Thailand is nearly 95% Theravada Buddhist, with a muslim minority (4.6%, mostly in the South). Buddhism in Thailand is strongly influenced by traditional beliefs regarding ancestral and natural spirits, which have been incorporated into Buddhist cosmology.
Thai people can go to the temple whenever they feel like it. Some go as often as four times a month (on holy days, date depending on the phases of the moon), some hardly ever go, some go only on special holidays or special occasions (such as their birthday, or the death of a relative). When going to the temple, people lit a candle and pray, then make offerings to the monks.
Thai men usually become monks one time in their life, for a three month period during Buddhist lent. They can also do it if someone in the family dies, like the parents or grand-parents. In this case it can be for only one or two weeks.
In all Thai houses there is a small altar with a statue of Buddha, usually high against a wall. People pray and make offerings, usually once per week. Outside the houses, there are small “spirit houses”, where people make offerings too, in order to protect the house from spirits.
Most Thai people are very superstitious. The first contact with Thailand for a foreign traveller is often the taxi ride from the airport, and everybody immediately notices all the amulets hanging from the rearview window and the small images of Buddha stuck down the dashboard.
Thai people like to go and see fortune tellers, but they also go to the temple to ask the monks for advice. They strongly believe that there is a good day for everything: a good day to buy a car, a good day to build a house, or a good day to give birth. So the monks will tell them what day is the best day to buy a car, and they may also advise on the color of the car. When building a house, the monks will be able to tell what is the more auspicious day to start the construction. Some women even go the temple to know what will be the best day to give birth, and they make an appointment on the given day to undergo a caesarean section.
Numbers are also very important, for example Thai people like to choose their car’s number plate (if they can afford the price, as it is a pay service).
The day of the week on which a person is born also matters a lot. If you are born on a Monday, yellow will be your colour, and maybe you won’t get along well with someone who was born on a Wednesday, and you can’t be incinerated on a Monday when you die, etc.
Concerning the house, the Thais respect a kind of “Fengshui”, which means that the rooms and other elements of the house can’t be placed randomly. The entrance of the house must face the east, the bathrooms must be at the west or south, two doors can’t face each other, a staircase must have an even number of stairs, etc.
Lastly, we can also mention that the Thais like to interpret their dreams. I remember reading a funny story of a farang guy who was complaining because her Thai girlfriend had dreamed of him being with another girl, and she was furious against him when she woke up!
Ghosts will tell you the winning lottery numbers
Ghosts play an integral part in Thai culture and belief, so much so that they are even believed to predict your future in the form of the next winning lottery numbers. This can happen in a number of ways and even occurs in haunted trees “hinting” lottery numbers.
Do not get a haircut on a Wednesday
Most hairdressers are closed on a Wednesday and not just for no good reason. Thais believe it is not only bad luck to have your haircut on a Wednesday but that it is also an auspicious day. This belief originated from members of the royal family having their hair cut on a Wednesday and therefore common people were prohibited to do so.
How long will you live?
It’s simple. If a picture of you falls off the wall and the glass or frame breaks you will die soon. When you are eating noodles, don’t cut the noodles, the longer the noodles the longer you will live.
Babies are not cute! Well, they are but…
The children are adorable in Thailand and it is hard not to go all mushy and exclaim how adorable they are, but superstition is that if you call a baby cute it will be taken away by a ghost. It is also believed that if a pregnant woman attends a funeral her baby will be haunted by the spirit of a dead person once it is born.
All the single ladies
If you are a single female and sing while cooking or eating you will end up with an old husband. This belief was used to scare women who feared they would end up with an ancient husband.
Think twice before pointing at a rainbow
In many cultures, rainbows are considered good luck – in Thailand if you point at a rainbow your finger will fall off. It is advised (and safer!) that you point with all your fingers and the palm of your hand, same goes for holy images.
Local “accident insurance”
You’ve likely spotted Thai people wearing amulets of Buddha images with gold or silver plating around their neck. These are not simply decorative jewellery, they are believed to have sacred powers and protect from accident and illness, a form of local life insurance.
Don’t leave home if you….
If you hear a gecko before you leave your home, it is considered a warning sign that something bad will happen and you should, therefore, stay home.
Haunted dolls (luk thep)
Luk thep, which translates to child angel, caused a viral fad when Bangkok hipsters decided to carry around these haunted dolls where ever they went. Luk thep, contain the spirit of a child and are believed to boost cash flow and bring prosperity to their doting humans.
Don’t look between your legs! (It’s not what your thinking)
It is a common belief that if you bend down and look between your legs you will see a ghost, many Thai people avoid doing this as they are scared of coming face to face with a ghost.