Differences between Thailand and the UK

Differences between Thailand and the UK

With Thailand and the UK sitting on opposite sides of the world, it is obvious that there would be significant differences between the two countries. Contrasts in weather, language, population, and religion are some of the more obvious changes one notices. However, there are also numerous smaller and slightly more subtle variations between life in the UK and life in Thailand that become apparent after spending more time in the “Land of Smiles”. Below are five differences I have noticed between the UK and Thailand:

1. Greetings

In the UK, the most common form of greeting is a handshake. This is the appropriate action to take when meeting someone new in both social and business situations. However, in Thailand, a traditional form of greeting known as the “Wai” is the most appropriate action to take. The “Wai” involves pushing both palms together and slightly bowing. While there are many variations of this greeting around Asia, it is certainly a new experience for any Westerner when visiting Thailand!

2. Respect

Respect is also displayed very differently in Thailand when compared to the UK. Respect for age is incredibly important in Thailand, with the title of “Pi” given to anyone who is older and ”Na” to anyone in the same age range as your parents. For example, even in school, children will discover the birth date of their peers so they can address them appropriately. This occurs in social and work life also. However, in the UK, there are no such words for showing respect in regards to age.

3. Taking Off Your Shoes

Surprisingly, one of the biggest culture shocks for many British people when visiting Thailand is the practice of taking off your shoes before entering someone’s home, offices, shops, or temples. Across Thailand, it is considered an important etiquette to remove your shoes before going inside many places. However, in the UK, it is very common to keep your shoes on when going inside any shop, office, church, and the majority of homes!

4. The Royal Family

While both Thailand and the UK have royal families, their roles and perceptions differ greatly. In Thailand, the royal family is revered and greatly respected to the point where it is a criminal offence to criticise them. On the other hand, in the UK, the royal family is far less respected and viewed as a novelty rather than as important figureheads. While media coverage of the Thai royal family is deeply respectful, British newspapers regularly mock their royal family without consequence.

5. Small Sois/Alleys

Move off any main street in Thailand and you are sure to end up in a maze of tiny “Sois” or “Alleys”. While particularly noticeable in Bangkok, these tight alleys appear all over the country and are usually packed with food stalls, shops, pedestrians, and cars. This can be incredibly overwhelming for visitors from the UK who are not used to such mayhem on tiny backstreets. While the UK does have many small streets, they are usually very strictly controlled with no cars or food stalls and ample walking space.