Thailand Upclose: 23 Fascinating Facts About Thai Culture

A view of Bangkok, Thailand
Fascinating facts about Thai culture include their unique food, the Golden Buddha, and their amazing festivals.

Maybe you’ve just savored a mouth-watering Pad Thai or got mesmerized by a stunning photo from the pristine beaches of Phuket. Or better yet, it might be a beautiful Thai woman that has enchanted you.

Whatever the reason may be, you’ve caught yourself falling in love with everything Thai and want to know more about this magnificent country.

If you’re thinking elephants, beach, and Buddha, you’re not on the wrong track. But there’s so much more to this rich tropical paradise than what is popularly known.

We’ve jotted down the top things you need to know whether you’re planning for a Thai adventure or simply looking to nurture your Thai fascination.

Take a glimpse of this beautiful Southeast Asian country with this list of 23 fascinating facts about Thai culture.

Basic Fun Facts About Thai Culture

1. What’s in a Name?

For many centuries, Thailand was known by another name. It was called “Siam,” which often rings a bell when talking about cats and twins.

Siamese cats are a particular feline breed while Siamese twins refer to conjoined twins, tagged as such because of the famous case of Thai brothers who were once conjoined.

In 1939, the country changed its name to Thailand. It switched briefly back to Siam between 1946 and 1948 before finally settling back to its current name.

Interestingly, the meaning of “Thai” is both the people of the country and “free.” It’s surely a good choice since the country has always been independent of colonizers. This is one of the cool facts about Thailand that every Thai is proud of.

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2. Bangkok Has The Longest City Name Ever

Speaking of names, the country’s capital has its own “long story.” Known internationally as “Bangkok,” it actually has a very long complete name: Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom.

This mouthful holds the Guinness World Record for the longest city name. No wonder it’s a fact about Thailand that foreigners don’t know at all.

Locals call the city by the first two words, “Krung Thep” but for tourists, the shorter and more simple “Bangkok” does the trick.

3. Language

Central Thai is the official language in Thailand. It’s a tonal language with five different tones, which makes it more complicated than the Latin-based languages you might be more familiar with.

With tones, a single syllable takes a distinct meaning according to the inflection with which you pronounce it. That means even if the syllables are similar, the meanings can be worlds apart with just a change in tone. So good luck!

The upside is that it’s an alphabetic language like English but with more letters. There are a total of 72 letters in Thai with 44 consonants and 28 vowels. Its unique language is one of the most challenging yet interesting facts about Thailand culture.

A cool scenery in Thailand
One of the cool facts about Thailand is its abundance of natural beauty.

4. A Geographic Beauty

Thailand is blest with 1,430 islands filled with numerous white sand beaches and greatly diverse marine life. It has fertile rice fields, hilly forests, and 3,148 km of coastline.

The country also boasts a rich terrain of protected flora and fauna with 156 national parks, 58 wildlife sanctuaries, and 120 forest parks, comprising 31% of the nation’s territory.

With beautiful natural resources all around, you will surely have countless places to see when you visit Thailand.


5. Never Colonized by Europeans

One of the facts about Thai culture and history that its people are most proud of is being the only nation in Southeast Asia that wasn’t colonized by Europeans or any other country.

Great Britain, France, Spain, the Netherlands, and the United States were some of the Western colonizers of their neighbors in the region but they’ve never touched the Kingdom of Thailand. It’s highly fitting then that the country is named Prathet Thai, which means “Land of the Free.”

6. Absolute Respect for the Monarchy

The Royal Family, which has been present in the country for many centuries, is highly esteemed in Thai culture. It’s even illegal to insult their names and images, which will earn you a hefty punishment.

Thai monarchy dates back to 1238 with the establishment of the Sukhothai Kingdom. It was transformed into a constitutional monarchy in 1932 after the bloodless Siamese Revolution.

National flag of Thailand
The utmost respect for the monarchy and the national flag is a fact about Thailand’s culture that every tourist must know.

7. National Anthem and Flag

Thais show their patriotism on a daily basis with the singing of the national anthem twice a day. This usually takes place at the raising and lowering of the national flag at 8 AM and 6 PM respectively.

Everyone, including foreigners, is expected to show their respects by standing up and being attentive to the ceremony.

The national anthem is also played before the start of movies in every cinema, a fact about Thailand that tourists need to take note of lest they find themselves showing disrespect on a movie night out.

Family Values in Thailand

8. Brothers and Sisters or Not?

You might think a Thai has loads of brothers and sisters but some of them might just be their cousins. There’s no word for cousin in Thai and they refer to them by the word which means the same as siblings. Add to that, people are often close-knit with their extended families.

Because of the high importance given to family values in Thailand, family is central in any person’s decision-making even when they reach adulthood.

9. Thai Nicknames

Aside from having full names, all Thais are generally given a nickname at birth as well. Nicknames are sometimes chosen because of their meaning or sound but they can also be anything from fruits to animals to things. Some are so random while others are downright funny.

The most popular ones for females are Fern, Prae (silk), Ice, Fa (Sky), and Nan, while Ball, Gold, Gun, and Art are common for males.

10. Thai Courtship

Thai courtship is traditionally conservative. Historically, it is said that a boy must make a good impression on a girl’s parents first if he’s interested in marrying her. His parents then relay his wishes to the girl’s parents on his behalf to ask for their approval. Once he is accepted, he gives a dowry to her parents as compensation for raising her.

At present, however, this is no longer the practice. Thai men and women are freer in the courtship dynamics but still have some conservative ways. For instance, it is common to have a chaperone tag along with your date since being seen with a man while unmarried affects a woman’s reputation.

A man and a woman in a thai courtship
Though times have changed, Thai courtship can sometimes still have a conservative character.


