem that will be played before every movie, at that time you must stand up!

Thai movies can be really entertaining, you should try at least one, you’ll see that they can really be interesting. 

TV

Two popular programs in Thai television: serial dramas called lackhon and comedy variety shows.

For TV dramas, you will see them run two or three days per weeks and for few weeks until the last episode of the drama. The storyline is quite predictable. Always lead male character and the lead female character, the evil, jealous female character also, and a lot of love triangle. The man always looks manly sometimes a bit aggressive and have strong feelings for the woman which have to look fragile and kind. There is always a happy ending with a wedding at the end.

The funny thing about comedy shows are the cartoons effects with the “Boing!” “Zing” and other sounds. You will often see those kinds of sound effects in Asian comedy shows, it might be part of their culture.

Thai Sports

Thai kickboxing called Muay Thai, is the country national sport. There are a lot of Muay Thai gyms around the cities. All kind of people can train there. For people who want to have a six-pack training in Muay Thai can be a good way.

There are a lot of fight organized in stadiums. For foreigners it is an attraction and something we’ll advise you to watch. Fighters are usually young since they start training at elementary school.

Before every fight begins there is traditional part all fighters must do, and it is called the wai khru which is “bowing to the teacher”.

Even if Muay Thai is the national sport in Thailand, Football or soccer, is the most popular one.  A lot of thai follows English Premier League. Thai don’t have a lot of interest in American sports.

As far we can go, right now Thai women’s volley team is the one with the most success.

There is another sport like volleyball, called takraw, it is played with feet. Tha ball is kicked back and forth over a net and is made from woven rattan.

Thai Festivals and Holidays

Songkran

This something you should not miss is you’re in Thailand. The biggest the year : Songkran. From April 13 to 15, this is a three days holidays. The origin comes from Hindu astrology. Even if it’s called Thai new year, there is no official calendar based on it.

In that occasion Thai people visit their family in their hometown, go to temples and make merit. For foreigners, Songkran is a three days holiday where people throw water at each other, the country becomes a war zone of water fight. Don’t expect during those days to come home dry, because it won’t happen.

In Chiang Mai people already throw water to at passer-by at April 11.

For Songkran, we advise you even it’s funny to be really careful. A lot of people ends up drunk, for motorbikes drivers the road can be slick because of the water. And there is also a possibility for people throwing water to drivers. So, it is safer to walk and put you phone in a zip-lock bag, and don’t think of bringing your laptop outside.

Loy Kratong

Another holiday is Loy Kratong, it takes place on the night of the full moon in November. During that time Thais pay respect to the river goddess, they thank her for providing water. Loy means “to float” and Kratong is an ornamental made of a round slice of banana stalk that is decorated elaborately with folded banana leaf. Nowadays, you’ll see more of Kratong made of bread since it can easily be eaten by fish.

The tradition wants people to release floating lanterns into the night sky while releasing Kratong at the riverbank. The lanterns are beautiful to see in the sky. There were some regulations made on the recent years, about the release days and times also because of the danger to airplanes and environment.

New Year

5-7 days off are taken sometimes by people for the New Year Day (January 1), it even starts on December 31 as well. As Songkran the New year Holiday can be a bit dangerous on the road, you will hear a lot of alcohol related accident on the road.

Just like Christmas, it is common to give gifts for the family members on New Year. The gifts will be far more modest than gifts given for Christmas. And Thai don’t feel like the urge to dress up for that special event like Americans or Europeans do. 

Chinese New Year

Falling usually between late January or February, Chinese Lunar New Year is also a major Holiday for Thailand’s for Chinese community.

Every year represents an animal, and your sign will depend from the year of birth. All Thai know their animal, the only difference is that in Thailand the local serpent called god naga takes the place of the Chinese dragon.

Know that in each year there is an unlucky year for those holding one of the animal sign (bpii-chong “unlucky year”). If the year you are currently in is the year of your bpii-chong you are recommended to be extra careful and make merit to avoid ill-fortune.

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Taboos in Thailand

Here are few Taboos in Thailand we are going to talk about. 

Kissing in public

As mentioned before, kissing in public is still a Taboo. Thai date will still feel uneasy and uncomfortable to kiss in public.

Feet

Feet are considered the dirtiest part of your body. Therefore, you’ll must take off your shoes if you are entering a Thai home or any place where you’ll see shoes at the entrance. Also, you must never point your feet at something or someone, this is really rude.

Death and ghosts

The Thai society believes in ghosts. And, that talking about something will makes it more likely to happen, like the law of attraction. Don’t make jokes about death or ghosts. 

A final word

As you could see Thai culture, is really rich on all sides. Many things to be careful about. A lot of things to learn about public behaviors. Even if there are few negative sides, a lot of things are easy to do. People will appreciate if you try to speak with them and you’ll always find a Thai to guide you if you feel lost.

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