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Thai travelers get guidance on how to act when in Japan

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Thailand’s embassy in Japan has some tips for Thai visitors, including: Don’t put your chopsticks in the serving bowl. A Thai woman walks in front of a billboard for a tour of Japan outside the Japanese tourism office in Bangkok.
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BANGKOK » Thailand’s embassy in Japan has some tips for Thai visitors: Don’t put your chopsticks in the serving bowl. If driving, stop for pedestrians at crosswalks. And just because you have kids doesn’t mean you can cut in line.

The advice is part of a new online manners guide the embassy has posted on its Facebook page in response to criticism on social media about the behavior of Thai tourists in Japan. Most of the criticism came from Thai residents in Japan who reported sightings of "inappropriate" behavior on a popular Thai web forum, which inspired the embassy’s consular chief to pen the list of 10 do’s and don’ts.

"Japanese society is very unique. It is a society with strict rules that are not always obvious to visitors," said Jessada Nanthachai­porn, the chief consul, who said he intended the list as an educational tool, not as criticism of either culture.

Written in Thai, the code of conduct begins with escalator etiquette: Stand on the left, or walk on the right. Except in the central Kansai region, where the opposite applies.

There is separate elevator advice: The first person in holds the open button for others and should be the last person to leave.

In many ways, Thai and Japanese societies are similar, with sophisticated rules of etiquette and many shared cultural affinities, Jessada said. From a young age, Thais are taught the concept of "marayat" — or "good manners" — and values like humility and respect for elders, which are similar in Japan. But the same rules don’t always apply.

His list offers advice on mobile phone use in buses and trains ("turn the ringer to silent") and shopping: "Do not interrupt salespeople who are helping other customers."

In Thailand, drivers often ignore crosswalks and zoom past pedestrians trying to cross. But in Japan, "Drivers must stop at zebra crossings, and wait for people to cross the road, without honking the horn."

Thais tend to eat family-style, sharing dishes often without serving spoons. In Japan: "Do not use your chopsticks to pick up food for other people."

Rather than take offense, Thais have applauded the list. The Facebook post had been shared and liked more than 1,300 times just a few days after it was posted earlier this month. Commentators on Thai blogs have expressed admiration for Japanese customs, suggesting that if Thais adopted similar manners at home the country would be seen as more "developed."

More than 450,000 Thais visited Japan last year, the sixth-largest nationality after South Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the United States, according to Japan’s National Tourism Organization. Thai visitors are forecast to increase this year due to Japan lifting visa requirements for Thais, the weaker yen, and an increase in cheaper flights on low-cost airlines.

Jocelyn Gecker, Associated Press

Associated Press writer Thanyarat Doksone contributed to this report.

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