Do you know your Thailand 101? Your feet are considered dirty and aren’t welcome to join the party at any time. How to be polite while they remain firmly attached to your legs? Just remember these 2 ‘don’ts’ (amongst others I explain fully in The Koh Samui Guide):
Don’t stick your feet out as you relax at a café table (or worse – don’t put them on the table).
Don’t put your feet up to get comfortable any anything not expressly meant for lying down (stretching out on a pool bed is fine, sticking your feet in the air on a bench at the airport is not).
No feet! Instead, keep them tucked away and on the floor. Further to this, if feet are dirty – so are shoes. If your shoes stay outside, the dirt stays outside. Makes ample sense, right? (Swiffer sales must be low in Thailand). As such, you’ll notice pairs of shoes scattered outside many places you’ll go in Thailand. Here are a few rules of thumb:
Where to take your shoes off in Thailand?
Outside your hotel room
Many hotels will expect you to leave your shoes outside the room (it’s just polite to your hosts). You’ll notice all hotel staff who visit your room will do the same.
Homes and small shops
Certainly when visiting homes and places with a more personal connection – like a family-owned business or small shop – you’ll also take your shoes off outside. This generally applies if you’ll likely interact one-on-one with the shop owner.
If cleanliness is important to the shop’s image, like an optometrist, it’s likely to be shoes-off as well.
The same applies for visiting temples and religious sites.
Where to keep your shoes on in Thailand?
Chain stores, malls, corporations – like the supermarket, 7/11, restaurants, etc. Basically anywhere with high foot traffic and the likelihood of broken glass! Note that rules can differ slightly in busy Bangkok, but certainly holds true on sleepy Koh Samui.
If it sounds confusing, you’ll very quickly get the hang of it and it will become second nature in no time at all.
The on/off nature of footwear (not to mention Thailand’s heat) are two of the reasons that flip-flops are the #1 type of shoe to bring to Thailand. Specifically, I recommend Havaianas flip-flops as they’re top quality and the rubber doesn’t get hot.
The fact that you’re reading this before you travel puts you miles ahead of many visitors to Thailand! While some shops put signs on the doors saying yes/no shoes, if you’re ever left wondering, just stick your head inside and ask before your enter – it will be so appreciated that you care about this particular Thai custom.
Photo credit to w00kie via Flickr Creative Commons