How To Eat With Thai People

We'll talk about the importance of food in Thailand, the social aspects of dining, and the customs surrounding shared meals.

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Once you make your first Thai friends, they will invite you to eat some food.

Food is really important in Thailand. As you begin to form friendships with the locals, you'll find that they take great pleasure in inviting you to join them for a meal

Eating is a social occasion in Thailand and many other South East Asian countries. Thai people view eating as a social occasion, and this belief is shared across many South East Asian countries. Mealtimes are opportunities for friends and family to come together, share stories, and strengthen bonds. 

Eating alone is not preferred. Thai people value the company of others during meals, people usually have lunch and dinner together.

In the west we are used to each person ordering their own dish and never sharing it. And in some cases we might be offended if someone at the table wants to try some of our food.

Things are opposite in Thailand.

It is customary to order a variety of dishes and share them with everyone at the table. When dining with Thai friends or locals, you'll quickly notice that all the food ordered is meant to be shared among everyone present. So you cannot be selfish when eating with Thai people. Be open to trying new dishes, and don't hesitate to ask for recommendations from your Thai friends or hosts.

Breakfast is less formal and not shared as much since people are usually in a hurry.

Tips for eating with Thai friends 
(this apply mostly to Thai restaurants, offices and homes)

How the table is set up 

  • Normally you are given a empty small bowl and an empty plate
  • People mostly use a fork and spoon in Thailand - Unlike many other Asian countries, knives are not commonly used in Thailand.
  • Chopstick use is not so pervasive in Thailand like in Vietnam/China/Korea/Japan. In Thailand, chopsticks are more commonly used for specific dishes such as Noodles, Ramen or Sushi.
  • Most restaurants and markets have a wide range of dishes that can be prepared quickly. This gives the chance to have a very interesting and variety of food on the table. 

The Rules of the dining table 

  • Order a few dishes that no one else is ordering. Listen to what others are ordering and then you can order something different. This can include your favorites. Normally, they will order different tastes and styles of food like fried and soup, meat and seafood, or spicy and plain. This helps to make the table interesting and fun for everyone.
  • All the various dishes go in the center. This makes it easy for everyone to pick a little from each dish and try them.
  • Don’t “take over” a dish only for yourself, other people might want to try.
  • You can pick from any dish at any time. No one will be offended.
  • If someone has a favorite dish and they really love it, it is a good thing to try a little bit and agree with them. This will make them feel better about their choice. However, don't take too much. After all, it's their favorite.
  • If a favorite dish gets finished quickly because so many people like it, its a good face to order more so everyone can enjoy. Thai food is not expensive so this should not be a problem for you.
  • If the table is running out of rice and no one else orders some more, you can ask if they want more and order.
  • Don’t be selfish or upset if someone eats a lot of your favorite dish. Just order some more.
  • What about drinks? Beer is a favorite here. If people are running out of beer, you can just order some more of what they were drinking before.
  • Finally, when it comes to the bill, you can offer to pay for it all. But if a Thai person insists, allow them to pay since it will bring a lot of “face” to that person to pay the bill. This case is commonly observed among adults. Normally, during a dinner gathering, one person takes the initiative to pay the bill, and on future occasions, another individual will have the opportunity to do the same.

When it comes to younger individuals, there’s a different approach to bill sharing. In such cases, it is common for everyone to pay an equal amount towards the bill, regardless of what each person individually consumed. 

Note : Once we develop a close friendship or have known each other for an extended period, when we order individual dishes, We often have the chance to try each other's meals, even if we have ordered our own, not only just on the sharing table.

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