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Clothing Tips for Thailand

Why do Thai people swim with all their clothes on?

If you have ever been to a Thai beach resort (we're not talking about tourist traps like Phuket or Pattaya) then you will know that 90% of the people swim in the sea with all their clothes on. You will rarely see a woman in a swimming costume. And hardly ever will they wear a bikini. Men usually swim in jeans and tee-shirts, or hoodies to protect from the sun.

Decency and Modesty

Swimming in clothes is not just because of the sun. For Thai people, it is also to do with their level of self-decency. They are just too decent to expose too much skin.

Thai families are orthodox and do not want to show their bodies. It is the same in India or many other Asian countries.

Europeans often over expose themselves in foreign countries and then wonder why they are abused. It is better to swim in decent clothes than to be topless and almost bottomless. Just think of not upsetting locals by taking too much off.

Pale Skin is Chic

Skin shall not be dark. A sunbathed skin is not appreciated by Thai people because it is the sign of the peasant. If one has a skin dark, it means that he is working outside. Sign of beauty is the whiteness. For Thais, lighter skin usually reflects a similar lifestyle of leisure, air-conditioned condos, private cars, indoor offices and umbrella'd escorts to and from parking lots (avoiding the sun, not the rain).

Put Your Clothes On - We're Going for a Swim

Thais bathe in clothing not just out of modesty or because they do not like a tan, but because it pleases them to bathe dressed. They sometimes change into different clothes before they go swimming.

Actually, in the hot climate bathing in clothes makes sense: it is not necessary to spend time changing of clothes, or worry about the clothing left on the shore. Wet clothing protects from the heat.

Many westerners find it odd to see groups of Thais basking in the ocean waves in pants and long-sleeved shirts. Much in the same way many Thais may find it inappropriate if we would wear only the barest necessities.

Clothing on Land and in Water

No matter how hot is is, gentlemen should wear long trousers. For ladies, pants are also acceptable, or you can wear a skirt or a dress that covers the knee. Sleeveless shirts or sweaters should be avoided. Instead of swimwear bring quick drying clothes that look good on dry land and in the water.

The Thai custom is to swim in clothes and you do well to respect that and join them. Exposing too much of your skin will not only earn you a sunburn, but is also frowned at by the locals. They also find people with pale skin very attractive, so don't go out and get a tan.

A Matter of Respect

"You should always swim in clothes," my Thai friend said. "It is not a matter of being socially correct. It's just a matter of respect."

The local Thai custom is to swim in clothes and you do well to respect that and join them. Exposing too much of your skin will not only earn you a sunburn, but is also frowned at by the locals. They also find people with pale skin very attractive, so don't go out and get a tan.

Thais prefer to 'prevent' tanned skin. Much in the same way as westerners like to 'darken' our tans. Thais want their skin as light as possible. Tanned skin for westerners, usually indicates a lifestyle of leisure, holiday making, good health, an ability to 'get out of the office' and relax.

For Thais, lighter skin usually reflects a similar lifestyle of leisure, air-conditioned condos, private cars, indoor offices and umbrella'd escorts to and from parking lots (avoiding the sun, not the rain).

Cover Up !

Exposing too much of your skin will not only earn you a sunburn, but is also frowned at by the locals. Thais consider public semi-nudity to be very low class. They usually swim with their jeans and T-shirts on, now rainwear also becomes popular. You're likely to cause offence if you wander around in skimpy gear.

Sun Cream

Why do tourists prefer to be smeared in sun cream? It only protects the skin from sunburn, comes off in the water, yet leaves the harmful effect of ultraviolet rays.

Instead of imitating the Thais, the majority of tourists prefer to follow their own habits. If they meet someone with other habits, then at best they be surprised at this, and sometimes condemn it.