Interesting Thai Eating Etiquette Everyone Should Know

Sawaddee krub!

If you’ve been to Thailand at least once, you may have found out that dining out at a local Thai food place might be a bit confusing at first. As with any country in the world, we have our own table manners and eating etiquette that some of you may find them interesting or completely baffling.

Here are some interesting Thai eating etiquette that foreigners either find them confusing or interesting. Keep them in mind before your next visit to the Land of Smiles!


1. Eating with tableware/ Hands

If you’ve previously read the 7 Weird Thai Habits that Baffles Foreigners, you might already know that using fork and spoon while eating is a common Thai eating etiquette. We also use the soup spoon and chopsticks for noodle dishes, and our hands while having sticky rice with side dishes such as grilled chicken or Som Tam. This is what we Thais commonly do, but isn’t necessarily a must. Actually, it’s okay to use whatever you feel comfortable with. Some people use fork and spoon to eat Som Tam or noodle dishes too, but what if you use your hands while eating noodles? That’s a bit too weird if you ask me!

2. Tips

Unlike some Westerners, we Thais don’t tip waiters. We do only if we’re really pleased or satisfied with their food or the quality of the service. Some people also tip only if the restaurant doesn’t have any VAT or service charge. if you’d like to leave tips, feel free to say “keep the change”.  

3. Call a waiter

Some foreigners might find this a little frustrating when nobody comes over to take their order in some food places. But here in Thailand, some food places don’t offer their services compared to some Western countries, especially when you have a meal at a food stall by the sidewalks. Waiters/waitresses come over whenever you call them. It’s not considered rude at all to wave your hand and call a waiter to take your food order.

4. Paying the bill

This goes along with the previous point above. Please do call them to bring your bill to you when you are done with your food. Only a few restaurants in Thailand do place the bill at your table. The rest of them? Either you have to call a waiter for your bill, or you pay for your food up front at the cashier.

5. Seasoning

If you aren’t having a meal at a super fancy restaurant, it’s not considered rude to the chef to season your dish. We Thais REALLY love to season our food, customizing them to fit to our own tastes. Most food places in Thailand even expect us to season our food as a norm, as it’s ingrained to us as a common Thai eating etiquette. When you eat noodles or made-to-order dishes at a local food place, you will see seasoning containers at every table. You can go ahead and customize your food any way you want to your liking. If there aren’t any seasonings at your table and you are ordering a spicy dish such as Tom Yum or Som Tam, tell them beforehand to make it less spicy or not spicy at all.

6. Serving food

Thai people prefer to serve dishes the moment they are done, not all at once like most restaurants in western countries.

7. Sharing dishes

We Thais eat white rice with almost every dish. In a big family feast, we’d eat rice with numerous other side dishes. The number of side dishes depend on how many people are having a meal together. If they aren’t having a quick one-plate meal for lunch, they will definitely order a couple side dishes for sharing and one rice dish for each person. It’s just the Thai way!

Now that you’ve known all the reasons behind these intriguing Thai eating etiquette, do comment and let us know your thoughts or experience while dining out in Thailand!