Thai Culture


Primary Author
Chara Scroope,

Basic Etiquette

  • How one sits, walks or otherwise interacts with others is based on the status of each person present. For example, it is considered offensive to sit on a chair with one’s legs crossed, especially in the presence of an elder.
  • Clothing is often used as an indicator of social status. It is considered important to dress in modest and neat clothing.
  • If a woman needs to pass something to a monk, it is best to give it to a male to then pass forward or hold the object with a handkerchief/tissue. It is generally forbidden for Buddhist monks to come into physical contact with women.
  • The right hand is used to pass or receive items. Sometimes, both hands are used, but it is taboo to use only ones left hand.
  • Pointing at another person with one’s index finger or feet is considered rude.
  • The soles of one’s feet should never be pointed at another person. One should sit in a way that avoids this. Feet should also not be rested on tables or pillows that people sleep on.
  • The top of the head is considered to be the most important part of the human body. To touch someone on the top of their head, especially a baby or child, is rude and insensitive.


  • Thais are generally hospitable and enjoy hosting visitors.
  • People typically arrive close to the appointed time, give or take a few minutes. However, Thais can be quite relaxed about punctuality.
  • It is not necessary to bring a gift to the hostess when visiting. Nonetheless, a gift will be kindly received and appreciated. Appropriate gifts for the hostess include fruit, flowers, liquors or cakes.
  • It is considered taboo to step on the threshold of a door in someone’s home. It is a common belief, particularly among the older generation, that a spirit resides there. Thus, to be respectful when entering a house, step over the threshold of the door.
  • Footwear should be removed when entering temple complexes or someone’s house.
  • In the home, people often sit on the floor. Women typically tuck their legs to the side and behind them whilst men sit cross-legged. It is offensive to stretch one’s feet and legs out in front of others.


  • Forks and spoons are the most commonly used cutlery when eating. Chopsticks are often used with noodle dishes and in homes of people of Chinese .
  • Guests will typically receive a second serving of food, and will be encouraged to eat as much as they can.
  • When someone has finished eating, it is common to leave a small amount of rice on the plate, or some other element of the meal. This signifies to the host that the meal was satisfying. A plate wiped clean may imply there was an insufficient amount of food.
  • After finishing a meal, utensils are placed together on the plate.
  • It is rude to transfer food from a communal plate with one’s personal spoon. To get food, the serving spoon should always be used.
  • It is sometimes considered greedy to fill your plate with some of each dish at the beginning of the meal. Instead, it is more polite to dish up rice, then one or two complementary dishes. This is to prevent overeating.
  • If a meal contains bones, it is not considered rude to spit the bones onto one’s spoon and pile them at the side of the plate.
  • In a restaurant, the host will generally pay the bill. Amongst groups of friends, it is common to split the bill.

Gift Giving

  • Gift giving in Thailand is quite informal in a similar fashion to Australia.
  • Pride is taken in the wrapping of the gift. However, the colours blue, black and green are avoided as they are typically associated with death and mourning.
  • It is thought to be disrespectful to open a gift in the presence of the giver unless invited to do so.
  • Gifts are often small token gestures, such as sweets, trinkets or souvenirs.
  • It is considered bad luck to the giver if the receiver damages a gift.
  • Money is the most common gift for weddings or ordination parties (celebrations of a monk’s ordination into the monastery).

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