Thai culture was modelled by many factors and its traditions incorporate huge influences from India, China, Cambodia and the rest of the Asian south-east. Thailand's national religion is Buddhism, which has evolved over time including many regional beliefs, from Hinduism to other more ancient cults. The official calendar is based on the oriental version of the Buddhist era, which is 543 years ahead of the Gregorian (Western) version.
Different ethnic groups, many of which marginalized, populate Thailand. Some of these groups flock to Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia and have absorbed their traditional local culture, Thai culture and cultural influences from all over the world. Numerous groups of expatriated Chinese make up a significant part of Thai society, in particular near Bangkok and the Chinatown district. Their fruitful integration allowed this group to reach respectable positions within Thai society, economy and politics.
Traditional Thai architecture is characterized by the construction of wooden houses with just one room and supported by robust poles fixed in the ground, or more elaborate structures made up of several rooms, all linked to one another and completed with internal and external spaces with verandahs and gardens, again supported by over 3-meter high stilts.
This is due to the fact that the first settlements in Thailand were located along the banks of rivers or canals; thanks to stilts houses could be protected from the possible floodings that frequently took place during the wet season.
Even wats, Thai Buddhist temples, have a very peculiar and refined architecture, with flamboyant colors and specific materials. Inside, the temples display fabolous paintings and golden decorations. Every village or town has at least one temple where monks live, pray and carry out their daily activities.
Thai traditional greeting, wai, is generally anticipated by the youngest of the two people meeting, pressing his or her hands together with fingers pointing up. Sawatdi khrap is our hello and is pronounced by men, while Sawatdi Kha is the women's greeting.
Muay Thai - literally Thai boxing - is a form of kickboxing and the national sport of Thailand. This discipline uses kicks, punches, knees and nudges on a boxing ring which is similar to Western ones; the last few years have seen Thailand winning several medals in boxing at the Olympic Games.
Soccer is also becoming more and more popular in the country, in particular the Premier League, the English soccer championship, which is surely the most followed in Thailand. It's not hard in fact to find advertising spaces in Thailand representing teams such as Manchester United and Chelsea, or young people wearing the T-shirts of their favorite players.