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Thai Eating Etiquette

Thai people have a unique way of eating. There are no strict rules about what foods to eat at certain times of the day. For example, it is common to have curry for breakfast and pancakes for dinner. In Thailand, most food is eaten with a spoon. Forks are used to push food onto the spoon, similar to how a knife is used in Western countries. It is considered inappropriate to put your fork in your mouth. Chopsticks are mainly used for noodle dishes, not for other types of food. When eating with your hands, always use your right hand, even if you are left-handed.

Declining Food

In Thai culture, there is a polite way to decline food or invitations to meals. When offered food that you do not want or cannot eat due to allergies or restrictions, it is best to make up an excuse rather than saying you are not hungry or tired. This polite lie is a social nicety and shows respect for the person offering the food.

Showing Respect with Wais

The traditional Thai greeting, known as a wai, involves placing your hands together in a prayer position as a form of respect. The level at which you place your hands during a wai depends on the person you are greeting. For example, when waiing friends or peers, your thumbs should be at the level of your chin. When waiing elders, your thumbs should be at the level of your nose. To wai a monk or a statue of the Buddha, your thumbs should be at the level of your forehead. This gesture is a sign of respect and should be initiated by the younger person in most situations.

Cultural Norms and Customs

In Thailand, it is important to maintain a calm demeanor and avoid losing your temper in public. Displays of anger are frowned upon and can cause loss of face for all involved. When interacting with monks or elders, it is essential to show respect by bowing your head or lowering yourself when passing them. Avoid pointing your feet at others, especially at the Buddha, as feet are considered the lowest part of the body.

Affection and Physical Contact

Thai people are not accustomed to physical displays of affection, especially between members of the opposite sex. Hugging is not a common form of affection, even among friends of the same gender. Instead of hugging, Thai people may give a gentle squeeze on the arm as a sign of closeness. It is more common to see same-gender friends walking arm in arm or holding hands as a display of friendship.

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