Almost 80% of Thailand’s population consists of ethnic Thais. The numerous ethnic hill tribes living in the north of the country are still rarely included in the population due to the lack of any identification documents.
The reigning royal family is highly revered in Thailand, and their images, such as statues, photographs, drawings, etc. in the making must contain due respect and loyalty. Even in all cinemas the national anthem is played and the portrait of the king is displayed on the screen before the screenings.
Religion in Thailand
Theravada Buddhism is the religion of over 95% of Thais. However, there are a small number of Muslims (about 4%), mostly in the south of the country, and less than 1% of Christians.
Neat and respectful dress is mandatory when visiting all religious shrines. It is considered extreme disrespect to visit religious monuments in shorts, miniskirts, or open cleavage. Pants and jeans are considered inappropriate for women attending the temple.
Although shoes can be worn at the entrance to the temple, it is necessary to take off your shoes before visiting the chapel with the main image of the Buddha. In fact, all images of the Buddha are considered sacred, regardless of size, date of creation, or position, and all should be given due respect. Buddhist monks are not allowed to touch or be touched by women or to take anything from their hands.
In a Muslim mosque, even men must cover their heads, and women must wear pants or a long skirt, a blouse with long sleeves buttoned up to the neck, and a headscarf. Everyone must be undressed before entering the mosque. It is forbidden to visit mosques during religious meetings.
The Language of Thailand
The Thai language is tonal, with changes in pitch or accent that can completely change the meaning of a word and have a perplexing effect on those who do not understand it. For example, the word: “suea” with an ascending tone, “suea” with a low tone, “suea” with a descending tone, means respectively: tiger, mat and clothes.
Over the centuries, the Thai language has evolved, absorbing words from Chinese and Malay, and borrowing elements from Sanskrit and Pali.
The modern Thai alphabet consists of forty-four consonants, twenty-four vowels, and four diacritical tone markers. The words are written from left to right, occasionally interrupted by spaces. Punctuation, letter case, prefixes and suffixes, gender separation of nouns, plurals, and verb conjugations are missing from the grammar of the language and sentence structure.
Standard Thai is used in Bangkok and the Central Plains, which is considered the main dialect for business and public service. However, there are three dialects in Thai culture: in the north, northeast, and south, which, although they contain the same words, sound completely different. English is widely understood in Bangkok, where it is the main commercial language. English can be heard near resorts and tourist destinations, but at a distance from the tourist routes will be of no use.
Thais greet each other with gestures of the Wai prayer, joining their palms together at the chest. As a rule, the young man greets the older man first, who then returns the prayer. You shouldn’t reach out your hand when you meet. This could be seen as disrespectful to the person.
Thais address each other and foreigners by name. The name may be preceded by the polite prefix, Hun. Public displays of temper, shouting and gesticulating should be avoided because it is considered unethical.
In Thailand, the head is considered the highest and most important part of the body, while the legs are considered low, both literally and figuratively. When addressing someone, do not point at people or things – it is a very rude gesture for Thais. As at the entrance to the temple, as well as in any house, it is necessary to remove shoes, and even if you are offered to leave them – do not give in, because it would be a sign of extreme disrespect for the owners.