Accepted to serve in Thailand this summer? Read our list of tips and tricks to help you survive your time there!
Thailand Tips and Tricks
So you’re heading to Thailand! It is often called the “land of smiles” because of the country’s friendly people. Nevertheless, there are a few things to remember while you are in Thailand that will help you assimilate into the Thai culture.
When greeting a Thai
❖ Greet people with the traditional “wai” (w-A-e). For a proper “wai” bring your open palms together at chest height, then bow slightly.→
❖ Don’t wai a child. You would only embarrass the person if you do. Simply nod and smile even if you feel snobby not returning the greeting.
❖ Feel free to be open; don’t perceive it as intrusive if a Thai asks you questions about your age, marital status or income.
❖ Don’t touch someone’s head, not even the cutest child’s. You may mean well and see it as a form of caressing, but the head is considered to be the most superior and sacred part of the human body to Thais. They believe that the soul resides in the head. Only family members or monks are allowed to touch anyone’s head.
❖ Smile! Smile as much as you can. A smiling face is a sign of respect toward surrounding people. It will get you what you want faster than any demonstration of anger.
❖ Dress modestly and keep your attire clean. It is considered a form of respect to society to wear a nice outfit.
When visiting a temple
❖ Don’t touch a Buddha image, climb on top of it or sit next to it, even for a picture. It’s very disrespectful.
❖ Cover your shoulders and knees. This applies to men and women.
❖ Remove your shoes and hat upon entering a temple.
❖ Do not take pictures when you enter the temple, even if there is no sign asking you not to.
When in a restaurant
❖ Don’t call a waiter by waving your index finger.
❖ Don’t use your left hand, if your friends eat with their hands and you want to join in. It is considered an equivalent to toilet paper and thus dirty.
Other important things to remember
❖ Do not throw things before someone else, this is considered extremely rude.
❖ Thais find it hard to decline a request. For this reason Thais will “lie” if they don’t know an answer to a request.
i.e.If asked directions to a place and they do not know, they will give you false directions to avoid appearing ignorant.
Remember these cultural do’s and dont’s but watch to see what other natives do and how they act in these situations. They will be your greatest teachers.
→ You will need at least one set of clothing, including shoes, which you won’t mind getting dirty and/or wet.
→ You can use your suitcase to lock away valuables, if you feel this is necessary.
→ Bedding, a pillow and a bath towel are provided
→ Electricity—Thailand’s voltage is 220 volts compared to States with its 110 voltage. Please read the following article, http://www.220-electronics.com/blog/voltage-converters-for-thailand/
You will need to bring a converter, if traveling with a friend you can split this cost. Converters are hard to find in Chiang Mai and are expensive.
Don’t go out and purchase clothes specifically for this. You’ll want to be dressed comfortably when working in the orphanages.
Culturally Thai men and women are more conservative in their dress and refrain from wearing shorts or tank tops. Many Thai people are Buddhist and visit Buddhist temples on a regular basis and are more modest as they are in their places of worship.
As OSSO volunteers you will be asked to comply with the a same dress pattern.
Clothing (suggested list, more than adequate—you can get by on much less)
- 3-4 pairs of light weight pants or capris for women. You can also bring knee length skirts
- 3-4 pairs of Nylon slacks or Nylon- Convertible type hiking pants for men
- 8–10 short sleeve shirts/tops
- 1-2 pairs comfortable shoes (no tank tops)
- 2-3 Sunday outfits
- 1 pair comfortable dress shoes
- 1 pair of flip-flops/sandals
- light-weight jacket (waterproof and hooded works best)
- 10-15 day supply of underclothes and socks
- pajamas/lounge wear
- backpack/duffle bag for use on field trips and activities
- camera and applicable accessories (cables, high capacity memory cards/USB drives
- sunglasses, baseball cap for the field trips
- To see a more detailed packing list, please see: Thailand complete packing list
Due to the increased restrictions for checked luggage and carry-on restrictions of liquids, we highly recommend that you bring only travel-size toiletries to get you by for about a week, and then you can go to the supermarket there and buy the toiletries you’ll need during your time. Generally, if buying U.S. brands, the cost will be comparable to U.S. prices, but if you buy local brands, the price will generally be lower.
However, the costs of hair care products and makeup can be expensive. You may consider bringing your own of these items, but you can also find them in Thailand.
Things you should bring from home:
Makeup (you’ll likely use very little because it is so humid)
Hand sanitizer (one regular size bottle and a small pocket-sized one),
Contact stuff (this is actually not very common there, so you should bring the amount you need)
Suggestions: Pepto-Bismol, Tylenol/Advil, cold medicine, allergy medicine, medicine for motion sickness, anti-itching cream, Robitussin/Dayquil, etc.
Bring the needed amount of any prescription medicines you as well as any medicines you take on a regular basis.
· backpack/duffle bag for use on field trips and activities
· Ziploc bags for travel as well as for storing things
· camera and applicable accessories you may want to bring a waterproof disposable camera for some of the field trips
· supplies for scrapbooking, art projects and preschool activities are constantly used and needed—colored paper, construction paper, folders with pockets, stickers, glitter, rewards/prizes/treats for the kids, markers, colored pencils, glue bottles, glue sticks, etc. are some suggestions
· American candy—especially chocolate or other favorite food
Optional (completely up to you whether you want to bring any of this, just some things previous volunteers have liked having)
· Sunglasses, baseball cap for the field trips
· Pictures of your family, home, friends
· A money pouch if you’d feel more comfortable using this to carry your money, ATM card and passport in while traveling
· Thai reference material, e.g. Thai-English dictionary
· “Favorite” foods