Thai Massage and Thai culture
I have spent most of my massage career in Thailand. Thai Massage is not only the main style of therapy here, but it’s also a part of Thailand’s culture.
When you get a Thai Massage session in Thailand, it is a very different experience than in the West. You learn something about Thai people, you get to know them on a different level.
And you will have to let go of judgments based on your own cultural standards from your home country.
Touch taboos are suspended during Thai Massage
Normally Thais don’t touch each other affectionately. Traditionally any hand-holding, hugging or kissing in public is not acceptable. However, nowadays the couples of the young generation in the big cities are warming up to holding hands.
Handshakes as a greeting are not done, touching someone’s head is considered offensive, and even stepping over someone’s legs is inappropriate.
So how do the Thais reconcile their touch aversion with the widespread use of Thai Massage? The answer is: remarkably well.
During massage sessions the therapists have a green light to touch you without any reservation. Thai Massage is an excellent outlet for a culture which shuns hugging and touching. It’s the one opportunity where those cultural taboos are temporarily suspended.
Massage in Thailand is more open and easy-going
The Thai therapists don’t have such strict rules like their western colleagues regarding draping, privacy, or professional behavior.
Some Thai Massage sessions resemble social events where clients and therapists chat freely in massage rooms which are shared with half a dozen other clients and therapists while anyone can watch the scene.
That means there might be tourists snapping pictures while you are getting your massage, or some Thais might just hang out in the shop to chat and socialize.
On the beach you see lots of therapists who try really hard to get you on their mat under an umbrella. And while they are working on you they will often hustle other people who are walking by for their next session.
Thai Massage as a relationship starter
Many female Thai Massage therapists always keep an eye out for potential western boyfriends.
The typical questions which I had to answer countless times are: “Where do you come from?”, and “Do you have a wife or girlfriend?” Many good relationships and marriages started in a massage shop. In Thailand there is no stigma attached to that. It is not a matter of right or wrong, it is just different.
A western therapist would shudder considering this absence of professionalism. But you have to see Thai Massage within the framework of Thai culture and Thai perspective. It is not right and not possible to apply western standards to Thai therapists.
If you look at Thai Massage in Thailand as part of your cultural experience, you will have a lot more fun and you might come home with some pretty interesting stories.
Thai Massage from beach towel to fancy spa
Of course Thailand has many upscale spas and resorts where the massage staff is held to high standards and professionalism.
So there is a wide range of massage services available from the five-dollar-an-hour session on a sandy beach towel to the luxury of an eighty-dollar-an-hour spa session in beautiful settings.
Let me tell you from my personal experience that many times there is not much difference in quality between a 5 dollar massage in a simple shop and a 50 dollar massage in a fancy spa.
What you pay for is mostly the environment and the setting. I have had many great massages which cost me only a few dollars per hour. But if you like a beautiful setting and can afford higher prices, there are some incredibly beautiful spas in Thailand.
Massage in Thailand tends to be more colorful, more social, more part of a cultural experience, and also more unpredictable than in western countries. My suggestion is to go with the flow and experience it all without judgment. Let it be part of your Thailand story.
To learn more about Thai Massage, check out Thai Healing Massage Academy’s Complete Thai Massage online training course:
The author, Shama Kern, is the founder and director of Thai Healing Massage Academy. He has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for 20 years and he is the creator of 20 online Thai Massage training courses.
18 thoughts on “Thai Massage and Thailand Stories”
Thanks shama.i believe Thai massage is really unpredictable,it’s good that with it,privacy ain’t a big issue like in Swedish massage that I do. In that case you easily socialize with the clientele. I think alot of Thai people use it since its the only way you can feel the human touch,besides no hugs and no touches’ among people..
Very true, Thailand is a country where hugging and touching is just not happening. Thai Massage is just the opposite – it is one of the most touch intensive massage therapies there is. It is interesting how both of these extremes coexist so easily in Thailand.
Hi Shama…Excellent Information…After doing my Complete Thai Massage Training Course online…I am planning to visit you and ur Thailand for this splendid cultural activity of wellness….
I am looking forward to your visit:)
As always, an interesting read. Thank you for the time and effort you put into your news letters.
Thanks Denise for such a nice comment! 🙂
Very nice website and I enjoy reading your material. Thank you, Shama!
Thanks Aldona, I appreciate your comment. 🙂
an interesting comparative article. Thnx, Shama, for some new facts about Thai culture. Nice the quality of massage does not differ. One just pays more for the atmosphere…:)it’s like you choose a restaurant here 🙂
Quality of massage can differ in cheap shops and in expensive places. One thing is sure that a higher price does not necessarily mean a better quality massage.
Thankyou for sharing your experience in Thailand. I had no idea. This helps me to understand their culture better 🙂
Thankyou for sharing your thoughts and experiences in Thailand Shama! I LOVE THAI Massage! Its the only massage that gives relief to my body! I have been doing massages sice 2002. It takes a toll on the body. Ine day I plan on visit Chiang Mai. I have had 2 teachers from the US that have taught me thai classes. They go their with groups to Chiang Mai every year or 2. This definitely is on my list! I enjoy all your blogs! 🙂
I am glad you enjoy the blogs. I enjoy sharing about Thai Massage and Thailand.
Thai culture is similar to Indian (Hindu) culture. I am very familiar with this since I was born in India. But times are changing with the new generation adopting western lifestyles, hugging, hand shaking, etc.
It feels good to take it easy with the Thai massage sessions.
True, the young generation all over the world is paying less attention to their culture. It’s the same in Thailand.
Hello, dear Shama;
I love your story, “Thai massage and Thai culture.”
Very interesting to me, never having been there.
I am curious, with this “pandemic” being promoted, has it affected how things are done where you are?
When you ask if it has “affected things” – it depends. It certainly has affected lots of things, but fortunately it has not affected the operation of Thai Healing Massage Academy since we are 100% online and can run our academy even in total lockdown situations.
Thank you Shama. I always enjoy your stories.