I've had the pleasure and indeed honor of living in the exotic kingdom of Thailand for just over 2 decades now and as one might expect after such a long time I have come to identify myself as a local, albeit a long term visiting local - there is a difference.
During this time I have had the opportunity to dine in a vast variety of restaurants in Thailand both personally and as part of my work. Entertaining high-level executives from across the globe is actually what got me interested in becoming a foodie! However, during this time I have seen some memorable examples of what not to do when eating in nice restaurants and that is what I'd like to share with you good folks today....
1) Dress Inappropriately
Thailand is a very laid-back country, especially when you are visiting one of our world famous beach resorts. It is wonderful to spend the day at the beach in your mini-bikini and bright red speedo but when it comes time to head out for a nice dinner - put on some decent clothes please. Sure, if you are eating at restaurant that is situated right on the beach it's fine to wear your swimsuit, but otherwise cover-up. You need not wear a tux and evening gown but nice slacks with a polo for the gentlemen and a summer dress for the lady will usually suffice. Do note however, that when you head away from resort areas, especially into Bangkok some places do have a dress code - no shorts, sandals, beach wraps etc. Just a little research before heading to a fancy eatery will give you a good idea of what you should wear.
2) Put your Feet Up
Thai's are very sensitive about feet, they are the lowest and dirtiest part of the body. To point with your foot is one of the rudest things you can do in Thailand. So imagine the reception you will get when you sit down in a nice family eatery, flip off your shoes after a long day of shopping and put your foot up on the chair next to you. I know what you are thinking... no one would do that...wrong! I see it all the time. To someone who does not live in Thailand it may not seem like a big deal but please believe me, if you point your foot at someone anywhere in Thailand, especially a bare foot, it will not end well. Just don't do it....... Keep your legs and feet under the table and all will be ok.
3) Haggle the Price Down
Yes, yes, you can haggle a lower price for some goods and snacks in Thailand, especially at open-air markets like Chatujak or for a tuk-tuk ride but not usually for food and never in a nice restaurant. Would you roll up into McDonald's and inform the cashier that you think the Big Mac is a little costly and that you want a 20% discount? No, you wouldn't and shouldn't so don't try it here. I once saw a foreigner try to haggle down the price of 3 slices of fresh watermelon from 15 Baht to 10 Baht (a staggering savings of US$.14). The street vendor smiled and in halting but clear English told the guy to go away. Look at the menu, if you don't like the price don't eat there - simple.
4) Smoke Indoors
Smoking inside a public place like a restaurant in Thailand is illegal. Full stop. Some restaurants and clubs have smoking rooms for this purpose but unless you are in a specific, sectioned off place like a cigar bar it is not allowed so don't do it please. Also, don't stand right outside an open doorway and puff away as it is almost as bad as doing it inside.
5) Bring In Food from Another Restaurant
This one always amazes me as I see it all too often. Not in very upscale establishments but in mostly Thai-run family restaurants. Some tourists believe it is ok to bring western fast food like McDonald's or Burger King and eat it while other members of their party order off the menu. Another favorite is bringing in beer purchased at 7-11 and wanting to drink that with your meal. It is NOT ok to do this, alright?
I hope this does not come off sounding like a rant but instead simple advice to help visitors enjoy their food journey in Thailand.
Did I miss anything? Please let me know your Foodie NO NOs in the comment section. Love to hear from you!
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