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A Survival advisor to Customs and Etiquette

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Ordinary single-tiered umbrellas may, of course, be used to keep off the rain and sun by anybody. But even if there is no rain or sun, an elaborate umbrella will be used to ‘shelter’ a young man on his way to become a monk, or a dead person on the way to cremation—two moments in existence when a commoner attains his highest status. 42 CultureShock! Thailand Rice Rice holds a very special position in the hierarchy of animals, plants and objects because it is the giver of life both for the individual and the nation.

High seats, in traditional society, were reserved for royalty, and it remains the norm that most commoners live out their lives sitting, eating and sleeping on the floor. The most comfortable and healthy way of sitting on the floor is to sit cross-legged and this is the way monks sit. However, it is not the way a layman or a laywoman sits in the bot. There you should sit in the respect position, with the legs tucked under the body, facing the Buddha image. This position is inconvenient and tiring even for Thais and there is no reason why you shouldn’t prop yourself up on one arm.

Pork or Moo? A devout non-Thai-speaking Muslim from Malaysia, travelling up to Bangkok by train and forbidden by his religion to eat pork, ate nothing but plates of fried rice during the two-day journey. Before beginning each plate, he pointed at the little pieces of meat mixed up with the rice and, shaking his head, pronounced emphatically “No pork! ” The waiter agreed with him “No pig” and added, emphasising the rising tone, “Moo”. At least, the Malaysian thought, remembering his mother pointing out ‘moo-cows’, he had learnt one word of Thai; moo obviously meant cow or beef.

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