culture HUA HIN

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Culture and etiquette in Hua Hin and Thailand

sun bathing If you are to enjoy your stay in Thailand and Hua Hin to the fullest extent, it is important that you understand some basic social customs and etiquette.

If you do and follow them, you will not cause offence and your hosts will appreciate you all the more for the effort you have made to assimilate yourself into their culture. The Thais are a very forgiving people, so you don't need to worry too much about making some small social faux pas, but certain actions and behaviour are not tolerated and can land you in deep trouble if you overstep the mark.

Thai culture through the years

Thailand has a long history that can be traced back to 1238 when Khmer influence was fading. During the following years, the country and people prospered, culture flourished and the first Thai script was developed.

The country has had a number of capital cities, the first being Sukhothai and then Ayutthaya. After the Burmese sacked Ayutthaya in 1767 and were eventually driven out of Thailand by General Phaya Taksin, he crowned himself King and established his capital at Thonburi on the Chao Phaya river. After Taksin was deposed, Chao Phaya Chakri, Rama I, became King, moved the capital over the river to Bangkok and founded the Chakri dynasty. "Rama" is the name given to each Chakri King and the line continues to today with the current King, His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) who is now the longest reigning monarch in the world, having taken over the throne in 1946.

Over the years, Thailand has developed a unique culture and etiquette that is a pleasure to understand and observe. As mentioned before, the Thais are very tolerant, but there are two main areas in which you are strongly advised not to stray. The first is in matters relating to The King and members of The Royal Family. Any negative critism of this institution, whether real or imagined, is likely to provoke an angry response from the Thais and is, in fact illegal under Thailand's lese-majeste laws. The King and his family are held in considerable esteem and you should respect this. If you don't, you are likely to end up in trouble and that may include being arrested.

The same is true of religion. Thailand is some 95% Buddhist and you should always respect certain behaviour when visiting temples or if in contact with a monk. Always dress conservatively if entering a temple - certainly no beach wear, short skirts etc. Always remove your shoes when entering a building that contains a Buddha image and do not pose unnecessarily in front of one if taking photgraphs - certainly do not climb on them. If, as a woman, you want to give something to a monk, remember that they are not supposed to be touched by women, so place your offering in front of him so he can accept it without being in direct physical contact with you. As a last piece of advice, the feet are regarded as the lowest part of the body - both physically and spiritually, so when seated in front of a Buddha image, do not point your feet towards it. Rather sit in the "mermaid" pose with your feet tucked behind you.

The above are the main social rules to follow in Thailand, but some others may help you get along. When Thais greet each other they do so with a "wai" and the palms of the hands are pressed together and raised to the head. The etiquette here does get complicated in as much as an older person, or one with a higher social status, should not initiate the wai. For everyday purposes as a visitor, it is enough to appreciate that if you want to be respectful to an obviously older person, you should wai first and return a wai if a younger person does it to you. The main exception here is with children. You are not expected to wai them back - a simple nod of the head is sufficient.

If you follow these simple guidelines, you won't come unstuck in Thailand and your efforts will be appreciated by your hosts. As a final aside, much in Thailand is about "sanuk" or fun. The country is known as "The Land of Smiles", so try to carry out everday tasks with a positive attitude and a smile. Should you end up in a confrontational situation with a local, you'll achieve more by remaining calm and smiling, rather than losing your temper and becoming loud - this will get you absolutely nowhere.

Beach etiquette

Although Thais are now used to seeing westerners in beach attire, on the beaches in tourist resorts, it is really not acceptable to walk around town wearing the same or less. If you notice most Thais remain fully clothed when on the beach although this is usually in respect of the punishing tropical sun. Nudity, of any sort, is frowned upon and illegal. Bearing too much flesh can get you arrested.




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