Readers' Submissions

Unfriendly Thais

  • Written by Anonymous
  • September 23rd, 2005
  • 6 min read


Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok


Silver Resortel Patong more info

I am a long-time Stickman reader but until now I never contributed as I felt that I cannot compete with the stories and experiences made by other readers. My stories just seemed to normal. However, I just felt now that I have to add my five cents worth even it might be not so interesting to all.

I am from a small country in Europe and I used to live in Bangkok five years ago for two years. I am also married to a Thai girl since two years who lives with me back in Europe. A few months ago, we moved back to Asia, but this time to Singapore.

I have been back frequently to BKK over the last 3 years, usually every six months once.
The last trip I made was just recently (September 11th) and I must say that I was very surprised by a few things that happened to me.

I read many submissions lately about how the Thais are starting to be unfriendly and rude towards the western folks. Firstly, I agreed to these statements, as I had the feeling that we were not very welcome in some cases. However, this trip was completely different. The first encounter with a Thai person (the customer officer at Don Muang) was friendly like never before. Usually these people never spoke a word and even less in English! This time, all smiles, chatting in decent English and wishing me a nice stay in BKK! Never happened before!!

Waiting in the taxi line, approaching the two ladies in the booth handling the piece of paper for the drivers for the 50 baht surcharge the next surprise: She smiles, chats in English and wishes me a nice stay. Never happened before!!

Same thing in the taxi. The car had one of the stickers: I LOVE FARANG and indeed he was able to speak decent English. Happened before but not often!

Even the guard in the hotel was able to communicate with me and wished me a nice stay. Definitively never happened before!! And the list continues up to the hairdresser and other taxi drivers who were very friendly and who had a command of English which went beyond the usual “how long Thailand sir?” level. The service in the restaurants visited was very good and all smiles.

I had a very nice stay in BKK and I was very pleasantly surprised to see the efforts people made to make me feel welcome in their country. This was a very nice change in attitude since my last visit in March 2005.

Now, as I compare this to Singapore then I must say that the people in Thailand are much friendlier than people here in Singapore. The Singaporeans claim to be highly educated and totally service orientated and efficient. After 3 months living here I have to say that this is in most cases true. It is efficient here, people are usually well educated and the service given is mostly good. The other side of the medal however is that the Singaporeans are so arrogant and self centered. They think that they have seen it all and think they are better than anybody else on this island. They think their English is perfect and on the same level as native speakers (even English is their first language here they definitely are not native speakers here). By all means, my English sucks as well but at least it is being understood by most people, “Singlish” in most cases is not.

The above mentioned efficiency leads the Singaporeans to be business-like in many situations of their life. Even if the service is OK, it is never as friendly as in Thailand. Conversations with people are pleasant but have always this special undertone of arrogance and superiority to it. My personal feeling (and bear in mind that I haveonly lived here for three months) is that Singaporeans are not that friendly towards the foreigners as they claim to be (I know, a lot of generalizations here).

Now, speaking of service, friendliness and politeness, Japan is the place to be. I just came back from a week long business trip and was impressed about the Japanese approach. Even though they hardly speak English, they do everything possible to help you to feel you are comfortable in their country. They might not be the most efficient people you meet (comparable to Thailand in some ways) but they make it up with hard work and a politeness you don’t see elsewhere.

Another comparison is to be made on the account of the nightlife. A big downside in Thailand is the closing times of the clubs/bars in BKK. I was in Q Bar on Friday and Saturday and the place was packed and rocking and it all stopped at 1am, leaving everybody dry and out at the peak! It is really a shame, especially when you compare the scene in Singapore or Hong Kong, Bali where you can go clubbing/partying the whole night.

Singapore, claimed by many people to be boring, actually has a very active nightlife with excellent clubs/bars catering for all different tastes and mostly open till very late. Even the naughty bit of it (the famous four floors at Orchard Road, Joo Chiat Road or Geylang) is doing decently but of course never to the same level as Thailand.

Tokyo has a choice of nightlife the size of BKK and Singapore together. It offers anything and caters to everybody, it is amazing. Most of it however is restricted to the local people as the foreigners will never fully understand the Japanese culture and habits. But it is no problem to spend your nights in some clubs there and go to work directly after in the morning.

I know that this has been discussed many times already but I really think that Thailand will suffer even more in the future from these closing times as the tourist will feel left stranded after 1am. And further, it does not make any sense to make everybody feel welcome but at the same time tell them: At 1am you have to be tucked away in bed!!! For most tourists this will not work and they will look elsewhere for fun. Especially BKK will suffer the most as the reason the visit BKK is most often the nightlife.

Beyond that, I still feel that BKK is very safe and tries hard to improve. There are so many new developments in the city which should have a positive impact on the city. I just hope that it is not too much development and the bubble explodes under the current pressure from high oil prices and other economic developments. The Thais will have to learn to do thing in the “grey” areas and not apply their thinking in “black” or “white”. They tend to do everything in extremes which is never good. Once they learned that lesson they will live much better and will be able to improve their competitive stance with the other countries in Asia.

Stickman's thoughts:

Hard to comment on this as it started with one point but finished with something completely different.