Readers' Submissions

Observations

  • Written by Union Hill
  • October 26th, 2005
  • 7 min read


Just a few general observations. Anyone who has visited Thailand will be familiar with at least some of these Thai-isms.

#1.
Whether they are in the street, in the shopping mall or anywhere really, Thai people walk painfully slowly. Young women are particularly prone to this. Take my wife, sometimes I can get her to speed up to an amble, if we are really in a hurry.

In fact, the only time I have ever seen a Thai pedestrian hurry is when they were being chased by the police or fleeing some other threat. I once saw a guy running up Pattayaland 2 with a maniac wielding a machete in hot pursuit but that was a rare thing. Usually the typical Thai pedestrian doesn’t move quickly enough to get out of his own way. Bus drivers fleeing the scene of a road accident don’t count.

#2.
The next time you are walking through Bangkok airport or any of the shopping malls in Thailand or anywhere where you are likely to find girls / women at work in a service industry, check to see how many have either kicked off their shoes completely or have one foot out of their footwear. When a Thai woman is standing at a counter, she might be buying something or she might be selling something but if she is standing still she will usually step out of at least one of her shoes. What’s that all about?

#3.
When Thai women do it, it can sound quite sweet and can be quite sexy (as long as you don’t understand the actual words). When Thai men do it, they sound like puffs and it makes them sound and look like they are lying (which they probably are, come to think of it). I’m talking about the way Thai people put on that soft-spoken, syrupy way of speaking that Thais find so desirable. They don’t do it when they are speaking English. Take a look at any of the Thai government ministers speaking on Thai TV next chance you get. You don’t have to understand the words. Would you buy a used car from any of them?

#4.
They do it at the ATM machine and at the train station ticket counter. They do it especially at the airline check-in desk. It drives me nuts.

Thai people wait until they get to the head of the queue before digging into their purses, handbags or wallets for the ATM card, or money or the airline ticket. They know that shortly they are going to need that thing when they are standing in the queue. Why will they not get ready and have what they need in their hand ready to do the transaction?

#5.
Arrangements are made “…..OK, we’ll meet at John’s house at ten-thirty and we’ll all go in one car…” I arrive at John’s house at ten-twenty-five. John is waiting and we are both ready to go at ten-thirty. Our two Thai friends arrive anytime between ten-forty-five and eleven even though they had been told separately to be at John’s house at ten o’clock. When they arrive, they are not hurrying and they seem completely oblivious to the fact that they are late. We tell them about it but it’s the same every week. Why is it impossible for Thai people to be on time for anything?

#6.
I bet we’ve all had this one. You say to the waitress, “I’ll have a beer please, Asahi.” You’re in a place where there are Asahi beer adverts all over the walls. There are Asahi lights behind the bar, it says ‘Asahi Extra Dry’ on the ashtrays. They even have ‘Asahi’ beer glasses. And her response is……… “Mai mee” (don’t have). How do they do that?

#7.
Many shopping malls in Bangkok have an “Information” desk usually not far from the front door. In almost eleven years, the girls behind the information desk have never been able to provide me with the correct answer to any question beginning with the words “Where can I find the……..”

If you are looking for something in particular in a Bangkok shopping mall you will save yourself a huge amount of time by just seeking it out yourself. Asking for information at the information desk is a complete waste of time. The information they give you will be wrong. Perhaps to the Thai mentality there is no difference between correct information and incorrect information. After all, it’s still information.

#8.
I’m used to it now so I don’t crash into the backs of people anymore. I’m talking about stepping on to an escalator. Thai people will approach the escalator at normal speed, then just before stepping onto the moving part they will stop, wait for the next segment to come from under the floor, then step on. The number of times I have all but clattered in to the backs of people who suddenly stop at the foot or top of an escalator. I don’t fall for that one anymore.

#9
Can somebody tell me what the point of a zebra crossing is in Thailand? Some one has gone to the trouble of painting black and white stripes across the road. What is this for? Traffic completely ignores zebra crossings and if you are standing on one expect the traffic to speed up as it approaches you.

#10.
There is only one rule governing the behaviour of motor cyclists in Thailand. It’s a simple rule which is ‘No rules apply’.

Motorcycles can drive on either side of the road and when this becomes too tiresome they can drive on the pavement. The number of people riding on one motorcycle is only restricted by how many can physically fit on it. Don’t get me started on motorcycles carrying gas cylinders, fridges, barbecues which are lit and rolls of carpet!!

#11.
“It’s nine thousand baht” said the shop proprietor. My wife was enquiring about the price of a large ornamental china vase. She asked for a discount. The proprietor refused to give one. My wife was disappointed and we left without making a purchase. I knew my wife was disappointed and would have liked to have bought this object but because she could not get a discount she could not buy. So being the prince of a man that I am I returned to the shop the next day without my wife, intending to but this vase for her anyway. This time, the proprietor tells me I cannot buy one vase because they are sold only in pairs and the price today is twenty thousand baht for the pair. When I reminded him that yesterday he had offered to sell me one for nine thousand baht he walked away. Conversation closed, ‘No Sale’. Another case of ‘face’ getting in the way of business?

#12.
“Listen Nit, we have a big problem here. We have just wasted USD 400,000 on producing the wrong material grade because you sent the wrong instructions to the works manager.”

Imagine how a woman in the west would respond in this situation. Denial ? Emotional outburst (tears and denial) ? A mixture of mild panic and embarrassment? Fear?

How does Nit respond?

BIG BEAMING SMILE.

You gotta love this attitude!!

#13.
“You never find stale biscuits or melted chocolate at Foodland”.
This is a genuine sales slogan for a nationwide chain of supermarkets in Thailand. Am I the only one who finds this odd? It’s worth knowing that if you buy a car in Thailand it comes with an engine and everything.

#14.
It’s a simple thing for most of us. Arranging the furniture at home or in the office is not something that most of us spend a lot of time on. Basically you evaluate the size of the room and arrange the furniture in a way that maximizes the space available whilst keeping it practical and looking tidy. Easy.

If you are Thai, you have a whole load of different priorities to consider, such as, where the sun comes up. The toilet is on the other side of one wall so certain things cannot be placed against that wall. The net result is that if you ask a Thai to arrange the furniture in your office or your house, you will end up with something that closely resembles a train crash.

#15.
If you think you can change any of these Thai national traits you are wrong. If you try, it’s you that is going to get the heart attack.

Stickman's thoughts:

Excellent!