About Thailand

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About Thailand: Useful information for our visiting students

Facts and Statistics

Location: Southeastern Asia, bordering the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, southeast of Burma, flanked by the Mekong River in the northeast. Laos lies across the Mekong river and Cambodia on Thailand’s eastern border. To the south along the Malay peninsula lies Malaysia.
Capital: Bangkok (Krungthep Mahanakorn)
Climate: tropical; rainy, warm, cloudy southwest monsoon (mid-May to September); dry, cool northeast monsoon (November to February); hot and humid (March and April); the southern isthmus is always warm and humid.
Population: 67 million (CIA World factbook)
Ethnic Make-up: Thai 75%, Chinese 14%, others 11%
Religions: Theravada Buddhism 94.6%, Islam 4.5%, Christianity 0.7%, Hinduism 0.1%, others 0.1%
Government: constitutional monarchy

Languages in Thailand

The Thai language is comprised of 44 consonants, 32 vowels and five tones in Thai pronunciation, along with a script that has Indian origins. The Thai language, belonging to the Tai family, is the main language in Thailand although there are several regional dialects as well. Other languages spoken in Thailand are Chinese, Lao, Malay and Mon-Khmer, while English is becoming more prevalent in government and commerce. English is also being taught as a second language in secondary school and universities, which enables the English-speaking visitor in Thailand to have little trouble conversing.

Thai Society & Culture

Thai value systems regarding dress, social behavior, religion, authority figures, and sexuality are much more conservative than those of the average Westerner. Thai people are courteous and respectful. Their behavior is tightly controlled by etiquette, much of it based on their Buddhist religion.
It is a non-confrontational society, in which public dispute or criticism is to be avoided at all costs. To show anger or impatience or to raise your voice is a sign of weakness and lack of mental control. It is also counterproductive, since the Thai who will smile, embarrassed by your outburst of anger or frustration is far less likely to be helpful than if you had kept better control of your emotions.
Face is very important in Thailand. Candour and emotional honesty – qualities highly prized in some Western societies – are considered embarrassing and counterproductive in the East. Never lose your temper or raise your voice no matter how frustrating or desperate the situation. Only patience, humor, and jai yen (cool heart) bring results in Thailand.

  • Show great respect for the royal family. They are highly respected by the Thais. Stand in respect when the Thai national anthem is played.
  • Take off your shoes before entering a home, wat or building which contains a Buddha image.
  • Never touch the head of a Thai or pass an object over it; the head is considered sacred in Thailand.
  • Do not speak in a loud voice. Do not show your temper. Never criticize anyone publicly.

Buddhism in Thailand

Thailand is a stronghold of Buddhism.
Buddhists believe that life does not begin with birth and end with death, but rather that every person has several lives based upon the lessons of life not yet learned and acts committed (karma) in previous lives. Buddhists believe that selfishness and craving result in suffering and that compassion and love bring happiness and well-being.
The true path to peace is to eliminate all desire, a condition which Buddhists define as ‘nirvana’, an indescribable state free of desire, suffering, or further rebirth, in which a person simply is, and is completely at one with his surroundings.

Hierarchical Society

Thais respect hierarchical relationships. Children are taught to honour their parents. Social relationships are defined as one person being superior to the other. Parents are superior to their children, teachers to their students, and bosses to their subordinates.
When Thais meet a stranger, they will immediately try to place you within a hierarchy so they know how you should be treated. This is often done by asking what might be seen as very personal questions in other cultures. Status can be determined by clothing and general appearance, age, job, education, family name, and social connections.

Thai Demeanour

Thais place great emphasis and value on outward forms of courtesy such as politeness, respect, genial demeanour and self-control in order to maintain harmonious relations. Many of their rules of etiquette are by-products of the Buddhist religion.
It is a non-confrontational society, in which public dispute or criticism is to be avoided at all costs. To be openly angry with someone might attract the wrath of the spirits, which in turn could cause violence and tragedy. Openly criticizing a person is a form of violence as it hurts the person and is viewed as a conscious attempt to offend the person being rebuked. Loss of face is a disgrace to a Thai so they try to avoid confrontations and look for compromises in difficult situations. If two parties disagree, one will need to have an outlet to retreat without losing face.