In Thailand, there are a number of different do’s and don’ts. In general, most minor indiscretions will be forgiven, but if you act respectfully towards local traditions and customs you will automatically receive appreciation from Thai people. One of the everyday ways you can show respect is when visiting certain buildings where you will be expected to remove your shoes before entering.
At the Temple
As a tourist in Thailand, the most obvious occasion when you need to take off your shoes is when visiting a Thai wat (temple). In some tourist areas, signs in English may be present asking visitors to remove their shoes before entering the wat. If no signs are in place just take your lead from the Thai people present and watch where they are taking off and leaving their shoes. You don’t need to take off your shoes to walk around the temple grounds, but you do need to take them off before entering the wat itself and any associated buildings.
At a Thai Person’s Home
Shoes should always be removed before entering a Thai person’s home no matter how humble or grand the house or apartment may be. To not remove your shoes would be a sign of disrespect to your host. If your host is familiar with Western culture they may say don’t worry about removing your shoes, but if they have taken them off then so should you.
At some Internet cafes, smaller shops and boutiques you may need to remove your shoes. This will normally be clear by the shoes already outside of the shop. In Thailand, lots of businesses set up in shop-houses or ‘mom and pop’ stores so the building is also a home as well as a commercial building. If you are not sure whether you need to take off your shoes and no other customers are present in the shop, just have a look at what the owner is wearing on their feet. If the answer is nothing, you should remove your shoes before stepping inside.
Don’t Step on the Threshold
If you visit any building with a threshold, it’s considered polite to step over it and not on it. One of the reasons behind this, is that in Thai homes there are various spirits believed to live in and around the home and one such spirit is said to reside in the door threshold. If you step on the threshold you risk antagonizing the spirit which could bring about bad luck for the family who live inside the house.
Photo © Thaizer