Thai Customs and Traditions of Thailand can be seen everywhere and every day
Thailand is one of few countries in the world that hasn’t been conquered by western countries in the modern times. In old times for sure, there were fights over territory with neighboring countries and the influences of China and India are still visible today. The traditions though were built over very long times by eastern countries and did not change much towards the western style until today.
Communication and Language
The Thai script is a syllabic alphabet based on the Brahmi script adapted to write the Thai or Siamese language. Its invention is attributed to King Ramkhamhaeng, who reigned from 1275 to 1317. It is also possible that the Khmer alphabet might have had an influence on the Thai alphabet.
The Thai language also called Siamese or Central Thai is a very old historic language and today the official Thai language. It is a subgroup of the Tai-Kadi language family which originated or uses words from the Sanskrit India, the old Khmer of Cambodia and the Pali also from India.
The Thai script is said to be invented in the years 1275 to 1317 by King Ramkhamhaeng. There might be influences of the Khmer script on this syllabic alphabet, but it is mainly based on the Brahmi script, the oldest and most influencing script in the world first occurred in India.
To write in the Thai language I find very difficult and therefore did not learn the technic jet. There are words like in our western languages but they are not necessarily written apart, the way we are used to doing it.
The Thai language is a quite difficult to learn, everyone says.
My favorite example:
Question, is there any new wood? “mee mai mai mai? The answer, no, there is no new wood, new wood is burned. “mai, mai mai mai mee, mai mai mai.
Or Who sells eggs “kai kai kai? answer Kai sells eggs, “kai kai kai.
You see, there is a potential of miss understanding. The language is strongly dependent on pronunciation, which for us foreigners is pretty hard to get right. Okay if you know some words Thais love it and try to understand you by the combination of the words used. Thank’s to that, or I would still not be able to speak to anyone after ten years of living here. To make it even a bit harder, there are also many different dialects. Don’t be discouraged, learn a little and enjoy the reactions.
Important, if a Thai doesn’t understand you, he won’t say so, be careful and ask him what he understood.
English is the next best try. In places where tourists are common people should understand at least a little English.
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Thai cuisine, one of the best in the world
What is commonly known as Thai food are mostly menus from central Thailand. There is a different kitchen in Isan, Chiang Mai, the North, then a Central Thai kitchen and another style in the South. Not even the same rice they eat in the north, there is the home of sticky rice. Northern people would say, if I eat no sticky rice I’m not full. The same happens in the rest of Thailand, they say, if I eat no white rice I’m not full. I love sticky rice, I take it in my hand, knead it and eat it like bread.
All over the country, many sweet dishes with rice are also made of sticky rice. Thais all over love to eat the “Isan food” and in the ten years, I am here now I can still find lots things I haven’t eaten. Every region has its typical snacks and meals. I love the snacks wrapped in banana leaves, steamed or off the grill. I never know what will be inside, something sweet? Or something spicy with fish? Or a special with bacon and bamboo shoots? It is amazing to buy stuff on the open air fresh markets, prepared foods, they are most often very delicious and cost only around 5 to 20 Baht a piece.
All Thais love Som Tam. It is a very often eaten food here and there are different styles as well. The essential ingredients are sliced unripe papaya, tomato, chilies and lime juice. It is a kind of salad the Thai way and we eat it with sticky rice and some small meat skewers. You better try the “Thai” style first and order it to be not hot. It’s the one on the first pic and has only peanuts as special. The second one is Som Tam Boo khem and has salted lake crab pieces in it and is a bit hotter already. The third main style is the Isan style with fish paste, “braraa” and this has definitely a taste that most “westerners” don’t like.
Thailand’s national religion is Buddhism. Thai people are not prejudicial about religion. Live as you like as long as you respect the others.
Of course, there are members of many religious believes living in Thailand. Today I see a small growth in people turning away from Buddhism towards Christianity. There are churches today even in small towns. The Muslim religion is also spread all over the country with the highest concentration in the south. You can also find Chinese Zen temples and festivals throughout the country. Most people though are Buddhist and visit their village or nearest “Wat”.
To give is a very important ritual in the Buddhist teachings.
Every morning you see monks walking down every street and collect donations. Mainly food and drink but we can give whatever we like to give, as long as it is an unused object. This ritual looks for most like we help the monks survive by donating food. The main reason for this ritual though is, to give the people the chance to give something away every day. Something precious, like food prepared specially for the occasion every day at five in the morning.
Like in the Christian or other religions the Buddhist “religion has many holidays and events throughout the year. I the time I live here I still don’t know all of these holy days because some we are joining and some not. A big one is the “Loi Krathong”. This festival takes place at the full moon in the twelfth month of the Thai calendar. Due to this fact, the exact date changes every year. If you want to visit you must get informed about the date in the specific year you want to visit. Loi Krathong is dedicated to the water spirits and the Thai people thank those spirits for life and ask for forgiveness for polluting the water. The main act is to set a floating small container made of a banana tree decorated with flower and a candle and a incent stick afloat on a river or lake. We also place a little bit of food and a small coin on the float. See more
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Thai people are actually quite conservative people. you don’t find many “crazy” people except in touristic places. They might look quite freaky to us by the way they dress but most just dress what they can afford and don’t make a statement. So don’t think a guy wearing a cannabis shirt knows anything about cannabis, he just likes the way it looks.
