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Thai Dining Etiquette

One of the biggest faux pas a foreign tourist can make while eating in Sakon Nakhon restaurants is blowing your nose. If your nose is running because of a spicy Thai dish, then you may dab your nose with a tissue. But a full blown blow is simply not done.

If a nose blow is needed, then retire to a bathroom. This holds true even if you are at an outside restaurant with salas (huts) around a pond. Don’t think that you can just walk a couple feet outside the sala and blow your nose. Thais in the other salas will be watching and your dining companions will lose face for dining with such an uncouth foreigner.

The only exception to this Thai etiquette rule would be if you are dining at a food stall on the street and there is no bathroom within close proximity. Then walk behind a car to blow your nose or somewhere that isn’t within earshot or line of sight of the other Thai diners. Now let’s learn how to say polite in Thai.

Polite v. – สุภาพ – sù-phâhp

สั่ง ขี้มูก ไม่ค่อย สุภาพ เข้าใจ ป่ะ

Sàng khêe-môok mâi-khôi sù-phâhp, khâo-jai bpà?

Command snot not very polite, understand (question).

You know, blowing your nose isn’t really polite.

Thai Language Tip: Questions in the Thai language are formed by adding a question particle at the end of the sentence. The colloquial Thai particle bpà (ป่ะ) is a substitute for the formal question particle măi (ไหม) and is used commonly among younger Thais and close friends. It’s probably not one to use in the Thai workplace unless you are goofing around with a younger staff member.

How shall we remember how to say polite in Thai? How about with this English/Thai language rhyme: “Don’t shoot snot if you want to be sù-phâhp!”

David Alan