Thai Temple Terms and Etiquitte

Generally Thais are very forgiving by nature, and will rarely show it. if you do anything to offend them. Thai temples are places of worship. When visiting temples, you should abide by the acepted eiquette for visitors. However, its best to avoid giving offence in the first place by observing some very simple rules regarding the proper behaviour for temples and other religious places.

Dress properly

Bare shoulders and shorts should be avoided. This rule is somewhat flexible depending on the "Class" of the temple
and whether you're a man or a women. Outside of the big cities you will often see men attending a temple in shorts
and tank tops. While marginally acceptable for a man, it is totally unacceptable for a woman. Skirts or Trousers should at least cover the knee. In high ranking temples such as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok, as well as those royal palaces open to the public, you will not be allowed to enter unless you are properly dressed. In most such cases, there will be unisex sarongs available to make you more acceptable.

Be careful where you point your fingers
Pointing, in general, is rather impolite. Pointing with your foot is rude. Following an old tradition from Hindu times, the head is sacred because it is closest to heaven, so likewise the feet are therefore the most unclean. When sitting or kneeling in a temple building, make sure the soles of your feet are not facing the alter.

Take off your shoes
If your feet are considered unclean, then your shoes are definitely dirty. You must remove your shoes before entering a temple building, and before entering someone's house in Thailand. Failing to do this one little thing is perhaps the most insulting thing you could do to a Thai person.

Do not temp the Monks
Being a monk means detaching oneself from all worldly occupations, even (or perhaps especially) sex. Therefore, its considered rude for a woman to even attempt to touch or hand something to a monk. If a woman must give something to a monk, the typical solution is to place the item on a table where the monk can pick it up. In merit-making situations such as morning offerings a monk will often have a lay helper to take things offered by female merit makers. This "service" is a form of merit making for the layman.

Stay off the Buddha

Buddha images, no matter how small or old and decrepit, are sacred religious objects and must be treated with the utmost respect. Do not climb on them, sit next to them for a picture or put them on the floor - or anyplace "inferior or lower" than a person.


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