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The Traditional Customs and Folklore in Thailand Featured

The Traditional Customs and Folklore in Thailand

The traditional customs and the folklore of Thai people in the 20th century was a time when modernity changed the face of Thailand and a great number of traditions disappeared or became adapted to modern life.

Still, the strife towards refinement, rooted in ancient Siamese culture, consisting in promoting what is refined and avoiding coarseness is the main emphasis in the daily life of all Thai people and topmost in theirscale of values.

One of the most distinctive Thai customs is the wai. Showing greeting, farewell, or acknowledgement, it comes in several forms reflecting the relative status of those involved. Generally the salutation involves a prayer-like gesture with the hands, and it also may include a slight bow of the head. This salutation is often accompanied by a serene smile symbolizing a welcoming disposition and a pleasant attitude. Thailand is often referred to as the "Land of Smiles" in tourist brochures.

Public display of affection in public is not overly common in traditional Thai society, especially between lovers. However, views are changing to accept this and it is becoming more common, especially among the younger generation.

A notable social norm holds that touching someone on the head may be considered rude. It is also considered rude to place one's feet at a level above someone else's head, especially if that person is of higher social standing. This is because the Thai people consider the foot to be the dirtiest and lowliest part of the body, and the head the most respected and highest part of the body. This also influences how Thais sit when on the ground—their feet always pointing away from others, tucked to the side or behind them. Pointing at or touching something with the feet is also considered rude.

Since serene detachment is valued, conflict and sudden displays of anger are eschewed in Thai culture and, as is many Asian cultures, the notion of face is extremely important. For these reasons, visitors should take care not to create conflict, to display anger or to cause a Thai person to lose face. Disagreements or disputes should be handled with a smile and no attempt should be made to assign blame to another. In everyday life in Thailand, there is a strong emphasis on the concept of sanuk'; the idea that life should be fun.

Because of this, Thai can be quite playful at work and during day-to-day activities. Displaying positive emotions in social interactions is also important in Thai culture. Often, the Thai will deal with disagreements, minor mistakes or misfortunes by using the phrase "mai pen rai", translated as "it doesn't matter". The ubiquitous use of this phrase in Thailand reflects a disposition towards minimizing conflict, disagreements or complaints. A smile and the sentence "mai pen rai" indicate that the incident is not important and therefore there is no conflict or shame involved.

Respect for hierarchy is a very important value for Thai people. The custom of bun khun, emphasizes the indebtedness towards parents, as well as towards guardians, teachers and caretakers. It describes the feelings and practices involved in certain relationships organized around generalized reciprocity, the slow-acting accounting of an exchange calculated according to locally interpreted scales and measures. It is also considered extremely rude to step on a Thai coin, because the king’s head appears on the coin.

There are a number of Thai customs relating to the special status of monks in Thai society. Due to religious discipline, Thai monks are forbidden physical contact with women. Women are therefore expected to make way for passing monks to ensure that accidental contact does not occur. A variety of methods are employed to ensure that no incidental contact (or the appearance of such contact) between women and monks occurs.

Women making offerings to monks place their donation at the feet of the monk, or on a cloth laid on the ground or a table. Powders or unguents intended to carry a blessing are applied to Thai women by monks using the end of a candle or stick. Lay people are expected to sit or stand with their heads at a lower level than that of a monk. Within a temple, monks may sit on a raised platform during ceremonies to make this easier to achieve.

When sitting in a temple, one is expected to point one's feet away from images of the Buddha. Shrines inside Thai residences are arranged so as to ensure that the feet are not pointed towards the religious icons—such as placing the shrine on the same wall as the head of a bed, if a house is too small to remove the shrine from the bedroom entirely. It is also customary to remove one's footwear before entering a home or the sacred areas within a temple and not to step on the threshold.

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