Thailand Taboos

Every society has rules that you must follow and it is no different in Thai society. One rule that you usually read about in guidebooks is that you should not touch someone’s head. This should be an easy rule to follow as even Westerners do not go down the street touching people’s heads as they walk. It should be noted that you also can not throw something over a Thai’s head. I was a teacher at a school where I threw a bag over a Thai’s head. I was nearly fired. The only reason that I was not fired that a representative from my agency was at the school and could explain to the school my actions. I did not mean any disrespect and that I probably did not know about the rule. I did not know about that rule even though at the time, I had been in Bangkok for 3 years. The only exception to the rule is that an older person is allowed to touch the head of a younger person. For foreigners, you probably should not do it since it could be misinterpreted. One guidebook says that you should never wear shorts. This is NOT true. Thais, of course, wear shorts. It is a very hot climate and it would be crazy if you could not wear shorts. The only place that a person has to wear shorts is in a Thai temple or wat. An exception would probably be given to foreigners, but it would be probably be best to know if you are visiting wats, you should wear shorts. A rule that you probably have not read in guidebooks, is that no matter when you are in public area and hear the national anthem, you must stop whatever you are doing and stand respectfully for the anthem. I was at the central train station in Bangkok and I stood for the national anthem. The other foreigners did not. After the national anthem ended, a Thai thanked me for standing. It is really not so much to ask. The national anthem is only about 2 minutes long. Is it really so bad to do nothing for 2 minutes except listen to the national anthem? The most important rule that you should know is that you should not say bad things about the King. You may feel like saying that the King’s son looks like Herman Munster’s grandson or Jabba the Hutt’s cousin; you should keep it in. You may think that the King looks like a Nerd: you will just have to wait until you leave the country. Again, you should avoid talking with Thais about the Thai since they could misinterpret what they say and put you in jail. As you should probably know, it is against the law to say bad things about the King. It is called the lese majeste law. You should only with foreigners about the Royal Family. It should be noted that no foreigner has ever been arrested for saying bad things about the King. It is usually used by Thai politicians to get their opponents into trouble. You should probably be fine. There are other rules, but there is not enough room in this space to describe them. You’ll just have to wait the Thai Rules for Dummies book that I might publish someday.

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