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‘Riap Roy’ Dressing for Volunteers in Thailand

Thailand is a very modest country, Thai people very rarely wear revealing clothing. The way that you dress reflects the respect that you are giving the person you are meeting with. When you attend meetings with any government official, hospital, office, organizations, school or any important event, your clothing will be noticed and it will reflect on both you and your host. People that dress inappropriately will not receive the respect and seriously affect a volunteer or intern’s ability to work with our partners.

Therefore, we ask that Kaya participants follow a basic dress code while you are living and working in Thailand. This may be restrictive at times, but it will improve your work and home experiences and help you transition effectively into Thai culture. You may see some Thai people dressed less conservatively than you, but this dress code is designed to help prevent offence or create incorrect assumptions by Thai people. Later as you have adapted to Thai culture it will be easier to make appropriate decisions. Your clothing for work should be more serious and appropriate, whereas time spent at the homestay or working outside can have a more relaxed approach.

Thai people often refer to things that are “riap roy” or appropriate and complete, it is very important that when visiting Thai organizations, we are riap roy. When they are talking about riap roy clothing for men they mean: polo shirts or collared shirts, nice pants (not jeans!), and decent closed-toe shoes.  Women can wear dresses or skirts that are at least to knee level, and shoes that cover their toes. No matter the shirt or dress, shoulders must always be covered and never show a large amount of chest area. For both men and women short or long sleeves, and khaki or black pants are riap roy. Anything that might be considered beach or holiday wear (including Hawaiian shirts) and make you look like a tourist may mean you get treated like a tourist.

Of course, if you are joining a program that has you in the outdoors, instead of an office, you may be more relaxed if it appropriate for the job. Either way, covering up shoulders, chests and thighs still applies.

At weekends you make be much more relaxed, and in the cities you will see locals wearing all types of clothing. It is still advisable to be modest not to bring attention to yourself and in more rural communities will also be more conservative. For a beach holiday, swimwear is expected at the pool or on the beach, but remember when you leave those areas, to cover up. And always carry a scarf or sarong to use when visiting temples if you need to cover up a little more.

With this advice, you can always be riap roy on your visit to Thailand