11. Highly Spiritual

A basic yet fascinating fact about Thailand’s culture is its deep spirituality. The country has no official religion but 95% of the population are Buddhists.

There are a whopping 40,000 Buddhist temples around the country and the Thai King is expected to be Buddhist, himself, as “guardian of the faith.”

However, Buddhism in Thailand is different from other countries because of the Hindu and Chinese influences integrated into their beliefs and practices.

12. Monks

As predominantly Buddhist, monks are highly revered in the country. They are treated with utmost respect inside and outside the temples. They even have their designated seats in public transportation.

In particular, women must be careful not to have physical contact with them. When giving something to a monk, Thai etiquette requires women to put it on a plate rather than directly on a monk’s hand.

13. Home of the Golden Buddha

Images of Buddha are scattered all over Thailand, but the definite must-see is the biggest golden statue of Buddha in Bangkok, weighing over 5.5 tons!

The Golden Buddha, also known as Phra Phuttha Maha Suwana Patimakon, is a seated Buddha made of 83% gold and is estimated to be valued at $250 million.

This impressive sight towers 15 feet over worshippers and attests to Thai culture’s strong adherence to Buddhism.

Social Customs

14. Wai Gesture

One of the most iconic and basic Thai gestures is the Wai greeting. Instead of the Western-style handshake, Thais put their palms together in front of them and bow toward the person they’re greeting.

Different versions of the Wai gesture and who goes first depend on both persons’ social status. Moreover, Wai can be done as a hello, goodbye, or an apology.

A woman interacting with Thai people
Thai etiquette is mostly dictated by age and social status.

15. Social Status is Crucial

Thai culture is sensitive to hierarchy and social status, which is commonly based on education, income, family connections, and age.

This manifests in various social interactions such as the custom of having the highest earner pay for a group meal. Because of this, however, it’s not uncommon to observe injustices rooted in social norms.

16. “Pee” and “Nong”

To show respect, Thais use particular words to indicate that the person they’re talking to is older or younger than them. “Pee” is added before an older person’s name while “nong” precedes a younger one’s.

However, this can vary in certain cases such as if the younger person has higher social status compared to the older person.

Facts about Thai Food Culture

17. Rice All Day

An amazing fact about Thai food culture is that you never have to wonder if rice will be served since it definitely will be. Thais eat rice every meal usually combined with spicy dishes made of vegetables, meat, eggs, or fish.

Thailand is the 2nd largest exporter of rice worldwide and is known for the fragrant and delicate-tasting Jasmine Rice.

The Asian grain is so central to daily life that the Thai phrase expressing hunger literally translates to “I want to eat rice.” Also, one of the Thai expressions to greet people literally means “Have you eaten rice?”

18. Spoon and Fork

Contrary to expectations, Thais are not chopstick users unless they eat noodles or Chinese food. Instead, you will normally find a pair of spoon and fork on your dining table.

The spoon is held in the right hand and is used to scoop up the rice and other kinds of food, while the fork is on the left to push them onto the spoon.

19. Best Cuisine

One of the undeniable facts about Thai culture is its world-renowned delicious cuisine.

Thailand is famous for its dishes with a unique combination of tastes made possible with the use of various ingredients and condiments.

Soy sauce, fish sauce, or oyster sauce gives the salty flavors. Sweetening is done by adding sugar, honey, or coconut milk. Chili peppers, lemongrass, and lime leaves spice things up. And for the sour taste, lime juice, vinegar, and tamarind are the go-to ingredients.

20. Cockroach Snacks

While Thailand’s signature dishes are universal favorites, their menu also includes more peculiar ones.

Cockroaches, grasshoppers, and crickets, to name a few, are like chips Thais love to munch on. Fried insects are a popular snack in Thailand and are commonly sold on the streets. There are also worms and bugs cooked and eaten practically the same way.

This is definitely one of the more creepy facts about Thailand, but if you’re adventurous with food, it’s hard to get more extreme than this.

A plate of Pad Thai
A well-known fact about Thai food culture is its unique flavors and use of a variety of ingredients.

Land of Festivals

21. Songkran

One of the fun facts about Thai culture is that it’s not just the “Land of Smiles” but it’s also a land of festivals. There are many nationwide and local celebrations that you can experience and enjoy while visiting.

The most famous one is the biggest water fight in the world, also known as Songkran or Thailand’s New Year Celebration.

It is celebrated in April all over the country with prayers, rituals, and most fun of all, sloshing of water in the streets! That’s starting the year right with a splash.

22. Monkey Banquet Festival

Another one of the cool facts about Thailand is its “Monkey Banquet Festival.”

There are a lot of monkeys to see in Thailand but one of the most amusing ways to encounter them is during this annual festivity. It is held at the “monkey town” of Lopburi, central Thailand, where tourists flock year-round to see the friendly macaques.

To thank these cute hairy creatures for their vital role in the town’s tourism and businesses, the people organize a feast for them with a buffet of fruits and food. Over the years, the feast has become a major tourist attraction with abundant food for human visitors, as well.

23. Lantern Festival

A beautiful festival of lights, Loy Krathong is historically celebrated at the end of the rainy season, mostly in November. It is an act of gratitude for the bountiful water flowing through the rivers, producing a plentiful harvest for the season.

Aside from being an offering, the lanterns also symbolize hurts, bad habits, and other negativities that one wants to let go of by releasing them into the open air.

This festival is truly remarkable with its meaningful history and astonishing view of hundreds of scattered lights in the sky.

This list of the most interesting facts about Thai culture will surely make you appreciate this country more. The Land of Smiles will not just bring you pleasantries but a profound cultural experience you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

Visit this gem at the heart of Southeast Asia and you will find all these fascinating facts and a whole lot more to unfold.

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