In Thailand your feet are considered dirty and aren’t welcome as party guests. That’s why you’ll often see rows of footwear sitting outside public places. So, how can you be polite while your feet remain firmly attached to your legs? There are 2 simple ‘don’ts’:
1. Don’t stick your feet out as you relax at a café table (or even worse – don’t put them on the table).
2. Don’t put your feet up to get comfortable on anything that isn’t expressly meant for lying down on (stretching out on a pool bed is fine, but sticking your feet in the air on a bench at the airport is not).
To avoid offending anyone just remember… No feet! Instead, keep them tucked away and on the floor. Further to this, if your feet are dirty, then so are your shoes. If your shoes stay outside, then logic states that the dirt stays outside too. Therefore, you’ll notice pairs of shoes scattered outside many places in Thailand.
Where and when to take your shoes off in Thailand:
Thais think wearing shoes into many buildings is disgusting as, not only is it disrespectful in some places, if you wear shoes inside that you’ve just worn outside, stepping on pavements with dog poo, urine and lots of other nasty gunk – yuk. So, if like many people, you don’t want to embarrass yourself by forgetting to take your shoes off in Thailand, here’s what you need to know.
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. Most restaurants outside of Bangkok almost all expect you to leave your shoes outside too.
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’re likely to interact one-on-one with the shop owner.
If cleanliness is important to the shop’s image, like a pharmacist, it’s likely to be shoes-off as well.
Where to keep your shoes on in Thailand:
Chain stores, shopping malls, corporations – like supermarkets, 7/11, restaurants, etc. Basically anywhere that has high foot traffic and a possibility of broken glass!
(Note that rules can differ slightly in busy Bangkok, but it certainly holds true in the quieter resorts).
If all this sounds confusing, it’s easy to get the hang of it and it becomes second nature in no time. The on/off nature of footwear and Thailand’s heat are two of the reasons that flip-flops are definitely the best type of shoe to take to Thailand.