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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
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    A Basic Guide to Thai Customs


    I’m hoping to go to Thailand in February, and I want to be knowledgeable in Thai customs so I don’t accidentally piss someone off.

    If you could pull up a “general guideline” that’d be great!

    I read Everything You Wanted to Know About Thai Etiquette, but some people pointed out it was flawed.

    This guide on how to eat is a little confusing. How to: Eat the Thai way They mention that leaving food on your plate “may indicate you didn't find the food tasty”. But I read in another source (can’t remember where) that NOT eating all the food was a sign that the cook was generous. I’m confused!

    Also, would anyone care to verify this stuff? Thai Etiquette


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Blog Entries
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    Here is our own list:

    What you need to understand, that many of these customs date back many years and modern Thais (in particular the youth) do not always know of all these customs. In fact, foreigners often know more! Times are changing and it is up to the Thai people which customs they will continue to respect.

    From my own experience with food, if you visit the home of a Thai person you should eat all the food that is on your plate. To leave any food is wasteful and is looked down upon. At school we teach the students to eat all their food and not to waste it as there are plenty of starving children in the world.

    Eating meals in Thailand is different in that you do not pile up food onto your plate in one go. Rather you help yourself to a spoonful or two from communal bowls on the table. When you want more, then go back for more.

    If you are invited to a restaurant, again eat everything on your plate. However, try and leave some food on the serving plates as this will show that your host is generous. That food is not wasted as they will ask the waiter to put the leftover food in plastic bags to eat at home.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Melbourne, Australia
    Thanked 189 Times in 107 Posts

    Thai etiquette

    Sawat-dii khrap khun Jason

    Yeah, the "everything you wanted to know about Thai etiquette" thread was about a web page that got most things very wrong. Near as I can work out, they had a template for somewhere in Europe that they just rejigged for each country (or failed to!)

    Good that you're asking these questions. It means you're probably the kind of guy who wouldn't pee anyone off anyway but everything you learn about Thai culture will pay off in one way or another.

    The Thai etiquette link you put up looks pretty good to me for a brief overview.

    I'd recommend having a browse around There are some great blogs on etiquette and customs.
    provides another really good brief overview. has a good, fairly detailed, dos and dont's page.

    If the heat affects your appetite as much as mine, you will quite often not be able to finish bigger meals. Let the waiter or your host know that the meal was delicious but you are full.

    Aroi mahk! - delicious
    Phom im khrap - I'm full (said with a smile and maybe a stomach pat)
    (Dichan im ka is what women say)

    should get the message across. (Edit: See Richard's post above - my comment mostly applies to a "laat khaao" dish for one person.)

    If you don't like durian (or have never tried it and don't want to), being able to politely say you are full already ("Phom im laao khrap") is vital. will show you how to pronounce most of these words properly.

    BTW: Spend a bit of time on each week between now and February and you'll have some pretty handy language skills together.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Thanked 1 Time in 1 Post
    I'd like to add that there is not just one single way to do it right...
    Some people would look down on leaving food in your plate, others would think they didn't cook enough to feed the hungry farang if you clean your plate right away. Most likely they will keep putting food on your plate as soon as it's empty!
    My advice is to be always attentive to what the people you are with do. Pick up as many clues as possible and show them you want to understand their culture and adapt yourself. They will understand you're "only" a farang, so they will forgive you easily if you do something wrong. But they'll be delighted to see you trying to be Thai!
    life is wonderful!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts

    Thanks for the replies and links!

    Richard and maipenrai99, thanks for the clarification/extra information about the consumption of meals.

    I'll probably have to order extra at the restruants as I'm planning to train in Muay Thai. I can't imagine the amount of calories those guys burn in two training sessions a day!.

    Billk, thanks for the link to learn Thai. I'll have to give that a shot. I'm short of hoping to find someone local who can teach me how to speak Thai.

    My goal is to go to Thailand and have a monk think I was a Thai in a past life.

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