First and foremost, I’d like to state here that I love living in Thailand. The people, the food, the weather, the lifestyle and the culture all come together to make it a lovely place to live. Saying that, there are some things about living here that I (and other foreigners) find very difficult to understand. It is of course a very different culture and therefore a certain amount of tolerance is required in order to respect the country in which you have chosen to live. The Thais adopt a more chilled out approach to life and you’ll hear the phrase ‘mai bpen rai’ a lot. It means it doesn’t matter and I’ve seen it infuriate westerners before. I myself am of course a ‘ferang’ and here are 5 things, in no particular order, I (and other foreigners) find it difficult to say Mai bpen rai about when living in Thailand.
- Ferang Price: You can expect two tier pricing in Thailand, if you’re a foreigner expect to pay more than Thais. Last year my wife and I visited Khao Yai national park; it was 40 baht for her to get in and 400 baht for me! My work permit didn’t count for anything, and neither did my claims of not being a tourist or my ability to sing the Thai national anthem. This is something westerners can have difficulty with as it seems unfair. But when you consider what qualified Thai teachers earn and the fact their completely unqualified western colleagues earn twice or three times as much you can go some way to understanding it.
- Purchasing Alcohol: In Thailand you cannot purchase alcohol in a supermarket or store between the hours of 14:00 and 17:00 in the afternoon. The only explanation I’ve ever been offered is that it’s to stop youngsters buying alcohol in the day time. Fair enough, that sounds somewhat logical but not when you can buy alcohol between 11:00 am and 14:00 pm it renders that whole reasoning completely redundant. Maybe the issue is expecting a logical reason.
- Red Number Plates on New Cars: When you buy a new car in Thailand there’s a set period during which you may not drive the car outside of the province in which it was bought. Neither should you drive it after 18:00 pm. A discussion about this materialised recently and my appeals of WHY? were left hanging like an offensive odour. Apparently it’s just a rule and isn’t meant to be questioned. You just need to laugh it off.
- The Roads: This is the one I can’t just laugh off and is without a doubt the worst thing about living in Thailand. The complete lack of consideration for people’s own, and other’s, safety results in thousands of deaths every year. There’s just a complete absence of any sort of safety or precaution. The best advice is to drive very carefully and get a camera fitted into your car.
- Untying Elastic Bands: When you get take away food in Thailand it comes in plastic bags tied at the top with an elastic band. These elastic bands are tied in such a way that it’s physically impossible to untie them. This means you cannot access the delicious food contained within. The only options available here are to get angry and tear it open like you’re the Hulk and dispatch the contents all over yourself and the vicinity. Or you can wait and ask a Thai to do it. At which point they’ll flick the elastic band off with ease in a split second and proceed to laugh at your face.