Respect for Royalty, Bangkok
After living in Bangkok for over a year I have learned many things about the Thai People that I wanted to share with other foreigners living or vacationing here should know. The first thing you have to accept is that eastern culture is different. The people in the east are less emotional and more polite and while they know westerners are different, they often are uncomfortable when we stray from their norms. The things I found to be important are listed below in order of importance:
1. Be Polite - Thai people hold being polite above all else. Their very language has politeness built into it. If you follow what is considered “common courtesy” you will be fine.
2. Thai King - The Thai People Love their King, King Rama IX. Never show any type of disrespect to him.
3. National Religion - Buddhism is Thailand’s national Religion with nearly 95% of Thailand's population being Buddhist. All Buddha images are considered sacred and there are laws against removing these images for anything other that personal worship.
4. Be Quiet - Loud people are considered impolite. Speak softly and do not laugh loudly. Of course there are the common places such as bars that being loud is appropriate.
5. Body Odor - Thai people almost never smell badly and they find it offensive if others do.
6. Crowds - if you go to areas in Thailand during Thai holiday's and celebrations, be prepared to encounter many people. To Western experience the volume of these areas can be incredible. Be prepared to be pushed and shoved and be aware that they mean no harm. Thai people
7. Watch where you walk - The side walks in Bangkok are uneven and full of obstacles, pay attention. Oh, also, the streets have many stray dogs; the dogs are not aggressive but do leave landmines on the sidewalks.
8. Taxi drivers (enough said) - Most taxi drivers are fine. Generally, it is always better to use the metered taxis. Tuktuks are always more expensive and with Bangkok traffic you could be breathing in a lot of smog on the way. If you are going a significant distance negotiate… Also, the Taxis marked “We love farang, we speak English”, well most of them do not. They do have a radio that has a person that knows a little English.
9. Movie Theater - After the advertizing and right before the movie a tribute to the Thai King Comes on and everyone stands in respect.
10. Driving in Thailand - If you are a brave one and decide that you want drive yourself around Thailand, don't be too worried, it really isn't that bad. There are just several things to understand. Drivers use the left side instead of the right, like in the US, and the roads tend to be narrower than in the US. So driving next to a bus or a truck can be a little intimidating.
Following these tips will allow you to have better understanding of the Thai people and more fun in your stay in Bangkok, allowing the locals to be more comfortable with you and give you a better understanding of how things function in Thailand.
Here are just a few, but the most important rules.
Thailand is known as the land of smiles. Thais do not necessarily smile about something like we do in the west. They smile for a variety of other reasons too. To say hello or thank you, to make a request, to apologize, to smooth over bad feelings or to show embarrassment.
Do show respect for the king: Thai people show great respect for their king and they expect visitors to do so too. The national anthem is played twice a day (typically at 8am and 6 pm) and also before every film at the cinema. Everyone is expected to stand whilst it is playing. You should never insult or joke about the king or royal family.
Do show respect for their main religion, for the Buddha, and for monks. Shorts or tank tops should not be worn in a temple, and shoes should be removed before entering. It is considered very improper for women to touch a monk.
Do not touch anyone on the head. The head is considered to be very sacred.
Do not point your feet at anyone or anything. This is quite hard for a westerner to follow as, without realising it, we do in some circumstances seem to use our feet quite a lot e.g closing or opening doors. I never realised how much I use my feet until I was made very conscious of it in Thailand.
Do not step over anyone instead walk around them.
Thai people have much respect for others. There is a hierarchy from the King at the very top to the labourers at the bottom. Everyone knows his or her position on the hierarchy tree and shows their position by way of what you could call the 'height rule'. In any social encounter the social superiors head must always be higher than the social inferiors head. The lower you stoop means you show more respect to the person you meet or are passing by.
In a school situation this is more evident and it can be quite an eye opener to watch. As a white person I am seen quite high up the hierarchy tree. This means that other teachers will stoop as they pass me even if they are much older than me. (Thai people respect their elders like we do). I do find this a bit unnerving so I tend to stoop too, thus giving them as much respect back.
HM the King of Thailand is one of the world's longest reigning monarch who has done much good for his country and subjects. He is widely respected and held in high esteem by the entire country. In Thailand, one will see much show of affection for the King and the Royal Family in many ways - such as this billboard celebrating his 80th Birthday, the wearing of yellow (or pink, red, blue) shirts emblazoned with royal emblems, the flying of flags along roads and in residences, merit making at temples in his honour...etc.
He has worked tirelessly over the years for the benefit of the Kingdom and it would be a grave insult to the Thais if one should speak disparagingly of the King, Monarchy and of Thai royalty. Please be mindful when it comes to this topic.
May he live long !
At 8am and 6pm, it's time for national anthem. In public, around these specific time, dont get freaked out when you see people stop walking ll of the sudden and stand still. The song you hear is our national anthem. It's our custom to pay respect to the country, to the royal family, to the past, through this song. We wont call you names or anything if you keep on walking. It would be nice though if you do the same.
