Thailand is justly celebrated for its tolerance and hospitality. Visitors and residents will have no difficulty in adjusting and having respect for local customs. As in any unfamiliar society, it's helpful to be aware of certain do's and don'ts, avoiding accidental offence. Most are common sense (not that it's common anymore), good manners and a little respect.
The Thai Royal Family
Thai people have a deep, traditional reverence for The Monarchy. One should be careful not to show disrespect towards King Bhumibol Adulyadej, known as King Rama IX, his Queen Sirikit and The Royal family. King Rama, recently celebrated his sixtieth year on the throne, longer than any living monarch.
Irrespective of your belief, or lack of it, dress neatly around religious shrines. Ladies; Never go topless, in shorts, hot pants or clothes considered unacceptable. For the men; No sleeveless tank tops and preferably long sleeves, elbow length is fine. Wearing shoes when walking around the grounds of a Buddhist temple is acceptable, but not inside the chapel where the principal Buddha image is revered.
Buddha idols, images and shrines, large or small, ruined or not, are highly regarded as sacred. Never climb onto a Buddhist shrine to take photographs or be photographed. It is considered a serious lack of respect.
Buddhist monks are forbidden to touch, be touched or to accept anything from the hand of a woman. If a woman wishes to present something to a monk, she first hands it to a man, who presents it on her behalf.
Greetings & Gestures
Thais don't normally shake hands when they greet one another, but instead press their palms together in a prayer-like gesture called a Wai. Generally a younger person Wais an elder, who returns it.
Thais regard the head as the highest part of the body, literally and figuratively. So do not ruffle a Thais hair or touch the head.
Avoid using your feet to point towards people or an object. It is considered very bad manners as is showing the soles of your feet. Always remove your shoes when entering a Thai home.
Public displays of affection (smooching and over the top cuddling) between men and women is frowned upon and discouraged.
Losing your temper, especially in public, will get you nowhere. Thais think such displays denote lack of dignity, self respect and poor manners. You are more likely to obtain what you want by staying cool and in control.
Do not beckon to a waiter or waitress with the fingers of your hand pointing upward. This is considered to be very impolite, (similar to the impression putting your middle finger up to somebody at home gives). Wave your hand with your fingers pointing downward.
When having dinner with Thai friends in a restaurant, leave something on your plate otherwise they will keep ordering more, until they can clearly see that you have had enough!
Barter with Respect
Thais love to barter, but always be respectful to the elderly, in every situation. If you are bargaining at the market, or with a tuk-tuk driver who is senior to you, do it politely, with a smile. (Apart from being considered pleasant, your resulting bonus will be reflected in the price!)
The stories abound of a foreign visitor arguing with an old lady in Lamdin market (Koh Samui) over whether paying Ysip Baht (20 Baht) for fifteen bananas is too much. Back home they cost twenty times that amount. So be fair. It's still great value and relatively cheap but the local people need to make a living also.
Most importantly, enjoy yourself. If you receive a price while bartering and you consider it good perceived value then go for it.
One of the finest ways of meeting life and people, wherever you are in the World is to treat people as you would like to be treated yourself. It requires no religious or political persuasion and a smile of appreciation costs nothing. Enjoy yourselves. Thais make allowances and are fairly forgiving of our Western traits but don't overstep the mark. Sawatdi Krap. (Men) Sawatdi Kah (Ladies). Welcome