Travel Destinations »

The Thais

Thais are a laid back lot. The first thing travelers will notice is that typically, Bangkok’s people are very hospitable, hospitality being an integral part of Thai culture. Most things can be done with a smile and a laugh, especially important if you don’t speak Thai. If that’s the case, a hilarious game of charades is often necessary to communicate just what you need and it is always met with amusement and giggles.

The people of Bangkok are respectful of traditions and a little conservative socially but also very approachable and easy going. Befriending a certain street vendor, a local beggar, or the same taxi driver is easily done with a smile and often makes for fast friends and local guides.

Respect is integral to Thai culture and the Thais are respectful to the elderly, monks and the king, almost to the point of obsession. A Swiss backpacker who drew a moustache on a poster of the king recently got ten years in jail.

Except for their neighboring countries, the Thais usually separate people from their government. Just because the U.S. might have unfavorable trade balances or Bush is a jackass doesn’t mean Americans are un-favored. If you’re white than the title farang is given to you. It isn’t a show of disrespect by the Thais but it is impossible to get beyond this title no matter how long you live there or how well you speak Thai. You will always be a Farang in their eyes.

The Chinese also have a special place among the Thais. They are regarded very much as business savvy entrepreneurs. That stereotype has lived up to expectations as the Thai/Chinese run much of the economy while largely leaving politics to people of Thai heritage. Think of stereotypes of Jews in the west.

The second thing people realize is that Bangkokians are a sappy bunch. They love horrible high pitched wailing songs about love and broken hearts. This sounds innocent enough until enough the voices of terrible karaoke singers permeate your dreams. There really is no escape, it’s sung at restaurants and bars and sidewalks. The music is truly unbearable but remember the shit you listen to at home.

Something else to remember is tourists trying to stick to a schedule often get a bit edgy at the laid back style of business in Bangkok. As a result the rudest Thais are ones usually connected to the tourist industry. Don’t let this sour you to the Thais in Bangkok, they’re a great bunch of people.

Alex Loeb

Alex was a Road Junky intern for a while and then disappeared into the Alaskan fishery scene never to be heard from again.