In general, Thai people tend to be very superstitious and with today being Friday the 13th it’s as good a time as any to explore a few of these superstitions and beliefs. Some of the superstitions are old wives’ tales similar to those in many other countries whilst others have their roots in animist beliefs. A lot of the superstitions and beliefs are related to spirits or ghosts.
One of the most obvious examples that visitors to Thailand will come across is the use of Thai nicknames. When a Thai child is born, he or she will be given an official name. This is normally Sanskrit in origin, will consist of two or more syllables and will invariably mean something positive such as long life or happiness. This name will then be used on all legal and official documents. However, the majority of Thais will also be given a nickname. The reason behind this is to confuse the bad spirits and stop them from being attracted to the baby. The nicknames are often short one syllable names such as Lek (small), Fon (rain), Fah (sky). The names aren’t always flattering such as Gob (frog), Gai (chicken) or Ouan (fat). These nicknames given at birth are then carried through the rest of that person’s life. So, Lek (small) can turn out to be big and Ouan (fat) can end up as a pencil-slim catwalk model. It’s also believed that spirits are attracted to the beautiful and some Thai people, particularly the older generation, may ‘compliment’ a new-born baby by referring to it as nakliat (ugly) or ouan (fat).
Superstitions for Thai Drivers
In major towns and cities, especially Bangkok, it’s easy to spot the vendors selling jasmine garlands on traffic intersections. They usually walk up and down the lines of traffic trying to sell their 20 Baht garlands. Drivers hang these from their mirror as an offering to the spirit guardian who is believed to protect the vehicle and its inhabitants. The garlands can be seen in many taxi cabs and ordinary buses. It is also common for drivers to wai as they go past certain shrines as they drive along. This can be disconcerting if you are the passenger in a cab or bus when the driver suddenly takes both hands off the wheel to offer a wai to the shrine he is whizzing past!
Buying a new car in Thailand can be a complicated affair for those Thais who are superstitious. Attention must be given to ensure the date of purchase is auspicious, the colour is lucky and the number plate should also contain some auspicious numbers (3 and 9 are good). Once purchased, a monk may preside over a ceremony to bless the car.
More Thai Beliefs
It’s bad luck to get your hair cut on a Wednesday. Some barber shops actually close on Wednesdays for this reason.
Don’t smell the flowers you are offering to a monk or for Buddha. If you do, something bad will happen to your nose.
Don’t stomp your feet in the house because it will scare the house spirits away and the house will be left without protection.
Don’t eat while lying down because you will come back as a snake in the next life.