(photo of the Grand Palace, Bangkok, Thailand)
One of the reasons that I travel is to experience new cultures and customs. I enjoy having my way of thinking changed or challenged, and having new experiences that increase my understanding of the various ways in which people live.
Before your next trip, I strongly recommend that you read and learn about the local customs of the country you are about to visit – it will make your experience more enjoyable, allowing you to better connect with local people, and better earn the respect of those you meet along the way.
A brief story……….I've visited Thailand on numerous occasions now, and despi.jpgte having studied the customs, and even knowing how to speak a few pleasantries in Thai, I still make the occasional error in judgement when it comes to Thailands numerous local customs.
During my last trip I was visiting the Grand Palace in Bangkok. At the entrance, visitors are politely asked that they wear socks while inside the temple, and staff will provide you with a pair to borrow, if you are without. (In Thailand, the feet are considered the lowest part of the body, both physically and spi.jpgritually)
As I was at the service desk borrowing a pair of socks, I removed my sandals, and without thinking, went to place them on the desk as I borrowed the socks. As my shoes were centimetres from touching the table, the entire staff of 10 let out a collective yelp of worry – and fortunately, my reaction time was quick enough that my shoes never touched the table. I was aware that you should never point your feet at someone in Thailand, or place your feet on a person, chair or table, but I had temporarily forgotten that this applies to footwear as well.
Thailand has many other local customs – it's rude to hand things to anyone with your left hand, a bow with hands palmed together is the polite way to greet someone, and it's considered very rude to disrespect an elder, or to touch someone's head. There are actually many more local customs in Thailand, that every visitor should be aware of before visiting.
Before you travel to any new country, take a moment to study and learn about the local customs. While most people are tolerant of foreigners, by learning the local customs, you are also respecting the local people and their culture, which can go a long way.