Joy and Journey Cultural Tips: What to Know Before You Go to Thailand and Southeast Asia

Joy and Journey Cultural Tips:

What to Know Before You Go to Thailand and Southeast Asia

Bangkok Thailand Temple (3)

Be respectful of the monarchy.

Don’t speak ill of the King, he is a very beloved figure
Don’t step on money, as the King’s image is on bills and coins
(This is the only tip applicable mainly in Thailand)

Feet are low.

Take your shoes off when in temples, and sometimes when entering homes and businesses
Don’t point your feet at people or religious icons, and sit “mermaid style” (sort of kneelings, with heels behind you) when in a temple
Don’t step on the thresholds of doors or doorframes when at religious sites
Don’t prop your feet up on tables, chairs, etc – even if it is comfortable

Heads are sacred.

Don’t touch anyone on the head
Don’t ruffle a child’s hair, even in an affectionate manner

Modest clothing is required at temples.

Cover yourself from your elbows to your knees (it is so hot – you might want to bring a lightweight wrap or scarf to cover your shoulders and upper arms)
Tank tops / shorts / messy dressing are all disrespectful.
A good rule of thumb is to dress as if you were going to your house of worship at home

Bangkok Thailand Temple Selfie (2)- What to Wear in Bangkok(Covered up from knees to elbows)

Food service is different than in the west.

When ordering multiple dishes in a group, they will all come out at different times, some substantially later than others
In Thailand, this is not seen as a problem, as dishes are generally ordered for the whole group and shared amongst everyone

Sometimes it is impossible to get directions.

At some point, you will be trying to reach a destination, and you WILL be pointed in as many different directions as the number of people you consult
This is not trickery or a joke; the Thais you ask genuinely want to help you, so even if they do not know where you are trying to get, they will attempt to help

Always bargain if not in a fixed price store.

Whether at MBK, on the street, etc – always offer a lower price than first stated
The point of bargaining is NOT to rip the seller off, it is to come to a price that is mutually beneficial, please remember this and be courteous

Do not attempt to use a parked taxi if you want a fair fare.

Parked cabs are waiting to prey on gullible tourists
Hail a cab that is driving down the road with the red sign in the lower right hand windshield illuminated – outstretch your arm with your palm pointing down, and when the cab pulls over, open the front door to state your destination and ask to use the meter
Having someone from your hostel write your destination in Thai can be very helpful

Overemotionality is disrespectful at best and harmful at worst.

Raising your voice, and showing your anger, is never, ever suggested
Always remember to stay calm and collected, shouting is unattractive and will do more harm than good, and may even spur a similar reaction or physical confrontation


Bangkok Thailand Temple


(all information gained from living in Thailand for 2 years, from observation and from asking my Thai friends “Why is _____ like _____?)




  1. April 28, 2015 / 11:12 am

    Excellent list! We lived in Thailand for several years and we find the advice in this post spot on, especially the dressing modestly! Thais do NOT like it but won’t ever say anything…to YOU, that is, but they will most certainly speak negatively about you to other Thais.
    We also eventually got used to food coming to us at different times in restaurants, but it sure was awkward at first when one meal came and the others at your table were waiting.
    We were also told not to take your shoes in with you after taking them off outside a temple, unless you can put them in your bag.

    • April 28, 2015 / 11:22 am

      Thanks! I lived in Thailand for two years before moving to Brazil.. there was definitely a learning curve at first but I eventually came to love most of the idiosyncrasies… and I miss it all now!!!

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