Thai culture – The matter and meanings of touching a person’s head.

(Firstly, I have to confess to you as the readers that It is very hard for me to describe this article in English which is not my native language, I will try my best first, and any text correction from you would be very much appreciated)


Thai people like to set the most respectful things on top. For example, Thai people usually don’t put a book on the floor,

this is considered a high object because it gives us knowledge which for us is equal to the teacher that we pay respect to.

It should be laid on a high level like on a table or book regal.  

In school, students will never sit on the chair of the teacher which he/she always uses.

The reason is, that teachers have more honor than students because they give the student their knowledge and are older.

It sounds so funny, but so happens here. So, the higher respectful object is always set on a higher location.

To sit on the teacher’s chair can be considered that the student has the same power as the teacher.

Even organ is no exception. The Head is the highest part of the body, it is considered as the place of dignity.

If a boy wants to bully another boy, he will not waste time talking too many words, just touch his head softly, and then the fight will start immediately.

This situation might happen to teenagers too. If head touching happens with middle-aged people, if they don’t know each other well, the discontent might take place automatically.

So, be careful. Even if he is your best friend and both of you are men, if you touch your friend’s head with no good enough reason, he will think you are gay.

But if you and your friend are both women, it will be fine.

Head touching is an act of love and adorable. Especially to adorable kids or animals.

Like when adults face a lovely, adorable kid, they usually touch the kid’s head softly.

When you touch a younger person’s head calmly and softly, it automatically tells without saying words that the younger person is a lovely, good, adorable person.

But if you are a middle-aged man, the person that we touch his head should be younger than 12 years old if he is a boy and younger than 6 years old if she is a girl.

Except if we are their parents or grandparents. If the kids are older than 16-year-old boys or older than 9-year-old girls, you can touch their heads when you are over 60 years old. Like grandpa and grandchildren.

The exception is if you are their parents or grandparents.

Head touching also occurs very often in loving couples. It is a common action that happens all around the world.

Thailand too. Just here in Thailand, the person who takes action is normally the man, also the boyfriend (action taker) used to touch his girlfriend because,

in our point of view, girls are considered as being more adorable than men and should be taken care of.


Head touching can happen accidentally for instance you see an insect claiming the head of your friend and automatically catch that insect on his head.

However, for some Thai people, it is acceptable when you are Farang (Thai people call foreigners: Farang).

Your Thai friend will understand that it is because of the cultural difference, that you didn’t know about this well or so, but only if they are reasonable persons.

I would say this kind of Thai people exists about 50% and the good news is, Thai people who have the potential to become your friend are sophisticated enough with international culture,

they tend to understand it if you have done a weird thing or false situation of head touching.

Since we cannot see through a person’s mind how much dignity is in his head. Therefore, you need to make sure first that your friend is okay when you touch his head before taking action.


Touching the heat of the elder


Now, it is a big topic that everyone should be careful of. In Thailand, people will not touch the head of the elder. Even you as a Farang also not allowed to do so.

Since our society structure is still driven by a hierarchy system. Unfortunately, this hierarchy system takes place everywhere in Thailand, in families, in schools, in companies, and especially in the bureaucratic system.

Let’s examine the family institute first. In general, two persons would have different dignity and ego if they have different ages.

The older ones always win. When the older person is older than 1 – 20+ years old, we will call him or her‘’ Pee’’ before his or her name to pay respect.

‘’Pee’’ is a title that has a hidden meaning that indicates older and consequently higher respectful status.  

I hate to say: The more age difference, the more dignity and eco difference, but this seems to be true.

As mentioned earlier, the physical place that stores dignity for an ordinary person is his head (the top of the body). Dignity was built from knowledge, life experiences, and the age itself (more age, automatically more dignity).

With the combination of these matter, the head of the elder is considered as the high thing. Nevermind,

If you accidentally touch their head, the first thing that you should do immediately is to say sorry. Then everything will be fine. If you do not. It will be viewed as being unrespect.

Ege also has power when it comes to greeting. In Thailand when we greet a friend we just say Sawadee Krab.

But when we are greeting an elder one, we both say Sawdee Krab and make a Wai (posture) at the same time. See # how to greet in Thailand correctly.


Head touching has so many meanings here. It can indicate disrespect, bullying, love, and reflection to the adorably, merci depends on the situations and with people the head touching takes place.

Let’s say it again, when we touch the heads of the elders, it is considered disrespectful. Inversely, if the elders touch the head of the more than 20 years old,

it will be viewed as a reaction to the adorably and love. Even for same-age people, one should also be careful of head touching. 

If you accidentally touch anyone’s head, it is okay to say sorry to them.

The background of this matter is related to the society structure with hierarchy. Which have happened for many centuries and still remain on the recent day.

However, the new generation of people disagree with this structure. Since the internet has connected the world together,

many especially young people have the opportunity to see further what happens in other places of the world compared to their own and consider if their own culture is still necessary to take action.


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