Thais are a famously friendly, outgoing, and patient people—there’s a reason, after all, that Thailand is sometimes called “The Land of Smiles.” Bangkok residents, in particular, are used to foreign visitors and generally forgiving of breaches in local etiquette. Still, to help avoid any embarrassment or misunderstandings, follow these basic rules of thumb while exploring the city.
- Dress appropriately. In most instances, this simply means dress like you would when visiting friends or family, though leaning to the conservative side. When visiting temples, ensure your shoulders are covered, wear shorts, skirts, or pants extending to your knees, and take off your shoes.
- Smile and Wai. Smiling goes a long way everywhere, but particularly in Thailand. Thais greet, thank, and say goodbye to each other by extending traditional wais, and though visitors are not expected to return them, the gesture is appreciated. To wai, clasp your hands together in front of you, as if in prayer, and slightly bow.
- Do not touch people’s heads. Buddhists consider heads sacred, and it’s a serious personal grievance to touch one.
- Do not lose your cool. No matter the situation, stay calm in public at all times, particularly while speaking with Thais. Yelling and becoming agitated during a disagreement of any kind will only make matters far worse. Smiles and persistence are far more effective problem-solving tactics.
- Be polite with photography. Do not take somebody’s picture without first asking permission to do so.
- Give taxi drivers small tips. Though not compulsory, it’s polite to give taxi drivers modest tips. Round up within reason. For example, if a fare is 85 baht (US$2.50), give them 100 (US$2.90).