This winter, I will be traveling to Southeast Asia with a large group of classmates for a three-week vacation. I have never been to Southeast Asia but have fallen in love with the region thanks to TV shows like Survivor and The Amazing Race.
The trip will consist of three segments: Thailand, Philippines, and Singapore. The organizers decided to break the trip into three segments so that the few classmates who have already visited these countries can come for part of the trip.
To prepare for this upcoming cultural exchange, I’ve been pouring through a lot of information online about Southeast Asian culture and customs. More practically, my goal is to avoid being caned by officials for accidentally breaking a law.
Today at the Haas Diwali celebration, I talked to two of my classmates (Bundit and Bryan) about local customs in Thailand. “It’s easy,” they told me.
Here are the tips they gave me:
- Don’t touch people’s heads
- Don’t gesture with your feet or show people the bottom of your feet
- Don’t ever talk about the king
In Thailand, it’s actually against the law to make fun of the king. Just to be safe, they advised me to avoid the subject altogether. You can never tell if a benign comment will be misconstrued by locals.
“…and whatever you do, don’t touch a person’s head with your feet while making fun of the king.”