The daily ritual is, getting up early in the morning, take a shower eat breakfast and go to make money. In the evening they come home, take a shower and eat again, watch some TV or “kui len” talk with family, maybe take another shower and go to sleep early. Here in my village, I wait almost ten years for the first time we sit outside at night, make a fire and enjoy our life. You find some people drinking together till maybe nine at night but that is already late. So if you plan a party, plan it around lunch or afternoon, if you plan it after dark you might be disappointed that everyone leaves early or you have to force your guests to stay.
Thais are rather shy people. When you go ‘len nahm’ swimming you’ll see Thai girls and women don’t take their clothes off. We as tourists, especially female, should also not walk around too naked or they lose respect for us. This is mainly in rural regions where there are not many tourists. But Thai people are rather a prude.
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Thai King and Family
Since 1782 the Chakri dynasty is the ruling family of the Thai kingdom and its head of the house is the monarch. Todays King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the son of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej came to the throne on the first December 2016. The ruling family has its dynastic seat is the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
The former King, Rama IX, who was born on the 5 December in 1927 and ruled the country over 70 years was very beloved and popular with his citizens. He was the longest ruling emperor and for many years the richest man in the world.
Strict rules concerning the Royal Family and the behavior of everyone staying in the country are being enforced by police and the army. It is not allowed to talk badly about the King and his relatives or disrespect pictures and statues. People getting caught doing so can end up in prison, even foreigners.
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The “Thai Baht” = Thai Money
The word Baht redirects from the name Baht river, a river in Morocco or the name of a town in Uzbekistan, named Baxt. In 2014, SWIFT ranked the Thai Baht as number ten of the most often used currencies in the world. 100 Satang equals one Baht.
In all the years I now stay here, the Thai Baht stays around 30 Baht to 1 US Dollar.
If you come as for holidays and not visit the country frequently, I strongly suggest that you bring a bank, ATM card with you. I think it is the easiest, safest and cheapest way to always have quick access to cash Thai money. ATM’s are almost everywhere. Be careful, they charge per payout, not a percentage so, don’t get too small amounts at a time. The chance that you get stolen cash money by Thai people is really very small. More dangerous I judge foreigners that stay a long time in Thailand. Thais get your money with more sophisticated tricks, which in the end you have to blame on yourself:). Changing foreign currencies is a bit of a struggle and there are all kinds of changing rates and commissions. This also counts for checks.
If you are a regular visitor, it is easy to open a bank account here, in a Thai bank, and send your money from home, directly to your Thai account per e-banking. Here you will then have a Thai bank card which only charges 20 Baht per withdraw.
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Thai Holidays, Ceremonies
Thai Songkran is the most important holiday here. It stands for new years and the start of the rainy season. Thai people enjoy Songkran by visiting their families, have water battles and sing, drink and eat. It lasts three days and is around mid-April. Next year between the 13-15 April 2018. Like all Buddhist festivals, it depends on the full moon. Buddhist traditional Sundays are always on the full moon, half empty moon, empty moon, and half full moon.
The Songkran festival is a very much loved festival for western tourists as well. In all the bigger tourist places are loads of parties and water fun in all streets. See more of Songkran.
Western new years and the time of Christmas is celebrated nowadays too. Thais also go to their family home to visit their parents and relatives and relax for a few days. Streets during these main holidays are overloaded and jammed as well as trains, buses, and flights.
More festivals will be introduced in a separate post soon.
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Not to do’s in Thailand
There are a lot of things Thai people do not do. Most of them are not easy to understand for an outsider but it’s better just to follow the rules. You quickly lose a lot of respect and face if you don’t follow these rules.
* Thais never enter a house with shoes
This is very important, especially in temples and private homes. you quickly see whether or not people take their shoes off in front of the door. Always remember where you put your shoes or you walk home without:).
* Thais never talk bad about the King, Buddha, and Court
You can talk about everything with your Thai friends but be very careful when it comes to these three themes. Thais are very proud people and don’t like outsiders making jokes or talk bad about their system. It’s a Thai custom not to talk openly about everything. You can make a person lose his face by doing so.
* Never shout out loud at a Thai person
In western countries, we are used to arguing with one another. Thai people don’t do that. As long as you don’t know a person really long and talked about this issue you better do not argue. If you get loud, loose your temper, you make your opponent lose his face, you won’t know how he reacts. Thai people have a very hard time admitting to wrongdoing like they don’t do that. Also don’t hit the table when you are angry or anytime, in fact, this is rude too.
* There are a lot of little rules which are useful to follow
Don’t walk over a lying person.
Don’t walk over food, because they often eat on the floor.
Don’t point your finger at a Buddha figure.
Don’t kiss in public.
Try to look friendly all the time, I know that is not easy haha.
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Our unique guided trip to southern Thailand
Also, check What is Thai Tradition
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