Understanding Thai Culture
Some may say that traditional Thai culture is not particularly evident in Pattaya, and they would be right to an extent. With the large expat community ever present in the city and a constant healthy flow of tourists, the Thai culture can seem to get a little lost in the everyday life of many who live, work or visit Pattaya. Despite this, there is still a side to the city which upholds its traditions, especially in the more rural areas and towards the eastern side of Pattaya.
The various neon lights and girlie bars that line the streets of Pattaya may distract some from the city’s cultural sites, but many who visit the Pattaya still find the time to explore the temples and mosques. These sacred buildings are still very much part of daily life for many Thais. It’s really important to know that the attitude taken my many in Pattaya should not reflect on Thailand as a whole and that Thai culture should not be disrespected or ignored in the city, even if it doesn’t seem to be practiced so often.
The Thai people are a proud nation with a clear hierarchy structure – something every Thai learns and adheres to from a very young age. A respectful Thai, when greeting another, will first identify whether the other person is of a higher status than them (often deemed by age or wealth) and then greet the individual with the wai. The wai has a similar meaning to the western hand shake, or kiss on the cheek if you are from parts of Europe, but it can be used in many different situations. The wai is performed by bringing together the hands to the chest or beneath the nose, palms facing each other, and bowing the head a little. This greeting can also be used when saying thank you, sorry, goodbye and welcome.
Another etiquette rule for Thai people is to address their elders as pii, which means older sibling. If a Thai person is talking to someone who is older than them they will place pii in front of their name. It’s also very important for Thais to always address their elders, strangers and workers appropriately. This is done by adding the suffix kha (female) and khrap (male) to the end of all sentences.
Feet are seen as being very dirty and have no place other than on the floor. Pointing or raising the foot at someone is considered rude, as is keeping your shoes on when entering an indoor space. The general rule when it comes to shoes is, if you see a pile of shoes at the door then you should follow in suit and remove yours too. It’s probably not a good idea to wear your best designer brands when in Thailand as you may find you need to leave them at the door quite often.
As a Visitor
As a visitor to Thailand it’s well worth learning and adhering to these rules where possible. The Thai people always appreciate tourists at least trying to learn their traditions, even if it’s not done perfectly.
Of major importance in Thailand is total respect for the Royal Family – the law against anyone who disrespects the Royal Family is strictly enforced. Do not enter into any “debates” on specific members of the Royal Family.
The National Anthem is broadcasted nationwide each day at 8am and 6pm and if you are in earshot of the National Anthem being played you should stop and show respect whilst it is broadcast. If you go to the movies or other public events expect the National Anthem to be played before the programme starts – you will be expected to stand and show respect.
More than 85% of the Thai population follow and practice Buddhism; this is the country’s official religion. You only need to look beyond the neon lights and half naked ladies and there’s evidence of Buddhism all around Pattaya. There are a number of shines, temples and mosques where Thais gather every day to show their respect, which tourists can visit too. Buddhism has a huge effect on the country, including the beliefs Thai people have, the decisions they make and many of the festivals held each year. It’s these regular festivals and gatherings which attract people to Thailand and offer visitors an insight into Thai culture.