Thailand contains several Buddhist temples, locally referred to as wats. Over 90% of Thais are Buddhists.
Although it’s not common for foreigners to frequent temples, any tourist interested in seeing the country’s culture would inevitably have to visit some of the temples due to their notable historic or cultural significance.
Although the temples are used to receiving foreigners, you will still be expected to act in a certain way.
So, how should you behave when visiting temples in Thailand? Read on to find out.
Anybody entering a temple is expected to dress conservatively.
Therefore, short clothing that exposes the thighs are a no-no. This applies to both genders, although it obviously mostly applies to women.
Both women and men are also required to wear shirts that do not expose their shoulders. If you are not aware of this during your visit, you might be denied entry until you can find appropriate clothing.
You also cannot enter the temple with your shoes; doing so is considered very disrespectful since the feet are considered the dirtiest body part in Thailand. Hats should also not be worn in the temple.
When in the temple, you should generally show respect and restraint in your behavior starting from the way you talk and interact with other people to the way you carry yourself.
This should not be much of a bother, once you are in the temple, you will get an idea of what is expected of anyone in the temple.
In general, common manners to observe include not eating in the temple, not disturbing worshipers, and not chewing, or spitting.
It should also be pretty obvious that your phone should be off and you should not be wearing earphones when in the temple.
Thai Temple Etiquette with Regard to the Buddha
When in the temple, it is good that you look reverent, especially to the Buddha statues. Also, when moving away from the Buddha, don’t turn you back on this highly regarded religious symbol – back away and then you can walk away.
You should also not touch the Buddha or other sacred objects within the temple. Furthermore, when seated, your feet should not point at the Buddha or other people.
The same goes with pointing using your fingers – don’t do it – even to other people. Finally, you should make sure that you do not rise higher than the Buddha, even if you are looking for a prime photo pose.
Some of the temples are maintained primarily for their historical or cultural significance. Therefore, since they are kept in their original states for guests like yourself, it’s only fair that you also make contributions to help maintain them.
Some temples may charge entry fees. Some temples may not ask for some cash support outright, but are more than willing to accept small donations to support their maintenance.
Most donations are also quite small, and are usually less than a dollar.
Visiting a Buddhist temple, even for purposes other than worship, requires that you behave appropriately.
Some forms of etiquette are basic common sense, for instance, not eating, taking care not to talk too loudly, not making phone calls, or interfering with the worship activities that may be going on in the temple.
Additionally, you should also familiarize yourself with other forms etiquette expected specifically of anybody inside a Buddhist temple, for instance, not turning your back on the Buddha or pointing at other people or the Buddha.