You read blogs and hear from other travelers about how things will be different. You know you will be surrounded by people of all cultures. But, it doesn’t sink in until you get there and you realize “I’m not like everyone else”.
It’s OK not to be like everyone else. It’s a cardinal rule to “be yourself”. When you go to Thailand however, you’re adapting to a whole new culture – something very unfamiliar. Here are five ‘culturally different’ things to know when visiting Thailand.
The added tourist fee.
Something to be aware of. If you can speak Thai you are more likely to avoid the additional fee that is added on at markets, national parks and car rides. An example is at Doi Inthanon, the the highest point of Chiang Mai. The entrance fee to the park is 50THB ($1.50USD) for Thai citizens, but 300THB ($9) for tourists. It’s only $9, but in Thai currency that is a bit steep for an entrance fee and a tad obvious they are gauging tourists because they, well, they can. At markets if there is no menu the price difference will be about a ten baht difference, but it’s only a slight addition so they might charge if they know you’re a tourist. I found it the most inconvenient when getting a ride in a songtheaw. Since I’m white and a woman, they would hike the price WAY up! For example, I go to certain places once a week and I know it only cost 20THB to get there. Sometimes a driver would ask for 40 or 50 THB. I would say no, 20 baht and they would still take me. But, if I hadn’t known the actual cost and insisted on the proper fare, they could have easily charged me 20 to 30 baht more.
You’ll always be taking off your shoes!
Don’t even bother wearing sneakers to most places. And, prepare to have the bottom of your feet dirty all the time. Feet in the Thai culture are the most unholy part of the body. When going into a temple you must always take off your shoes. It is extremely disrespectful to wear your shoes when entering someone’s home, a temple, a monks’ quarters and most shops. Therefore, if you know you will be going into local shops, getting a massage, or visiting temples it is wise to wear sandals or slip-on shoes.
Ladies! Cover up your body.
It’s hot in Thailand. Especially in the South. However, you still should cover your shoulders, chest and knees. I went temple hopping one day and forgot about the knee aspect and couldn’t go inside any of the temples. I’ve struggled a lot with this concept because it is SO HOT. On the beach anything goes because you can wear bathing suits and show your skin, but once you leave the beach you should cover up again. I get a lot of looks from locals, but it could be a number of things. I have so many down falls. I have big boobs, especially compared to Thai women, so naturally, when I am wearing a tank top, this is more conspicuous. And, unfortunately I only brought shorts that are mid-thigh length and short skirts. I saw a woman in Chiang Mai, a big land-locked city,wearing short-shorts and a bikini top while drinking a beer on the street. This woman was doing everything wrong. It was disrespectful to the whole Thai community.
Prepare to be laughed at.
When trying to communicate with the Thai people there is an obvious language barrier, especially when all you can say is hello and thank you. I began to notice Thai people laughing at me when I tried to communicate and thought it was a sort of mutual deflecting mechanism. Then, after meeting some non-Thai locals I learned they are actually laughing at me not with me. Not because I’m funny, but because they think I’m stupid. In one experience, I went to give money to a male driver who had a male passenger accompanying him. The passenger asked me where I was from in choppy English. When I told them I am from New York, they both started to crack up while looking me up and down.I thought to myself, ‘I just gave you money for a ride and now you’re laughing at me?’. In the end you learn to take things with a grain of salt. There are hundreds of tourists here I’m sure you’re not the first one they’ve laughed at.
Flash A Smile And Ask.
On the flip side of being laughed at, Thai people can be very welcoming if you are courteous and polite. For example, I went for a foot massage and the masseuse had an amazing hair braid. I complimented her and the next thing I knew I was in a chair getting my hair braided. When you’re nice and respectful to the other person, whether or not you can understand each other, you may find yourself with a better scooter, a better seat in the restaurant or a hotel room with a mountain view rather than the side view of another building.
Do these points alter your opinion of Thailand in a negative or positive way?
Let me know below!