Thailand is a country with a very rich culture. Approx 90% of the Thai population is Buddhist. The Buddhist movement that is followed by most Thai is the Theravada. Unlike other Buddhist forms, many Indian influences can be found in this form of Buddhism. Many Thai customs find their heritage in these beliefs. So in almost every office and home you will find a spirit house. The idea behind this mini house is that ghosts live there and that they should be kept satisfied. They try to achieve this by placing sacrifices near the house to keep the spirits happy. They believe that if they don’t do this, the spirits will wonder through the normal house sow panic and chaos.
In this form of Buddhism, it is customary to visit Buddha with a gift every day. If they can not affort a gift, then they can “pay” with a smile, which will be sufficient. This is one of the reasons why Thailand is known as the "land of the smile".
Another use that finds its origin in Buddhism is the Thai greeting. Unlike Western countries, the Thai do not shake hands when meeting, but they use the "wai". The wai is a greeting in which one hold the palms together and keep at head height, while making a small nod. And they the men say sawadiekap (phonetic), and the women sawadieka (phonetic) pronounced, which means hello or goodday.
The placement of the hands depends on the age and status of the person who greets you. Thus, it is common practice to retain the fingertips on the nose height when greeting peers and the elderly. For example when greeting members of the royal family or monks the handpalms are held to the forehead. Children are not greeted by the elderly with this greeting. It is a Thai joke that if you greet children this way there live will bes hortend by a year per greeting..
The Thai Royal Family
As with the greeting is shown, Thailand is a country where status and age are extremely important. In the superlative this counts for the Thai royal family. The monarchy is the highest authority of the human order in Thailand. So in every home you can find images of the reigning king. Therefore never make jokes about the royal family in Thailand, because this is considered as a big insult. It evens goes as far as when an Thai stands on money (Baht) this is seen as a direct insult to the Thai Royal Family. If you even go further and really insult the Royal Family, f.e. bedaub a portrait of the King, then imprisonment is no exception. Recently the Thai government demanded a jailsentence against an European for defacing an image of the king. This person is ultimately sentenced to imprisonment, but after months this person got a pardon from the king and was set free.
The king does not agree with the way things are going concerning his status, but is sustained by politics. During the birthday speech of the king in 2005, he said the following; "Actually, I must also be criticized., I do not worry if the criticism is about the things I do wrong, because then I know. If you say the king can not be criticized than this means that the king is not human. "he says. "If the king can make no mistakes, it hurts to look at him, because then the king is not treated as a human being. But the king can make mistakes. "
Another not to forget use in Thailand is; the head is sacred and the feet are unclean. This is one of the reasons why you can not stand on money. Then your feet are on the image of the face of the King. Similar, never ever touch the head of a Buddhist, this will also be seen as a direct insult. Also make sure that your feet never point at Buddha when visiting a temple.
Currently, the national color of Thailand is yellow. This is because the reigning king was born on a Monday. In Thailand (and Buddhism) every day has its own color:
• Monday: Yellow
• Tuesday: Pink
• Wednesday: Green
• Thursday: Orange
• Friday: Blue
• Saturday: Purple
• Sunday: Red
On National Holidays everyone is dressed in yellow and all the decorations will carry a yellow overtone.
Important National holidays in Thailand include:
• January: Chinese New Year - 1st day of Chinese Calendar
• April: Thai New Year (Songkran) - April 13 to 15
• August: Birthday Queen - August 12
• November: Loy Krathong - last full moon in November
• December: Birthday King - December 5
Thailand has many groups who originally are not Thai. In this example you can think of Akha, Hmong, Lawa etc. The tribe that is probably best known is the Karen. Especially the substrain Padaung which is known for the long necks with brass rings. This tribe is originally from Myanmar and is mainly found in small villages in the mountains of northern Thailand. Mainly concentrated in the province of Mae Hong Song. You can visti most of these villages by excursions from Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Unfortunately, due to tourism the authenticity of these villages is mostly lost. The main aim of these villages has beccome the selling of souvenirs and preferably as much as possible.
The main sport in Thailand is Muay Thai. This sport is also known as Thai boxing. Thai Boxing is practiced in Thailand for centuries and originates from the time the soldiers were trained in Muay Boran, when was still at war with the help of elephants. Each elephant had 4 soldiers who were protecting the elephant legs. At the moment the soldiers no longer had their weapons they went over to the power of their limbs (fists elbows, knees and legs). It was important to do as much damage as possible with your limbs to the enemy as quick as possible.
The current Thai Boxing comes indirectly from Muay Boran and also has influences from Krabi Krabong. In Thailand, the Thai Boxing is immensely popular and throughout the country weekly (if not daily) Thai Boxing matches are held. Prior to the fight the fighters perform a traditional dance. The battle is won via KO or on points. As with many sports, also during these matches bets are made. However, in Thailand gambling is strictly prohibited, unless regulated by the State Lottery.
An other sport which is emerging in Thailand is football. There are also several English clubs who are sponsored by Thai brands including Chang beer (sponsor of the English Everton). It is expected that it will not be long before Thai players will play in the European competitions.