Dos and Don'ts in Phuket
When visiting any country, you need to respect the local people and their customs. Thailand is no different though Thais are generally a very tolerant and hospitable people. You should be aware of a few simple guidelines to avoid accidentally offending people you meet. A smile will you get you a long way, and people will tolerate most slip-ups from a foreigner, as long as it doesn’t involve the monarchy or religion.
Thai people hold the monarchy, and in particular the King of Thailand, in the highest reverence. As a visitor, you are expected to show respect, such as standing for the Royal Anthem before the movie at the cinema. Coins and bank notes should not be stepped on, as they have an image of the King on them. Putting the sole of your foot to trap a dropped coin is hugely disrespectful. Deprecatory remarks regarding the monarchy are not tolerated in any company, and lese majesty is a serious crime.
It is important to dress and behave correctly when visiting a Buddhist temple in Thailand. You should not wear beach clothes to a temple. Even though you might be baking from the heat, shorts and sleeveless tops should not be worn. Shoes should be removed before entering any building containing a Buddha image. Women should not touch monks or hand anything directly to a monk.
Similar respect should be shown towards any images of the Buddha. They are regarded as sacred objects so do not clamber over one to have your photo taken or point your feet towards it.
Foreigners are welcome to visit mosques as long as there isn’t a religious ceremony taking place. However, you must dress appropriately. Women in particular should not wear revealing attire. You should remove your shoes before entering, men should wear a hat while women should cover their heads with a shawl or scarf.
Thais greet each other by pressing their palms together in a prayer-like gesture called a ‘wai‘. The younger person will wai the older person, who then returns it. However, an adult should not wai a child. Thais will greatly appreciate it if you adopt this part of their culture during your time in Thailand.
Head & Feet:
The feet are considered the lowest part of the body by Thais, both physically and spiritually, and are therefore not to be used for anything other than walking on. They are definitely not to be pointed at anyone or used for pointing at anything. The head on the other hand is the highest part of the body. Don’t pat children on the head or touch someone on the head without their express permission. Putting both together, one of the worst things you can do in Thailand is to point your feet at someone’s head, even accidentally.
Shoes should be removed before entering a Thai person’s home. It is also quite common to remove shoes before entering some shops and offices. If there is a pile of shoes outside, that is a good sign that you are expected to remove your shoes before entering.
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