Readers' Submissions

Over Ordering And Wasting Food

  • Written by Anonymous
  • July 21st, 2004
  • 5 min read


By The Ever Busy Mr Anonymous


I suppose opinions are like asshole – everybody has one, so at the risk of upsetting whoever, here goes. Let me make it clear at the beginning – I abhor the waste of good food and my money. On many, many occasions in the past others have roundly condemned the behavior of wasting good food and money particularly when a farang has been set up to pay the bill.

There is a silly theory held by some people who should know better that in Thailand a traditional meal consists of a large variety of dishes. This is absolute rubbish and I have this on the authority of my Thai wife and other Thais up and down the country. A meal will consists of whatever the Thai person can afford to put on the table be it at home or in a restaurant. Three to Six Thousand Baht salaries per month do not allow for much food extravagances anywhere. Have you ever observed what normal Thai people eat at street stalls or in Thai restaurants? The only time it would come even near to a large variety and abundance of food on the table would be on the occasion of a hi-so party or a Thai wedding reception. Even then the choice of food on offer would not be over the top or extravagant.

Reader’s submissions in the past complained about over ordering when dining out with some Thai women. Ask a ‘lady’ out for dinner and immediately six of her friends are invited along to eat at your expense. She will not even have the basic manners to ask if it is ok to invite them along beforehand. It is a well known fact that some people who have been used to very little in the past usually go overboard when the opportunity arises. ‘What do you expect from a pig but a grunt’ is a good descriptive quote which springs readily to mind. I am certainly not classing all Thai women in this grouping but – it does happen. Other comments from contributors also state that when invited to visit ‘the family up-country’ they are expected to stop at the local market and buy enough food for the village let alone the family in order that their ‘lady’ gains as much face as possible. Bring on the fatted calf – the farang pays. Do these village people normally eat a great variety of food?

I am a resident of Thailand and quite a frequent visitor to Bangkok and other cities both north and south and have dined with and witnessed Thais ordering and eating. Normally they will eat at inexpensive stalls or market diners and never have I seen them over-order. In fact, most of the time if they don’t finish the food they purchase, the leftovers will take it away in a doggy bag. We are talking here of mainly, School Teachers, University Students, Government employees, Office workers, Bank staff, Police, etc. and other Thais. The common 5 – 8 in Thailand who lives on 30 to 50 Baht or less per day buying food from street vendors would never be guilty of ordering food in excess.

Are some Thais so insular that they don’t notice others around them who do not have enough to eat daily? On one hand it has been quoted to me ‘No problem for me, this don’t family me”. On the other hand I have seen great generosity on the part of Thai stall owners who, when closing the stall for the night, will give away what food they have not sold – free – as in FREE, rather than waste it. The majority of hard working Thai people in Bangkok and the Provinces do not have the luxury of having the opportunity to over-ordering food, at a street vendor stall or in restaurant. Is over-ordering something to boast about and gain big face? I suspect not as I have had many comments from Thai families with regard to the type of free-loaders who indulge in this practice. I can tell you they were not complementary. Perhaps some Thai women should learn to order just enough food to satisfy their hunger and donated the price of the excess food they ordered to buy food for starving kids. But then that would be tantamount to asking these small minded, ignorant and ill-mannered people, who fortunately make up a small minority of the Thai population to think about someone outside their own little selfish world for a change.

I would really be very interested to know what Thais, both men and women, think of this practice. I have been advised by good mannered Thai people that it would not be impolite to enquire what is being ordered and if you are expected to pay the bill for uninvited people. I would venture to suggest if you asked for the bill to be split among the uninvited ‘gannets’ you would be alone at the table in double quick time. I know – I have seen it happen. Over ordering would certainly not be tolerated by any Thai man picking up the food bill in a restaurant or elsewhere. I don’t think the question would even arise as a Thai woman knows her place with a Thai man. Maybe this is one of the reasons why we hear the expression “Thai man no good – him boxing me”

In some ways though, I suppose we as foreigners are probably responsible for introducing or at least allowing the practice to grow and flourish when we invite some moron to eat with us. My advice for what its worth? – Know the rules and apply them – pissed or sober. It’s your money they are always happy to waste – never theirs.


Stickman’s thoughts:

I have always maintained that uninvited guests have to pay their way. I personally have never had a problem with this.

As far as Thais eating alone, sure, it does happen, but the average Thai prefers to eat in a group. and when Thais eat in a group, they do usually order a number of dishes and share. Not always, but that is the way it usually is. Not always, but usually – at least with people who know each other well, or are in the same family.