Asia Expat Guides: Social Etiquette in Thailand

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Moving to a new, foreign country is a daunting task which many expats find very overwhelming. At Asia Expat Guides, we understand your concerns and your specific needs as an expat. We routinely share articles and expat tips about moving to Asia at In this particular slide, we compile our top picks of Japanese cuisine for new expats in Japan. For expat tips about moving to Asia, go to


  • 1. Social Etiquette in Thailand A Guide for New Expats in ThailandBy: Asia Expat Guides

2. The wai is putting both palms together and holding them toward your chest. The wai is very important in Thailand. It is not simply a way of saying hello without saying a word. It is merely an action of respect and expression of inequality between people, but overusing it devalues its meaning. Wais are appropriate to give to monks, the king, elders, and bosses, while handshakes are usually between equals. When it comes to wai, the inferior always initiates it, and the superior may or may not return it. Watch for the wai level of the hand toward the head as it indicates the level of respect to others. When youre in Thailand, do not wai servants, laborers, children, or other people of an obviously lower social status than your own. 3. In Thailand, a smile is very powerful. It can be used as a powerful way to excuse oneself from embarrassments to others, and it can be also used in appreciation for good service at a restaurant or shop. When you greet children, dont wai; give them a nice smile on the face and you will make that child happy for some time. A Thais smile shows friendliness, not friendship. A smile or a wai is usually the correct gesture for repairing minor breaches of etiquette. It can also be used to excuse conduct that will require elaborate explanation and possibly monetary compensation. A smile can also demonstrate your embarrassment and defuse a potentially explosive situation. As an expat in Thailand, a genuine smile on your face will save you a lot of trouble! 4. In Thailand, some gestures are considered offensive, so you should try your best to avoid it. For example, when talking to a Thai, do not wave your hands in an attempt to make yourself understood. When youre in a restaurant, do not clap, snap your fingers, or hiss at wait staff. The correct way to get their attention is to beckon, palm down, moving the fingers rapidly toward yourself. Then, in the presence of a monk, you should not cross your legs when sitting on the floor or in a chair. 5. When you receive a gift from a Thai friend or business partner, set it aside to open later. Gifts are to be opened in private and not in front of the giver. Also, remember to deliver your gifts in person because Thais do not usually acknowledge gifts sent by mail or messenger. 6. Such cultural differences are the reason why expats face culture shock upon arriving in Thailand. They fail to adjust comfortable to their new surroundings and this affects their stay in their new country. At Asia Expat Guides, we will ensure that you are equipped with the necessary information about Thailand before moving there. Besides introducing you to the local places, food and your living area, we will also offer you the relevant language class so that you will be able to speak the Thai fluently, and minimize the impact of culture shock. So worry no more. Just concentrate on having a good time in Thailand and leave all your burdens to us! 7. For more information about being an expat in Asia, visit