Touching Thai Women
Touching Thai Women
Most people who travel to Thailand (and that is men) only visit the large cities and tourist islands,
and only meet girls in bars. There is nothing wrong with that, but it does lead them to think that the whole of
Thai society is as open as those girls.
There could be nothing further from the truth. Most Western men would not try to touch or even shake hands with
a Moslem woman in a burka and they should treat Thai females in a similar way, if they are not working in a
bar. Touching Thai women is a very risky business outside the relaxed atmosphere of a city bar.
Thais are not like Moslems, Buddhism is not like Islam, but they do resemble Moslems in that women are
considered unassailable, that is to say, should not be touched in public by anyone but her family and her husband
and treated with the utmost respect.
That is not really to say that Thai women do not like attention as much as any other women, but they are not
used to it. It is 'not allowed' back home. It is not normal etiquette. What a tourist sees in Pattaya or such
cities, is as far from the truth of typical society as you could get, since in a village, status is
In my experience, Thai women, and men, are far more open and friendly than the women of many nations, but they
are not worldly-wise. How could they be? They have never been anywhere, and nor have their family. They know very
little about foreign cultures.
I hate to use the word 'normal' but it is true, a normal Thai female does not like being touched or stared
at by a stranger. They are not necessarily shy, nor even prudish, but people here just do not touch each
other in public. Or at least, males can touch other males and they can touch their wives, but no-one else. The
same goes for women.
An example: I became friendly with the builder of our house, so I knew that he had a daughter (of
marriageable age). I saw him six months after he had finished our house and asked after his family, including his
daughter, whom I had never met.
When we got home, my wife asked me why I had done that. Politeness, I replied. She said that he had asked her if
I wanted an introduction - and I had never even seen her, let alone touched her!
Another example: a man and wife, best friends of my wife, did not know how to interpret my shaking hands with
his wife. She wanted to shake hands, because she had seen the greeting in films and it seemed modern, but her
husband did not go to the cinema and didn't like it.
Thais do not shake hands, they 'waai' (give the sacred namaste), ie put their hands together like children in
prayer. Furthermore, they rarely look one another in the eyes, when talking, because they consider it intrusive,
Thais are lovely, gentle and hospitable people, but what the tourist has to realise is that the locals he meets
making money in the tourist or hospitality industries are far, far removed from 99% of Thais, especially rural
A basic rule in Thailand, if you want to stay out of trouble, is not to touch any woman you are not related
to. Others are not to hold hands or kiss in public.
by +Owen Jones