Thai Culture - Head High, Feet Low Rss feed Twitter button Facebook button

Thai culture has played an important part in Thai life until today, although the younger generations have adopted a lot of Western ways, and may not be that familiar with traditional values and social codes.

Head high, feet low is a unique way of looking at the body where Thais give great importance to the head, since it's the highest part. Thais associate it with something untouchable and sacred.

On the contrary, the feet, which is the lowest part of the body, is considered dirty and low. Even socks and footwear are included in this category.

These beliefs are reflected in certain social codes that are still practiced in modern Thai society. Here are a number of examples.

Wearing Amulet Necklaces

Most Thai Buddhists wear amulets as pendants on their necklaces. They are believed to have supernatural powers that protect the wearer from danger. The amulets are worn and kept in high places and treated with respect. When you wear an amulet around the neck, no one is allowed to play around with your head.

Even when someone doesn't wear an amulet around the neck, you don't play with the person's head. Doing so would be considered disrespectful. There are some exceptions though.

It's acceptable for parents, elder relatives and teachers to gently touch or pat a child's head, as they do it in an endearing way. Similarly, siblings, really close friends and comedians are also included.

Pointing With The Hands

Thais only use their hands to point and to move things. Pointing or moving anything with the feet is considered impolite and unacceptable.

How Thais Hang Laundry

When drying laundry in Thailand, shirts are hung higher up and underwear lower down.
Thais, usually have a few levels of laundry lines for different types of clothes. They use the highest line to hang any items that are used above the waist, such as shirts, blouses and pillow cases. A lower line is used for pants, skirts, sarongs, lingeries and socks.

Nowadays most Thais use laundry racks, yet many of them still follow this practice.

Conservative Thais will also make sure that they hang their lingeries and underwear in a place that's not easily seen by others.

Not Walking Under Laundry Lines

Many Thais won't walk under laundry lines, because they believe it's bad luck. At the same time, they think the amulets they wear would lose their supernatural powers.

For the same reason, some conservative males won't wash their partner's sarong and underwear.

Not Throwing Socks On The Head

Even between a couple, joking around by throwing clothes that Thais consider low and dirty, such as socks and underwear, on your partner's head is not tolerated and disrespectful.

Lowering The Body When Walking Past Elderly

When walking past someone who's older or of high respect such as monks, members of the royal family and teachers, Thais lower their head and body as a sign of respect.

Not Standing Next To Sitting Elders

Likewise, Thais don't stand next to older people that are sitting. Instead, they sit down at a lower level to show respect.

Not Pointing The Feet Towards Others

Avoid pointing your feet towards others and objects that are of high respect, such as Buddha images, since that is considered rude.

Removing The Shoes

Thais remove their shoes before entering houses and temples. That is because shoes are considered dirty.

At most doctors clinics, you are asked to remove your footwear. If that makes you uncomfortable, you can wear socks.

Although some of you may not be able to relate to the above practices, knowing about them makes it easier when you visit countries where there is a strong culture. Being familiar with the local ways, will save you a lot frustration and make your stay more enjoyable.

Suggested Reading:   Culture & Relationships   Thai Body Language

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