Thailand Customs, Beliefs, and Culture

Thai woman painting umbrellas in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Thai woman painting umbrellas in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The Kingdom of Thailand is located in Southeast Asia. It is divided into four regions and 76 provinces. Thailand is the 50th largest country by area and home to over 68 million people. Ancient Thai, Chinese, and Indian traditions influence the present Thai culture. The country's diverse geography, stunning scenery, and friendly people have earned it the title “Land of a Thousand Smiles”.

Thai Customs

Thailand is inhabited by several ethnic groups many of which are marginalized. These ethnic groups are also found in Cambodia, Malaysia, Laos, and Myanmar, and have influenced the traditional, national and global culture of Thailand. Chinese immigrants have significantly influenced the country’s culture especially in major cities such as Bangkok. The greeting is an important part of the social culture of the Thai. When two people meet, the younger initiate the greeting process and the two will join hands with fingertips pointing upwards. Marriage is also an important part of society; once a man and a woman are married, they are expected to perform their roles in the house and society. Although the government has contemplated legalizing same-sex marriage, most people consider it immoral and unacceptable. Weddings are considered religious events that are presided over by monks. The Thai society consists of large extended families that constantly share meals between family members. The country's staple food is rice, which is consumed alongside another dish. Traditionally people in Thailand have meals on the floor mat and eat using the right hand.

Religion in Thailand

Thailand is predominantly Buddhist, 94% of the population practice Buddhism. Five percent of the population practice Islam while Christianity and other religions account for 1%. The Theravada school is the main form of Buddhism practiced in Thailand. It is supported by the Thai government and institutions in the country. Monks and religious leaders received beneficiaries from the government including free healthcare and public transport. Buddhism is influenced by the belief in traditional, ancestral and natural spirits that have been incorporated into the religion’s cosmology. Most people in Thailand build miniature houses outside their main house because they believe that the spirits will occupy them.

Societal Values in Thailand

Social and cultural values in the country are deeply influenced by religion considering that 94% of the population practice Theravada Buddhism. The most important values in the country include self-control, respect, and non-confrontational attitude. Public displays of anger or telling lies are a great shame for the people. All interactions are characterized by the hierarchy of the social status, it is mandatory to respect the elders and those in higher social positions. People with prestigious positions such as doctors, monks, politicians, and important public figures are also revered. The entire Thai society is built around the family. The newlywed couple is expected to set up their own household but it is common for extended families to live together. Although the society is male-dominated, women command a considerable respect traditionally and by law.


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