Aside from the gold there is a rather intriguing amount of symbolism associated with the Royal Family. Two sets that most usually crop up are:
The little golden umbrella pyramid style things that go above the head in many images and statues. For the King and Lord Buddha you get nine of these in a series above the head. For the Queen, well she gets seven, and other members of the Royal Family, they are on five, until they get a promotion.
Then there are often the "Golden Egg" type things that are positioned around the image / statue. These “fruits”, as my team tell me - so let’s hope they are not winding me up again - originally come from the sacred Buddha tree and are changed into silver and gold when they are offered as gifts.
In this day and age many a nation knocks their royal families. In Thailand the King does as good a job as anyone in such a position could. Not only does King Bhumipol (Rama IX) manage to motivate and unite most of the nation, He also manages to quieten down the politicians when things go somewhat astray. He popped up on TV to quieten / dispel military coups. One King that has most certainly earnt His respect.
THAILAND AND ITS PEOPLE ARE DEEPLY RELIGIOUS ALLWAYS SHOW RESPECT FOR ANY IMAGE OF BUDDAH,MONKS AND NUNS ARE HIGHLY RESPECTED AS ARE ELDERS IN A FAMILY, AND THE ROYAL FAMILY ARE OF THE HIGHEST, THE THAIS CONSIDER THE KING AS THEIR OWN FATHER AND IS SHOWN ONLY REVERENCE, NEVER TALK ABOUT THE KING OR ROYAL FAMILY UNLESS IT IS WITH RESPECT AND LOVE. I HAVE ON MANY OCCASSION WON A LOT OF FRIENDS SIMPLY BY SAYING THAT THE KING IS NUMBER ONE, HE IS NUMBER ONE TO THE THAIS SO REMEMBER THAT.
THE KING OF THAILAND
The King and Queen of Thailand is very revered by the people; so much that sometimes it felt almost in a religious way.
All over Bangkok you will see the pictures of the King and Queen; either in shops, restaurants, or even posters on the road.
When you go to the cinema, before the film start they will play a song in admiration for the King and people are expected to stand up in respect.
I know it can all be too much for a Westerner, but please refrain yourself from making fun of the Royal family and the Thai's admiration of them. This will be very offensive to most Thai.
The Thai are very polite and gracious people, if you make fun of the Royal family they probably will just smile and leave rather than try to argue, but when you disrespect their King you will lose their respect immediately.
The Ramayana -- an epic from the Hindu tradition in India is also part of the Thai culture & lore. Many of the murals at The Grand Palace are based on this tale. This image is of the White Monkey King and the golden mermaid.
A person can notice coming to Bangkok that many people (men and women) are wearing light pink shirts. Dress shirts, polo shirts or tee shirts in light pink. Winston, my VT friend, explained how the Thai people love their King and Queen. The King was recently ill and hospitalized (2008). After becoming well and departing from the hospital he happen to be wearing pink. This was all over the media. Because the Thai people saw he was wearing pink and were happy that he was well once more, they honor him by wearing this color.
They also wear the color yellow on Mondays. The King's color is yellow and the King was born on a Monday. Hence, wearing yellow on Mondays.
Thais as a whole, almost 100%, listen to their King. Whoever you ask on the streets, they will sing praises of their King. It is amazing. A word from their King can stop almost all disputes. It is a custom for centuries I heard from the locals. So please give respect to other royalities or symbols of them.
The king of Thailand is much loved as is his wife. They have both supported many projects that have helped ordinary Thai people. You will find displays such as this in many restaurants and public places.
If on a particular day,
the majority of the population
is dressed in yellow shirts,
it’s in honor of the King.
Yellow shirts are sold a every other corner,
and the people of Bangkok,
proudly wear them with pride.
Especially this year
to celebrate 60 years of the Kings reign.
We visited Bangkok on the year of 60th anniversary of King Bumiphol ascension to throne. Many Thai people were celebrating it by wearing a shirt of Kings colour (yellow) on Mondays (in fact, we saw people wearing those shirts every day of the week, but on Mondays there were a greater number of them). King Bumiphol was born on a Monday, and the colour for this day is yellow. Most of Thai people love their king and wore this clothes as a symbol of respect
Visitamos Bangkok en el año del 60 aniversario de la ascension del Rey Bhumiphol al trono. Muchos thai lo celebraban llevando una camisa o polo del color del Rey (amarillo) los lunes (de hecho vimos a gente llevando esas camisas todos los dias de la semana, pero los lunes habia un numero mas grande). El rey Bhumiphol nacio un lunes, y el color para este dia es el amarillo. Las mayoria de los thailandeses quieren mucho a su rey y llevan estas prendas como simbolo de respeto.
The Thai's generally seem to be very patriotic. They are also very proud of their monarch, and it is not at all uncommon to see photographs of the king in local homes or even in stores. You will see other examples of patriotism all over the city, and for example you will even have to stand for the national anthem prior to a cinema screening a film.