Smile and "wai." // © 2017 iStock
Feature image (above): Be sure to heed Thailand's cultural norms. // © 2017 Valerie Chen
To the modern-day traveler, Thailand is truly a land of riches. Ornate temples dot the landscapes of big cities and rural towns; tasty and affordable cuisine can be found on every corner; and white-sand beaches line the coast for miles.
However, a Western civilization it is not, and visitors to Thailand should be careful to heed the following cultural norms.
Respect the grieving of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
His Royal Majesty served as the beloved king of Thailand, a constitutional monarchy, for more than 70 years, and his passing on Oct. 13, 2016, shook the entire country. A one-year mourning period began the next day. Although tourist attractions are operating as usual, travelers this year should be extra mindful of avoiding any inappropriate behavior.
Follow the dress code.
The Thai way of dress is relatively conservative, even when the weather heats up. This dress code intensifies upon entry into Buddhist temples or other sacred spaces: Clients should cover shoulders and knees and remove shoes.
Don’t get handsy.
Avoid direct contact with spiritual objects, including depictions of Buddha and spirit houses (small structural shrines that provide shelter for celestial beings). Women must never touch a monk — even passing an item to one is prohibited.
A smile goes a long way.
Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles,” so it’s no surprise that the locals are generally good-natured. The Thai way of greeting is the wai, which consists of pressing one’s hands together near the chest or nose and bowing slightly. However, when uncertain, offering a simple smile can usually suffice.