What Is Thai Tradition, Families

What Is Thai Tradition?

I think first and foremost to cherish the family is the number one Thai tradition. This might not seem to be very exclusive for Thailand but as I experience it here I haven’t seen anything alike so far.

Elders Washing Songkran

Elders Washing At Songkran

For the Thai people family always comes first. This can be seen in many different aspects of life all through the year. The most important festivities, for example, are always celebrated at the home of the family and in some part of the celebration, to honor the oldest family members, is an important part.

At “Songkran”, the most important festival every year, the elders get a ritual washing from the younger family members. Their feet are being washed and the youngers go down on their knees in front of the elders and wish them good health and luck and thank for the privilege to be alive.

On fathers day, which is always on the birthday of the ruling King, children again tribute to their fathers on their knees, wishing all the best and receiving blessings from the father. Money changes hands and fine food is served. The same happens on mother’s day.

See some of my extended family having party.


A big variety of family member titles.

Just to learn all the different titles family members have is a hard task. Not like in our, western tradition, all relatives have different titles, divided by age and gender. The older brother is called “pi chai”, the younger, “nong chai”.

It is very important here who is the older or the younger. “pi”, “nong”, old, young, is used from childhood up. My daughter always calls younger friends “nong……” and the older ones “pi…….”.

My aunt that is older than my wife’s mom, I call “ba” the younger one “na”. If the aunt is a younger or older sister of her father though I have to call her “a”.

It is very confusing, especially when the families are big and this is the situation quite often here.  Another example is the “grandparents”. Here, my daughter calls my wife’s father “ta”, wife’s mother, “ja” but, would call my father “bu” and my mother “jai”. I don’t know how it would be for the daughter of the younger sister of my wife lol, but sometimes I hear titles I haven’t heard before.

When you first come here you hear the names and think it is their names, like “nadam” or “taboem” but slowly you realize, different family members call the same person different names. At least now I know, most of the younger generation call me “lungfan”, means, uncle Stefan.


Families don’t talk about family members.

Royal Thai Famiy

Royal Thai Family

Something else, for me rather disturbing, is the fact that family members never talk about other family members. You will never learn a truth about brothers or sisters of your friends. I once had a girlfriend, a problematic situation, and only after we separated her brothers who were my friends too, told me the truth, that she was actually into girls, not men.

The families stick together even if they see they lose property or money. As long as you are not an accepted family member you will always only hear about the bright side of things. And everything you put in question will be answered with, that’s no problem.

Don’t ever start a fight with a person with a big family, that can get dangerous. No matter how wrong the opponent is and how much you are right and no matter how exact the family members know that truth, they will defend the family member. I experienced that once and I lost a lot but all the family lost their jobs too.


Have a daughter and get a free worker.

How to retire in Thailand

Strong Women Hold Families Together

Another quite strongly rooted tradition is, that a man marrying a woman has to live where the parents of the wife live. I really like this tradition, it helps a lot to keep old families alive. Women stay with their parents and take care of them when they get old. Women stay close to the family and help the family traditions, like food, dialect or other family-specific handcrafts or farming techniques, surviving over generations.

It also prevents divorced wifes from being somewhere far from home with their kids or an aggressive husband abusing their normally weaker wife. The family names change over generations but the women stay. Sons move to other families and introduce their family names there.

It is absolutely normal here for grandparents to look after their grandchildren while the middle generation is off to work. Here in the village live mostly older and very young people. The elders get substitution from their children for taking care of the grandkids.

Like this, the circle is closed and all generations have their place and purpose in the community. Families gather as often as possible due to the fact that young parents want to see their children and they again stay with their parents who also love to see their grown children.


Heritage systems all different.

Not the oldest son takes over the family home, although in the royal house this would be the tradition. But in the ordinary family, the daughter best qualified for taking over the family house will stay in the compound with her husband an finally be the follower of the family.

Women are very diligent here in Thailand and often farms and businesses would have no chance to survive without the strong hand of the female “boss”. She might not let others know that she is doing all the steering and a lot of the hard work as well but after years of observing the life here in Thailand, I can say, without a strong woman a family has little chance to succeed.


I hope that was informative to you and answered some questions. I will continue to explain more Thai traditions in future like festivals, food and many more. For now, you are welcome to check some of my other posts I already published about Thai tradition related themes.

Thank’s for visiting and “dshog dee nah krap”


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  1. Stefan thank you for sharing such a wonderful article and an insight into the Thai culture. Having spend the last 5 winters in Thailand I agree with everything you say and I also got confused with different names for different members of the family! 🙂

    For me Thai people, even though most of them don’t have much, they always seem happy and this I love. Showing the world you really don’t need to have much to be truly happy!

    Family culture is very important to me however we in the west seem to have lost it which is very sad..

    I love visiting your blog, you make the posts sound very interesting.. keep up the good work!

    • Hi Moni, nice to see you again. You have visited Thailand before, I see. Yes, people here have learned to be happy with whatever they have. Of course, everyone want’s more, that’s the same here too but to accept the situation being every day and see the most and best in it, is an art we can still learn a lot about.
      I understand, in the western world, where everything is very expensive, it is a lot harder to take care of the elders, especially when they aren’t able to contribute to the family anymore.
      Here in Thailand, most people have their own house and property and that lets them stay home and care for the elders easier.
      I’m looking forward to seeing you here again and wish you all the best.
      You might want to read this post , about happynes in Thailand sometime too.
      See you, Stefan 🙂

  2. Wow, what an interesting culture, and the Thai people seem to make it work! I really enjoy learning about different cultures, so I’ll be back to see more of your site! I enjoyed my visit!

    • Hi Lyn, thank’s for visiting. I am glad you like the site. Thai culture is an interesting topic, especially for us, people from other cultures.
      I hope to see you back. If you have any requests or questions please feel free and let me know.
      See you, Stefan

  3. Great article Stefan. I have not as yet traveled to Thailand, and this makes me want to go even more. I love cultures and the people who go with them. They have always fascinated and intrigued me. I was not aware of the daughter requirement in the family. Should initiate that here.

    • Hi Brad, thanks for dropping by. I am a modern man too, grown in a western culture and think, it is a bit sad how we go along as families. At least how we treat the elders is often quite sad. I guess older people everywhere like to be touched sometimes and be the center of attention, not only on their birthday.
      To have a daughter is not actually a requirement here but everyone that has one is very happy for that 🙂
      Boys are more trouble and often lazy here in Thailand, girls can not afford to be the same, often they have children at an early age and most often they have to take care of them without a father 🙁

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