Thailand is often called the "land of smiles", and rightly so because you will see more smiling people here than anywhere else in the world.
The country has a population of about 59 million, with some 6.7 million of these people living in the Bangkok area. Approximately 75% of the citizenry are ethnic Thais, 14% are Chinese, and the remaining 11% are mostly Indian, Malay, Karen, Khmer, or Mon. The literacy rate is high at about 94% and the average life expectancy is 66 for men and 72 for women.
Thai people are friendly and tolerant but there are a few Do's and Don'ts which you should observe. Avoid touching people on the head, and keep your feet on the ground where they belong. Stay calm, smile and enjoy the hospitality of your hosts.
The official language is Thai, but English is widely spoken in all major tourist locations. However if you are travelling around Thailand it is a good idea to buy a phrase book.
The Wai is the traditional Thai greeting which is used instead of a handshake, but it can also be used as a means of saying sorry, thank you, or to pay respect. A Thai person will often Wai as he approaches a temple, Buddha image, or other item of religious significance.
If you are introduced to a Thai and that person Wais to you then you should return the Wai. Generally the younger person will Wai first, but the Wai of a small child is best return by a big smile. If you receive a thank you Wai from an airline stewardess or after tipping a waitress it is inappropriate to return the Wai, but a smile is always welcome.
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