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Some may think it’s just a friendly gesture between friends to hold hands as they stroll the streets. It is probably acceptable behavior for teenagers and younger children, but can “holding hands” be considered appropriate for adults?
It depends on who you ask. While some people might not see anything wrong with it, others might consider it to be “rude behavior.”
In general, the Thais seem to have an amiable and casual attitude towards people.
Even when they meet strangers or acquaintances daily, for example, at the office, they often greet each other with a smile and a cheerful Hello.
Short Answer: It is acceptable for visitors to hold hands. However, it is uncommon among locals. If you are standing in front of a temple, then just hold hands, you two. It’s not that big deal. Just remember to let go before entering the temple or house for praying.
So what is the difference between shaking hands and holding hands?
And why might someone find it offensive to hold hands with your male or female friend but not be offended by handshaking?
When people shake hands, they are demonstrating that neither of them has any concealed weapons. They are also showing their respect towards each other by using their right hand, which is usually reserved for things that are considered to be “clean” and not associated with the “unhygienic” left hand.
It is also a sign of respect in Thailand to clasp the right wrist with the left hand while shaking hands.
Holding hands can represent love or friendship, but it is only done between close friends in most cases. It can be considered a form of “showing off” one’s relationship with their partner in public.
Thai society is very conservative when it comes to issues of sexuality in particular, and in some cases, can be pretty stuffy in their views on lovemaking in general.
However, if you happen to see a Thai couple showing affection towards each other in public, with one holding the other’s hand, they are probably engaged in a heated argument.
The Thais simply hold hands while having a heated discussion about something without referring to any emotions or feelings whatsoever. In addition to anger, it could also indicate frustration or surprise. As long as their hands are locked together, they can let out all their emotions in complete safety.
The same is true when teenagers hold hands. It’s not about romance or love but more about friendship and support.
Is it Rude to Hold hands in Thailand?
Some people think it is rude and indecent behavior for a local to have hands in public with a stranger person of the opposite sex other than the spouse. It shows a solid relationship with outsiders.
Hand-holding is not very common among Thai people toward their lover or sweetheart in public places. Even for newlywed couples, it is unacceptable behavior to hold hands in public.
It is considered an intimate act only done by lovers where they can freely express themselves because hand-holding shows strong feelings toward each other that only belong to the couple.
Thai people think that you are not serious about your relationship if you cannot refrain from showing intimate behaviors in public, so it will lose the meaning of an act of shyness and modesty.
Thais believe that both men and women should be treated with respect, especially in public places, so they avoid any signs of intimacy because it shows a lack of good manners toward the opposite sex.
Is Hugging okay in Thailand?
In Thailand, one’s personal space bubble is respected.
People who have lived together for a long time don’t hug every time they meet, and if you hug someone you just met, that might be considered inappropriate and could even be seen as offensive.
Hugs can also be mistaken for fighting by the older Thais since it doesn’t happen in public very often.
Don’t feel offended if you ask a Thai man or woman to hug you, and they refuse.
They aren’t rejecting your offer, simply declining the opportunity because they are uncomfortable hugging strangers or people they don’t know well.
While a handshake might do the trick when meeting someone for the first time in Thailand, don’t be surprised if a Thai man or woman doesn’t want to shake hands with you.
Like hugging, shaking hands is not a typical show of respect in Thailand, and most women will waive the right hand in front of her chest when someone extends their hand.
Inappropriate Touching between an Adult and Child
Even from a young age, Thai children are taught to keep their distance from people they don’t know well. While it might be expected in some Western countries for parents to kiss or hug their children in public, Thais view this as highly inappropriate.
The same goes for touching another person’s child unless you are closely related to that child or the parent says it’s okay; touching a child can upset the parent.
Thais are physically demonstrative with their peers and family members in public and expect others to respect this.
If you don’t want to be touched or hugged by someone, let them know ahead of time, so they don’t get offended when you pull away from them later on.
Is kissing allowed in Thailand?
According to the majority of Thai Buddhists, it is not allowed. Some will go even further and declare that touching the opposite sex is not allowed, period. Yet, Thailand is one of the most progressive Asian countries when it comes to dating.
Kissing in public can be cause for arrest if done excessively, but this rarely happens.
Other than that, there are no restrictions against Thai couples kissing as long as it doesn’t go too far (think “public indecency”), at least not in theory.
There are other taboos that many Thai people will still openly admit to following, despite them being outdated and having no root in official religion.
Many of these date back to traditions imported from India thousands of years ago but were adapted or discarded later on for various reasons.
Other taboos are rooted in Thailand’s more recent colonial history, controlled by various European and Asian countries.
However, even if these rules are not officially enforced any longer, such as (unwritten) laws against public displays of affection or kissing between women, many Thai people will still avoid them to be on the safe side.
Take this advice with a grain of salt, though. In reality, if you follow a simple rule of not going overboard in public with your kissing and touching, you will probably be okay.
But in the end, it is always better to err on the side of caution or simply ask a Thai person for advice or clarification when in doubt. This way, no one’s feelings get hurt, and you will respect the culture of your hosts at the same time.
What is considered rude in Thailand?
The following is a list of some appropriate behavior, as determined by the majority of Thais:
- Public displays of affection. This includes kissing and touching. These must be avoided at all costs, or you will immediately brand yourself as “that foreigner.”
- Smoking indoors in restaurants or other public areas. This is illegal through most of the country, but enforcement can be lax depending on who you are dealing with.
- Drinking alcoholic beverages in some public places such as parks and sidewalks during certain hours. Officially Thai people are not allowed to drink alcohol outside of bars, yet this is often overlooked.
- Touching people of the opposite sex (especially someone younger than yourself) on the head or shoulder without their permission. This gesture is reserved for parents or teachers.
- Eating in front of others with your mouth open and making slurping noises. If you are hungry, try to eat alone or ask a Thai person for help.
- Pointing your feet at others or even a Buddha statue. Keep your feet tucked in or told away from people as much as possible to avoid causing offense.
- Feeding animals. Thais believe that animals can be reincarnated as humans and therefore deserve the same respect.
- Touching anyone on the head, regardless of age or sex. This is considered very rude.