Thailand Culture and Mentality
Thailand is located in South-East Asia. This is a long way away from many Western countries. Therefore, it is not surprising that Thai culture is quite different from that of its Western counterparts. It may well be possible to buy branded clothes, designer jewellery, electrical goods, McDonald’s burgers and Subway sandwiches in Thailand. But, some things are very different.
For example, sexual orientation is worlds away from that of the West. Whether you are a teacher in a Thai school; a tourist on holiday walking through a shopping mall or a socialite going out clubbing, drinking and dancing for the night, you are sure to see some ladyboys. Ladyboys in Thailand are seemingly everywhere and are known in Thai language as katoey.
Some Western countries are still homophobic with individuals being scared of, and persecuting, gays, ladyboys and transsexuals. In Thailand, the ‘third sex’ is positively encouraged with people being who they want to be without fear of persecution. In most classrooms in Thai schools and universities you will see ladyboys who are happy to be who they are while the rest of the class does not pay any attention to them whatsoever regarding their choice. This would probably be much different in Western schools.
One university in Bangkok, Thailand – Suan Dusit Rajabhat University – actively encourages ladyboys to participate in classes while dressing as ladies. This university is believed to be the first educational institution anywhere in the world to sanction having ladyboys attend their classes in women’s university dress code.
Another culture shock when arriving in exotic Thailand is the food. Thai people like to eat at all times of the day and night. Whether it is 6:00am in the morning or 11:30PM at night you will see Thais eating on the streets. Thais will also eat things like fried chicken and rice drenched in chilies at both these times. This can seem quite strange to Westerners – especially at 6:00am in the morning! Also, it is not just the different times of the day that some people find strange when seeing Thai people eat, but also, what they eat.
If you are brave enough to visit a Thai outdoor market or the indoor Wet Market in Hua Hin for example, you may be shocked. Not only do Thais consider things like fried frogs and grilled bird chicks as delicacies, they also eat other strange animals. It is not uncommon to see Thais munching on fish heads, locusts, flies, worms, chickens’ feet and even squirrels for their breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also, it is very common to see the intestines of pigs, chickens and cows being grilled and ready for consumption by hungry Thai people. They also like to chew on blocks of congealed blood and even the tubes and ventricles that surround the heart. Nothing goes to waste, which is a good thing.
Regarding road travel, this is another ‘colorful’ area in Thailand. In many Western countries road rules and regulations are very strict with safety in mind. In Thailand, no rules apply. You have a very good chance of seeing 25 people crammed into the back of an open-backed truck speeding down the highway at 150 kilometres an hour. You will also see families or 4 or even 5 people holding on to a motorbike for grim death as the rider struggles to see where they are going! You may see long distance lorries with tyres that are smooth with no tread flying down the roads. Undertaking is common place here as is tailgating. All this and yet you will rarely ever see an instance of road rage with people blowing their car horns in anger.
Poverty is widespread in Thailand. There are high chances you will see beggars in the streets with no arms, beggars with no legs, people with leprosy and blind people to name but a few. Being charitable is highly rewarding and Thais believe that the good deeds you do in this life will be rewarded in the next life so please feel free to give money to help where you can. Regarding poverty, most Thai families are very poor. Therefore, it is not surprising that young, attractive ladies find their way into the arms of older foreigners. Often, the relationship can last with both parties being happy and staying together for a long time. However, take care. Many naïve foreigners have lost personal possessions like jewelry, large sums of money and even property that they bought in Thailand in their girlfriend’s name in the heat of the moment. Do not let your heart rule your head.
On many roads, streets and shop doorways you will see hawkers selling anything from DVDs and clothes to model frogs, maps of Thailand, fake Viagra, fake watches and countless other souvenirs. The prices are always negotiable and haggling and bartering is fun. Just make sure you keep smiling. If you do, it is highly likely that the price will keep coming down – have fun and enjoy closing the deal!