In Thailand, your feet are considered dirty. How to be polite while they remain firmly attached to your legs? It’s easy – just remember these two ‘don’ts’ for your feet in Thailand, plus a few tips about where to keep your shoes.
Two rules for your feet in Thailand
1. Don’t stick your feet out: Don’t stick out your feet in Thailand – perhaps while sitting at a table or relaxing as you sit (or worse – don’t put them on the table). This is considered very rude so make sure to keep your feet tucked beneath you or away from other people.
2. Don’t put your feet up: Don’t put your feet up to get comfortable any anything not expressly meant for lying down. Stretching your feet out on a pool bed is fine while 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.
Where to take your shoes off in Thailand?
Further to this, if feet are dirty – so are shoes. If your shoes stay outside, the dirt stays outside. Makes sense, right? As such, you’ll notice pairs of shoes scattered outside many places you’ll go in Thailand. Here are a few rules of thumb:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. ‘Sterile’ places: If cleanliness is important to the shop’s image, like an optometrist, it’s likely to be shoes-off as well.
4. Temples: The same applies for visiting temples and religious sites.
If it sounds confusing, you’ll very quickly get the hang of it and it will become second nature in no time at all. Just pay attention and, if you’re ever unsure, just ask. No one’s trying to trick you – it’s just nice to be aware and partake in common Thai courtesy.
Where to keep your shoes on in Thailand?
High-traffic stores: 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.
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 you enter – it will be so appreciated that you care about this particular Thai custom.