Thailand is one of the most picturesque countries in the world. Covering an area about the same as that of France; its beauty and serenity will take your breath away. When we think about Thailand, white sand beaches, rugged mountains and tropical forests flash in front of our eyes.
Learning about a country’s culture and people is always interesting, especially when it is a country like Thailand that showcases a wonderful mix of ethnicities. Moreover, learning about the culture will give a better perspective in planning a trip to this country.
Quick History Lesson
Thai is the name of an ethnic group who lived in China, but migrated to Southeast Asia over a period of many centuries. In 1939, the country’s name was changed from Siam to Thailand. Prior to 1932, it was an absolute monarchy, but then later constitutional monarchy was introduced. After World War II, the military government worked towards the development of ethnic minorities and bringing economic growth to the region.
Religion and Beliefs
Thai culture is strongly influenced by its connecting countries. The people of Thailand primarily follow Buddhism, with mix of animism and Indian culture. In fact, more than 90 percent of the population practices Buddhism, while the remaining 10 percent of population follows Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Brahmanism. Temples and shrines in Thailand are symbols of utmost divinity.
People here strongly believe in Buddhism, Cosmology and the Karmic Cycle. They follow a value system which encourages them to treat everyone with equality and be caring towards others. According to tradition, ancestral and natural spirits play a vital role when it comes to their prayers and beliefs. Many people will even install spirit houses with miniature furniture to please house spirits. Offering drink and food to the spirits is also very common in Thailand and is considered very important to avoid misfortune.
People and Values
A population of blended ethnicities make a diversely rich country with a strong cultural identity. The perpetual smile on their faces gives you a welcoming feel. They are known for adopting self-control, diligence and a joy for life.
There is a very interesting concept of ‘sanuk’, which refers to a sense of humor and playful puns made at the right time. With non-confrontational attitudes, people in Thailand take their image in society very seriously. It is considered inappropriate to lose their temper in public. In fact, many years ago, males were expected to be Buddhist monks before they turn 20.
Family is the center of their lives. It is very common in Thailand for people to live with an extended family. Younger generations are expected to respect the elders and maintain strong ties among family members. In this male dominated world, Thailand is famous for giving respect to women.
Between the 1980s and 1990s, Thailand saw a great depression when it came to preserving cultural and traditional identity. In more recent years the government and people have really worked hard towards regaining its individuality.
Art and Culture
Thailand is famous for its architecture and visual arts. People’s sense of beliefs can be seen in the architectural legacy of temples and shrines.
A very common expression of art is depicted in the form of Thai Dance. Music of Thailand is more geared toward the folk genre, but during the past few years, pop music has also become popular among the population.
When you are in Thailand, you cannot miss the hundreds of posters that advertise Thai boxing. The sport is amazing popular throughout the country. You will even come across some restaurants that have a ring and show live Thai boxing matches.
Customs and Celebrations
Thailand celebrates Buddhism and festivals with great enthusiasm. Visitors should try to experience these elaborate celebrations whenever possible.
On April 13, Thailand celebrates Songkran by having a fun-filled water fight. Songkran is considered to be Thai New Year and the festival typically lasts 2-3 days. Water symbolizes the clean start of a new year.
Loy Kratong is a calmer affair, but worth the experience. Celebrated during the full moon of November, this is known as the festival of lights. People gather around bodies of water to pay respect to the Almighty by releasing beautiful lotus shaped rafts decorated with candles and flowers. This event is a delightful experience.
Another traditional festival that occurs each summer is Phi Ta Khon. This gathering reflects their strong belief in spirits. Phi Ta Khon is sometimes called the Ghost Festival. Dance contests and parades are arranged for celebration.
Thai cuisine is gaining popularity throughout the world. Delicious meals are the highlight of many people’s vacation. Thai fare is a perfect harmony of taste, texture and uniqueness. Spicy dishes are a delight to the taste buds. You may be surprised to find out their food is so finely cut they don’t even use knives. Thailand table etiquette says the spoon should be in the right hand and fork in the left. Make sure that you give tradition Thai dishes a try, you won’t regret it.
Government and Rules
The Royal family is highly regarded by the people of Thailand. In celebration of The King and Queen’s birthdays, people wear yellow shirts to show their love and respect. Thai people consider it a major offense to disrespect their king. Jail time is possible for anyone who speaks against the Royal Family.
We found some very interesting facts about Thailand:
- Bangkok’s real name is amazing long: Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit.
- The famous movie ’King and I’ wasn’t released in Thailand, as it was considered to be offensive to the King.
- Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia which was not colonized by Europeans.
- You need must dress modestly when you are visiting temples. No shorts and sleeveless shirts.
- Thailand has its own condom museum in Bangkok to promote safe sex.
- The city of Kachumbari has a legendary bridge that crosses the Kawai river, it is rumored 80,000 to 100,000 people died during the course of its construction.