Thai Social Etiquette

(Source: Illustration by Ohm Rachawej, Thai Social Etiquette)

(Source: Thai Social Etiquette)
Book: Thai Social Etiquette
By Mrs. Pensri Kiengsiri, Mrs. Sudchit Bhinyoying and Assoc. Prof. Malithat Promathatavedi, Editor: Prof. Khunying Maenmas Chavalit, Cartoonist: Ohm Rachawej

This Ministry of Culture publication is actually quite charming...

It is odd to read in English, because the information is clearly meant as advice for an etiquette-challenged Thai person. Overall the advice is not about the way things are, but an exhortation to be mindful of how things should be.

Most of the points made are commonsense, some are odd or downright weird, and many are opposite to common Thai behavior, such as:

* We should have a serving spoon in every common dish from which everyone may take another portion after the first serving.

* Unless it is necessary, avoid the use of a toothpick.

Chang Noi's witheringly critical article, Cultural bureaucracy means bureaucratic culture (The Nation, November 12, 2007) seems to interpret the book as pernicious meddling by the Culture Ministry instead of what it probably is--idealized nostalgia inexplicably packaged as "advice for farangs."
...In the shopping mall, bus, or Skytrain, the visitor would be forced to conclude that almost none of the people were Thai since they did not seem to walk, talk, sit, or dress in the prescribed manner...

(Source: Illustration by Ohm Rachawej, Thai Social Etiquette)

(Source: Illustration by Ohm Rachawej, Thai Social Etiquette)


Left: Ohm Rachawej's illustration of "How to stand" - We should stand in a straight position. However, when speaking to an older or a respected person, we should bend forward a little to show respect.

(Source: Illustration by Ohm Rachawej, Thai Social Etiquette)

Left: The following is not acceptable especially if done in the presence of people older than you or your superiors at work, or in society. Standing with legs apart, with hands in pockets, with arms folded across the chest, with hands on hips, with hands together at the back, in a leaning position, blocking someone from something he needs to see, blocking a passageway and towering over an older person who is sitting.

Right: Refrain from holding hands in public as it may have undesirable implication.

(Source: Illustration by Ohm Rachawej, Thai Social Etiquette)

(Source: Illustration by Ohm Rachawej, Thai Social Etiquette)

Above: A seminar or meeting is not a lecture class where you attend only to be informed. There must be an exchange of ideas, knowledge and experiences, questions and answers to clarify the issues concerned, in order to make the whole session worthwhile. Keep your shyness to yourself and try to contribute and demonstrate your ability as much as possible.

More interesting tidbits

* You should not speak about something dirty or draw up a vision that is not pretty, such as talk about worms in a garbage, someone being sick and throwing up, the condition of someone down with diarrhea or constipation. You should also train yourself and your children not to have to visit the rest room directly before or after eating.

* Do not wrestle with a tough piece of food trying to cut it into two smaller pieces till it shoots across the room or the table.

* For a night banquet, candles on the table can look romantic and festive.

* Do not spoil the atmosphere by chiding your inferiors in front of your guests.

* Walk in a natural, relaxed manner, taking steps that are neither too long nor too short.

* He does not show that he is well acquainted with someone by calling that person by his father’s name. This is greatly impolite and yet some people do it.

* He does not ask personal questions such as: How is your ex-wife/husband now? How much do you weigh? How old are you? How much is your salary?

* Do not scratch here and scratch there.

* Always introduce a man to a woman, a younger person to an older person, a lesser-in-rank to a superior-in-rank, etc. The lesser one will do the wai first and the superior one will give him a wai in return.

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