Thai culture has many intricacies, most of which the average visitor will never come across, however if you are looking to live in Thailand long term, it is important to be aware of cultural differences and to know which faux pas to avoid.

Traditional Thai culture and etiquette is based around the concept of ‘face’ and pride. It is very disrespectful in Thai culture to make anyone lose face, especially in public. Other aspects of Thai culture are not so serious however, with many being focused around festivals and celebrations.


Festivals in Thailand mainly celebrate the seasons and Buddhism. They are celebrated all year round, but two of the most famous include Songkran (Thai New Year) and Loi Kratong.

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Every April, Songkran is celebrated with countrywide water fights. In traditional Thai culture, the New Year is a time to wash away the sins of the year gone by and cleanse the body with water, however in recent times it has turned into a nationwide water fight with much of the country grinding to a halt while people of all ages take to the streets with their water guns. It is great fun for all who take part and lasts anywhere from a couple of days to a whole week.

Loy Kratong is a much less boisterous celebration and is celebrated on the full moon in November.

It is a festival of lights, with people sailing beautiful handmade kratongs (small boats made from banana leaf and decorated with a candle and coloured paper) down the river to carry away their bad luck. Lanterns are let off into the night sky carrying with them people’s dreams.

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Other festivals include Buddhist lent (Khao Phansa) which is celebrated in July/August and marks a period of three month retreat for monks. They retire to the monastery for the whole of rainy season to meditate and study. The birth, enlightenment and Nirvana of the Buddha are celebrated on Visakha Bucha Day, in April/May and royal celebrations such as Coronation day and The King and Queen’s birthdays are also held throughout the year. Local festivals are held in regions throughout the country all year round.


Thailand is a melting pot of different ethnicities who live together despite religious differences.  With a territory and population about the same size as France, Thailand’s people are mostly ethnic Thai, with other ethnic groups mixed in: Burmese, Chinese, Lao, Khmer and hilltribes. The vast majority of people are Buddhists, with less than 10 % being of other faiths including Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Brahmanism. 

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Thai people are extremely friendly, hospitable and warm-hearted and welcoming of foreigners. The expression “Land of Smiles” is very accurate in describing the Thai view of life, as people deem a minute without a smile to be a lost minute. Thais are very proud of their country, very loyal to their King and for the most part, strong believers in the Buddhist value system; meaning that all humans are equal and propagating people to be friendly, to avoid conflict and live a good, honest and useful life, caring for others.

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The Thai way of life is very easy going and could very well be described as “live and let live and is generally uncomplicated. Most people live in the present moment and do not spend too much time thinking about the future or the past.

The Thai language has largely been derived from many words of other languages, particularly Sanskrit and Pali from India which came to Thailand with Brahmanism and Buddhism. Words co-opted from the languages of neighbouring countries (China, Cambodia and Laos) are also commonly used. There are regional dialects with northern Thai (Lanna) being fairly different from central and southern Thai. It is a tonal language which can be quite difficult to learn, however grammar rules are far more simple than those in English.

As with all aspects of Thai culture, the language used is based on respect and dictated by who you are speaking to, how old they are and what position in society they hold.

Thai Food

Thai food is growing in popularity throughout the world, however you will not taste better food than you will in Thailand.  Traditional Thai cuisine is essentially a marriage of centuries-old Eastern and Western influences harmoniously combined into something uniquely Thai. Originally, Thai cooking reflected the characteristics of a waterborne lifestyle. Aquatic animals, plants and herbs were major ingredients and large chunks of meat were avoided. Subsequent influences introduced the use of sizeable chunks to Thai cooking.

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A typical Thai meal should consist of a soup, a curry dish with condiments, a dip with accompanying fish and vegetables. A spicy salad may replace the curry dish. The soup can also be spicy, but the curry should be replaced by non spiced items. There must be a harmony of tastes and textures within individual dishes and the entire meal with the following five tastes being catered to: pungent, sweet, sour, bitter and salty.

Thai food is eaten with a fork and spoon. Even single dish meals such as fried rice with pork, or steamed rice topped with roasted duck, are served in bite-sized slices or chunks, eliminating the need for a knife. Thai culture ensures that meals are a social affair, as this way more dishes can be ordered.

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Each dish is shared between the table and therefore the more people present, the more tastes can be enjoyed. Generally speaking, two diners order three dishes in addition to their own individual plates of steamed rice. Soups are enjoyed concurrently with other dishes, not independently. Spicy dishes are “balanced” by bland dishes to avoid discomfort.

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The meal is often followed by sweet desserts and/or fresh fruits such as mangoes, durian, jackfruit, papaya, grapes or melon. The fruit served depends on the season, with more than 30 different varieties of fruit being grown and harvested in the country throughout the year.