When Westerners have experiences in Thailand that defy (Western) logic and just don’t make sense, one just has to say T.I.T. (This is Thailand)!
I taught Math & Science in Thailand for five years from 2003 – 2008. These are my T.I.T stories.
When I first arrived in Bangkok and noticed my classroom could use some posters, I went to the secretary and asked for pushpins. She counted out 4. I said I would like the whole box (of about 25). She said “mai dai”. I went to our principal and said that our students are paying $15,000 per student per year and all I can get is 4 pushpins? My principal replied “Ask politely, ask often.” So the next day I asked and received 4 more pushpins. This went on for about a week until I finally had enough pushpins! T.I.T.
As a Math teacher I use the white board a lot. By the end of the day I need a rag to clean it. When the maid (they call janitors maids here) came in, I grabbed a rag from her cleaning cart. Because ajarn (teacher) is held in very high regard it would be beneath my dignity to clean my own board. The maid said mai dai (cannot). I came in the next day and noticed my board was not cleaned. So, at the end of the day I asked the maid to please clean my board and she said chai (yes). Again, the next day it was not cleaned. By the end of the week my board got cleaned! T.I.T.
In Bangkok I had a rent & utilities arrangement like in the West. You pay your rent in advance and your utilities for the past month. After two years living in this apartment I gave the landlord my notice of moving. He said that I have been paying for the month completed not in advance. I had a Farang friend who spoke perfect Thai talk to my landlord on the phone. The landlord hung up on him! I ended up paying the extra month of rent! T.I.T.
I moved to Phuket. My apartment building had a power outage about once a month. When the power goes out a utility truck comes out and replaces a part on the transformer box on the power pole. I found out from the maintenance man in our building that the cost of replacing that part was about 20% of the cost of buying a new transformer. With a new transformer the power outages would not occur. But the owners of my apartment refused to pay for a new transformer even though, after roughly five outages (about 5 months) the transformer would pay for itself! T.I.T.
When you work in Thailand you need a work permit. The work permit is a small book that looks like a passport with your photo and pages for stamps. You must report to the Department of Labor every 90 days or so with your passport and work permit and some paperwork filled out in Thai. Your school will usually have an office person who is responsible for filling out the paperwork and dealing with The Department of Labor. This work permit lady would approach me and say ‘tomorrow you bring your passport’. This means no Math classes the next day as this trip to the Department of Labor took almost all day. When we arrived the work permit lady would hand my passport, work permit and some papers to an office person. I would watch that pile move from one desk to another (my passport is very important to me). After that pile made the rounds of 3 or 4 desks and various stamps were placed in the work permit my pile would arrive at the final desk. I approached that final desk expecting to get my passport and work permit back. The official would tell me to sit down. I watched my pile not move or be touched for about 45 minutes. Then that official would motion me to come forward and he handed me my pile of papers with passport and work permit. Why did I have to wait that 45 minutes? I guess it was a power move. T.I.T.
When I moved from Bangers to Phuket I showed my work permit to the work permit lady at my new school. My work permit still had 60 days left. So, after 30 days or so the work permit lady took me to the Department of Labor in Phuket. When we presented the work permit the official said that this work permit is for Bangkok, NOT Phuket. So that means that I have been working for 30 days WITHOUT a work permit. The fine for such an infraction was 200 baht per day or 6000 baht (about $180 USD). I said to the work permit lady that I showed you my work permit when I first arrived. You thought everything was good. At that point the work permit lady left the office. I got a call from my principal telling me that I caused the work permit lady to lose face! I had to pay that 6000 baht fine T.I.T.
Thailand is a left-hand drive country. I was making a left turn with my left blinker on, half way through the turn a kid (probably 12 years old) driving a Honda 125 cc motorcycle with passenger passed me on my left. He hit my front bumper and went down. I stopped and helped him up and called my insurance lady. She was there in about 10 minutes. She said that the insurance company would pay for the kid to be checked out in the hospital, pay to fix the kid’s Honda, and pay for the damage to my car. I protested and said that the accident was HIS fault. My insurance lady said we will not call the police. If the police investigated this accident they would find ME at fault for three reasons. One, I am American and the kid is Thai. Two, I am in a car and he is riding a motorcycle. And Three, if you hadn’t been making the left turn the accident wouldn’t have happened! T.I.T.
I told this story to my principal. He told me that 2 months ago he came upon an accident between two motorcycles. The two cyclists were laid out on the pavement. My principal was lending aid. When the police arrived they determined that my principal was responsible and had to pay for the damages and the hospital bill for the cyclists. He said that he will NEVER stop at the scene of an accident in Thailand again! T.I.T.
Phuket has a Tuktuk Mafia. This means that prices are high. A friend of mine was meeting a visiting friend who was staying at a hotel. When my friend drove his car to the hotel to meet his friend, they were harassed by the local tuktuk driver for not using his services!
There are certain public parking spaces that are really not public because when I was going to park in one of them I was ‘informed’ by a tuktuk driver that these parking places are for tuktuks only and if I parked there my tires might find themselves sliced!
One time when my wife (who is Thai) and I needed a ride I stood behind a tree while she negotiated the fair. When the tuktuk driver saw me, a farang, getting in to his tuktuk he protested as the rate negotiated was a ‘Thai’ rate! T.I.T.
A friend of mine said he wanted a sleep aid. We stopped at a pharmacy. The pharmacist suggested Rohypnol or ‘roofies’. This drug is sometimes called ‘date rape’ drug as is knocks you out. In some countries Rohypnol is used as an anesthetic yet it is available over the counter here in Thailand! T.I.T.
I found it convenient to own a car while teaching on Phuket. I bought a Honda City (about 3 cm shorter than a Civic and without airbags or antilock brakes). Downtown Patong has alternate parking either side of the street, depending on the day of the week. I parked on one side when I should have parked on the other. I came back to my car and found a ticket on my windshield and a very small chain connecting my outside mirror to my hubcap! This ‘chain’ could easily be cut with ordinary wire cutters. I walked to the cop shop, presented my ticket and paid the fine (200 baht). The officer asked if I wanted a ride back to my car as he and another officer were going to my car to unlock the lock on that chain. I said yes, to the ride. While in the police car driving to my car we passed some attractive ladies walking. The police made some snickering noises and whistled at the ladies. Actions I would not have expected from those whose job it is to protect and serve.
In 2008 my wife and I decided to move to the US so we needed to sell the Honda. I paid 480,000 baht in 2005 and sold it for 400,000 baht in 2008. The sale was in cash. I took the 400,000 baht to my bank but they would only accept 300,000 baht! They said to come back tomorrow to deposit the rest! T.I.T.
The author can be contacted at : [email protected]