As the socially superior individual in many situations, you'll have certain responsibilities when you visit Thailand. And by the way, don't forget that you'll sometimes also be inferior.
Thailand's Social Hierarchy
Above: Be ready for contradictions and ambiguity in Thailand. Money and age contribute to social status but young monks with no possessions outrank old millionaires.
The Thai language
Gay life and culture
A western visitor to Thailand is often cast into the role of the social superior. Some Americans get right into this! For most, the notion is uncomfortable. What about the Declaration of Independence, after all?
They don't have a Declaration of Independence in Thailand. (Nor a Bill of Rights, for that matter: It's illegal to criticize the royalty, or any religion.) While Thai culture has shifted somewhat westward, age-old distinctions of class and social rank still prevail.
Royalty and monks always rank highest. Several other factors then determine a person's social status:
A new acquaintance may pepper you with questions that seem snoopy. They are! But without knowing your relative social ranking, a Thai has as much difficulty interacting with you, as you would with someone whose name or gender you didn't know. Indeed, the Thai language offers ten ways of saying the word you, and the choice depends in part on the relative status of the listener.
So be ready to answer questions like "How old are you?"; "What hotel do you stay at?" and "How much did your shirt cost?" Many Americans will draw the line at "How much money do you make?" and a light-hearted "Not enough" should suffice. That you could afford a trip to Thailand establishes that your income lies well above that of most people you'll meet.
A new acquaintance will also evaluate your dress, grooming, and mannerisms, for further clues about where to place you.
When you're the superior
You incur certain responsibilities as the higher-ranking individual.
When you're the inferior
Don't get too smug just yet. You rank above many Thai people, but you always rank below monks and royalty. Follow the lead of others in the presence of either group, bow your head, and by no means point at them with your feet or touch them on the head!
This site is provided by Alyson Adventures, a gay and lesbian tour operator, as a service for individuals traveling with us. We hope it will also be useful to others planning a tour or researching Thailand. We invite you to also look at our other gay holidays.