As a few of you know I spent a bit of time in Thailand looking for enlightenment. While I was sitting in a street restaurant and wondering about the meaning of life ( something I still need to discover) I came to the realization that Thai people share some common behavioral patterns. I put them together should you want to blend in perfectly into the Thai society.
- Eat all the time – this is easy to do considering the fact that white rice and noodles are not exactly known for filling you up. Also the food is not an enemy to be avoided but a good excuse to spend time with friends, family and co-workers.
- Use that spoon – knifes are not very common in Thailand. When it comes to table etiquette Thais use the spoon that goes in the right hand and the fork in the left one. This is not a big issue since the local food is usually finely cut. If you happen to eat chicken drumsticks you might consider using your hands 🙂
- Order as soon as you sit on the table – in many cases this is how the story goes: You go to the restaurant, you sit sit, they bring you the menu and simultaneously want to take your order. You say “Just a minute please”, they say “Ok” and in 30 seconds are back ready to write down the order. Since I’m not so quick reading the menu I started taking pictures of it in the places where I usually go, so that I know what I will take before I even step in.
- Add ka at the end of every sentence (or krub for men) – adding this words make the sentence sound more polite. It is similar to the English please, even though the use of ka/krub is far more extensive. Even if you don’t speak Thai at all you can still add it to anything you say – thank you ka, one coconut ka, good morning ka, f*** off ka.
- Love your country – ome Thais have traveled/lived abroad for a while, others would like to, but both categories are firm that they wouldn’t change their homeland for anything in the world.
- Be selfie obsessed – I take selfies, therefore I am is the philosophy Thais live by. Are they too self-centered? Maybe. Any place and time is suitable to take the picture. Even during a religious service in the temple.
- Forget about tanning -– the whiter the better! Everyone knows that Asian people in general appreciate white skin. There is a whole industry behind this phenomenon. What I didn’t know was that real time whitening camera apps exist. I realized it when I was observing a girl taking a selfie (in the abive mentioned temple during a service). The face color I was seeing in the camera was dozen shades brighter than the real one.
- Smell menthol breathers– it is very common to see people smelling a little tube loking like a nasal spray. Reportedly it beats the pollution and decongests your sinus. A must try?
- Carry your food in plastic bags sealed with an elastic band that has been wrapped around the top– being used to lunch boxes and other solid containers it might feel very strange to see the locals taking away their food in plastic bags, especially when it comes to tom yums, curries and even drinks. To me they seemed very unsafe, looking like baloons under pressure, ready to explode any other moment and provoke irreparable damages to my clothing. However, a few months later I got so used to it that I even took home a chicken soup that I wanted to season ,no matter what, with parsley and lemon and make it taste just like a Bulgarian dish.
- Avoid walking – Thai people would rather drive, take a taxi or motorbike and stay in the traffic than walk 10-15 minutes.
- Use the straw, always – most drinks you order come with a straw. Even in the supermarket when you buy a bottled water they give you straws. I wonder where this traditions comes from. Don’t Thai people know that drinking regularly with a straw can contribute to lines and wrinkles?
- Don’t be obsessed with brands – There are many pop-up markets happening around Bangkok every week that feature young brand owners. They are very popular among the locals who purchase even if they have never seen that designer before. Actually some of the biggest names in Thai fashion have started their business on the street.
- Love cartoons – the fastest way to attract the attention of a local is a cartoon. Even the bank’s serious services are advertised on them. This is the secret – you make something super cool (cartonized of course), people will take pictures with it, post it on Instagram, Facebook, Line, etc., and it’s done – the word has been spread.
- And also love everything cute – behind my condo there was the Unicorn cafè which was all pink, with colorful unicorns everywhere and rainbow cakes and drinks in the menu (containing a good part of the Periodic Table I guess). In Siam Square Hello Kitty’s Cafè was the must-visit place for the weekend as the long queues suggested. Clothing with clouds and sweet kittens can be seen everywhere and is far from uncommon even for the boys. Flowers are usually accompanied by Teddy bears… I have to admit that I love this tender aspect of Thai’s psychology.
- Learn to be fast – the bus/boat drivers don’t stop at the bus/boat stop .Well, this is true when there are just a very few passegners who need to get on/off. If this is the case then they just slow down and test your balance skills.
- Don’t kiss on the street – Thai people are very conservative and often shy. It’s not considered normal to show your other half how much you love them in public.
- Be relaxed – imagine what will happen in the Western world if the traffic light stays red for more than 10 minutes. Do you know what happens in Bangkok? Nothing! Everyone waits patiently and what is most important – silently.
One thought on “How to Behave like a Thai in 17 steps”
This is a great post. I’ve been living in Bangkok seasonally for three years and have seen all of this over and over. Every time I go to the store I bring my own canvas bag and it is still a struggle to refuse the plastic bags, straws and spoons they try to give out!
I walked by the unicorn cafe the other day – what an amazing spot. I have to go back when I have time. It looks like an 8-year-old girl got to design the place.