Saturday, January 8, 2011

Learning Thai Manners 4

This is the final part of the Thai Manner demonstration at Sriwittayapaknam School. In the previous blogs, I told how this family went to visit their grandmother. After prostrating on the floor, the grandmother then invites the two adults to sit on the chairs next to her. Notice that the two children are sitting on the floor. This is quite a common setup in Thailand. You must always remember the level of your head. As a teacher, it is not advisable for us to sit on the floor in the classroom. You can, if you like of course, but it would make it awkward for the children to walk past you. Even other teachers would try and stoop down as low as they can to walk past you. They are doing this to show respect to your status or age

In this second photo, the daughter gives her grandmother a basket of fruit. As her grandmother is seated, she cannot just walk to her. She must go on her knees. Then she presents the basket with both hands. Later, her cousin brings some drinks for everyone. As she is younger than the adults, she too walks on her knees. She first serves the adults, starting with the grandmother. The adults smile and nod in acknowledgement. However, as the daughter is younger than her cousin, she first gives a “wai” before taking the drink.

Now it is time for them to go home. This time they do the “seated wai”. Much like the others I described before. Hands are brought up to chest level and the head bows down towards them. Notice the grandmother is just doing the “receiving wai”. This is the proper way for her to show respect back to the younger people. However, I have sometimes seen a few people who are so full of their self-importance that they only acknowledged an adult’s wai with a nod. In my books this is bad manners. If an adult wais you, then you must wai them back. The only people who don’t wai you back is the king and monks. And the monks won’t wai the king back. That is how important religion is in Thailand.

The family now leave. The grandmother is still seated so notice how they need to dip their head as they walk away. As an adult, you don’t need to lower your head literally lower than the senior person in the room. You just need to make that effort. Tall foreigners will be glad to hear that. One final thing I forgot to point out earlier. Many of you probably know this anyway. When you enter homes in Thailand you must first take off your shoes!

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