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Thai Massage and Fascinating Stories From Thailand

thai massage is everywhere in Thailand

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.

Simple Thai Massage shop in Thailand
Open-air Thai massage shop in a market

During massage sessions, the therapists have a green light to touch you without any reservation. Thai Massage is an excellent outlet for a culture that 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

Thai therapists don’t have such strict rules as 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 often 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.

Thai Massage on the beach in Thailand
Simple Thai Massage set up on the beach

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

happy couple
Cross-cultural relationships are very common in Thailand

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 the 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 in spa setting
Thai massage in a spa setting

Thai Massage from beach towel to a 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 or improve your Thai Massage skills with refined elements like good body mechanics, good communication skills, a developed intuition, and a great touch, check out our convenient online training:

Shama Kern, founder of Thai Healing Massage Academy

The author, Shama Kern, is the founder of Thai Healing Massage Academy. He has been practicing and teaching Thai Massage for over two decades and he is the creator of 20 online Thai Massage training courses.  

20 thoughts on “Thai Massage and Fascinating Stories From Thailand”

  1. 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.

  2. 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….

  3. 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.

  4. 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! 🙂

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Looking forward to visit Thailand in October again. I deeply enjoy what you give and share.

    I too found that there is not too much difference between a $5 and $50 massage.

    I miss my Thai massage persons from my first visit. They left to go home during pandemic periods and closed their shops.

    I realize after the pandemic times how we all need each other across the globe. Thai massage helps me so much during my aging process.

    People are so happy when we return. Some call my husband “Pappa.” People are generally sweet and loving and I cherish them.

    I love and need the healing aspects of Thai massage in Thailand actually.

    • I know, my favorite foot massage shop has also shut down. I used to go to the same shop for many years, and I miss them. Will have to find someone else who works the way I like to receive foot massage. You would thank that there are so many foot massage shops in Chiang Mai, but actually my favorite style (the style I teach) is hard to find.


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