Culture of Thailand

Thai traditional dance is one of the truly graceful aspects of Thai culture.
Thai traditional dance is one of the truly graceful aspects of Thai culture.

The culture of Thailand is very diverse as it has been influenced by many of its nearby Southeast Asian neighbours including influences that are Burmese, Chinese, Indian, Lao, and Cambodian in nature.

Out of these, many of the Thai traditions were derived from China, India, and Cambodia in particular such as the national religion of Theravada Buddhism. Over time a derivative of the national religion, Thai Buddhism also formed that is a combination of animism, Hinduism, and ancestor worship.

It is interesting to note that the Buddhist religion is a deeply rooted part of Thailand society with even its calendar based on the Buddhist Era. For example, the year AD 2010 as Western cultures recognize it is referred to in Thailand as 2553 BE.

There are many different ethnic groups in Thailand adding to the diversity of the country even though they are marginalized within its borders. These ethnic groups have helped prompt change in the local cultures of the land as well as in the country’s global influence and recognized national Thai traditions.

Social class holds a great deal of importance in Thailand even down to the proper greeting style as the greeting ‘wai’ is determined by social position and status. The greeting is said as a sign of respect and those considered lowered in class or position will customarily offer the greeting first regardless of how the meeting occurs.

Ancient Buddhist temple mural depicting a Thai daily life scene at Wat Phumin in Nan province, Thailand.
Ancient Buddhist temple mural depicting a Thai daily life scene at Wat Phumin in Nan province, Thailand.

The national sport of Thailand is Muay Thai which is roughly translated as Thai boxing. Muay also refers to the country’s martial art that is also taught in some temples. During the 1990’s Muay Thai became a popular martial art style taught around the world. It is unique in the fact that it allows full contact with an opponent such as strikes at the knees and elbows.

Thailand has also been influenced by Western sports and it is not uncommon to see many Thais cheering on their favourite English football team on television and dressed in replica kits, especially Manchester United. Also popular in the country as in many other Asian and Arab countries is the competitive sport of kite flying.

Matching the rest of the culture in Thailand, its cuisine is equally as diverse combining a full array of tastes including sour, sweet, bitter, spicy, and salty. Rice is the staple of most Thai dishes although other common ingredients in the dishes include chillies, garlic, fish sauce, lemon grass, and lime juice.

It is considered taboo in Thailand to point with feet or touch another person’s head, as the head is considered the most sacred portion of the body while the feet are considered the dirtiest. Therefore it is best to refrain from such activities while visiting the country.