There must be a reason why Travelers often find Thailand is to be such an exotic place. All of that must have something to do with our culture, the Thai culture may seem strange to the outside world (especially the westerners), being filled with 100 years of rich customs and traditions. For example, no haircuts on Wednesday, or that you will see ghosts if you look under your legs. Of course, for us Thai people, this is the norm and everyday occurrences; to someone from a different culture, they may find it quite unfamiliar. Although it is safe to mention that the trend is shifting and majority of the newer generations of Bangkokians no longer believe in most of these superstitions, these superstitions may help you to understand our norms and social expectations a little better.
I will try my best to sum up top 10 strange habits and Thai beliefs as well as explaining the logic behind it.
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1. No haircut on Wednesday
It is an old saying that one should avoid a getting haircuts on a Wednesday. Sometimes, it is also impossible to get a haircut since many barbers and hair salons are closed on that day. Long ago, members of the royal family would often get a haircut every Wednesday, hence the common people were not allowed to receive a haircut on the same day. Another reason was that Wednesday is considered a day of growth and prosperity, hence to ‘cut’ is considered the opposite of ‘growth’, so if you want to keep job you better not get a haircut.
2. Stopping rain with Lemongrass
It is a common Thai belief that if you bring a virgin lady to stab an upside-down lemongrass on a rice field, it would stop raining! However, the opposite shall happen and the rain will come pouring down if that lady is not a virgin. Think of this as a mystical virginity test, virginity and pureness means a lot in Thai culture.
3. Person who has the last piece of food gets a good looking partner
Nobody really knows much about this Thai belief, except for the fact that it helps people finish their food faster and avoid this awkward moment where nobody wants to look bad by going for that last bite.
4. Wearing Amulets
It is a powerful Thai belief that the bigger the size and shininess of the amulets you are wearing, the more powerful it is. These power includes the ability to stop bullets, knives and any illness. Of course this sacredness comes with a great price(tag). Some of these amulets and Buddha images are considered highly valuable.
5. If a snake is wrapped around you in your dream, you will get a soulmate
There is no apparent connections between the snake and your life partner, but according to the old tradition, the size, shape and the color of the snakes also matter. The bigger the size of the snake, the more powerful your future soulmate is going to be. There is a sexual innuendo somewhere in this Thai belief.
6. Ghost telling you lottery numbers
Thai ghost has the ability to predict your future, or at least the next winning lottery number. Most of the times it is the last two numbers, but to be sure you have to ask the ghost. A lot of Thai people couldn’t wait for the ghost to tell them. Hence, many takes the initiative to find the ghost through numerous rituals, with the belief that they will be given the winning chance.
7. Wooden penises
There exists a shrine made solely out of wooden penises, eg. “Chao mae Tub Tim (เจ้าแม่ทับทิม)” which is believed to bring money to your business. This does not only exist in Thai culture, in fact I have seen this tradition around many other places and culture that share elements of Hinduism and Buddhism (eg. A wooden statue the size of a person in a restaurant in Bhutan). These disproportionate representations of male’s genitals are considered good luck charms.
8. Never say that a baby is cute
Legends once said that if you say that the baby is cute, an evil spirit will hear it and will come to snatch your baby away from you. This gave birth to a series of Thai beliefs and trends that you should name your child with an ugly name instead. So you have Thai people with nicknames that are highly irrelevant with their actual names such as “Ouan” (Fat), “Poo” (Crab) etc. This is to confuse the ghost, and in multiple occasions the westerners, in order to avoid them from taking your kids.
9. Spirit houses in your home
This is more common than any other superstitions in this article. In fact, there are “Spirit Houses” in every single houses, condos and apartment complexes. It is one of long held traditional Thai beliefs that is still considered relevant today that all the places and locations have spirits that is in control. Whoever wants to live in that area is required to make a spirit house and regularly take care of it. This will bring in good luck and peace to your homes.
10. Carrying around haunted dolls
The newest most current superstitious hipster trend in Bangkok right now is to carry around and take care of a haunted doll everywhere you go. Some of them are priced around 50-70$; let’s just say they have high profit margins. They are believed to magically boost you cash-flow and bring about prosperity. Obviously, nobody takes these lifeless (and spiritless) dolls very seriously. In this day and age, Bangkokians are smart enough to tell the difference between a long-held Thai belief and a scam.
I hope you find this article to be a fun read! And hopefully it provides you with insights into our culture and Thai beliefs.