11 July 2024

Things are very different from the days when you first arrived in Thailand. Back then, you questioned those “weird” lifestyle quirks and experienced culture shock at the local myths and superstitions. Now though, you may have started to blend in with the locals, unknowingly picking up their habits, or ideas, in other words, the Thai culture in general. The “new you” gives out a lot of signs, so let’s look at the major ones that show you’ve probably been in the Land of Smiles for far too long …

• You take off your shoes before entering a house or any building

Without fail, when you enter any house; the first thing you do without being asked is to take off your shoes. Okay, shedding your shoes is customary in some northern European countries too though there you will don slippers. Here you will walk barefoot or in your socks.

• You don’t hesitate to wipe your mouth and face with toilet paper

Remember feeling surprised or perhaps shocked to see toilet paper on the dining table when you first arrived in Thailand? Those were the days. Now, you take it for granted having realized that paper, called “kradas (paper) tissue” in Thai, is good for wiping anything and everything.

• You are a master at ordering Somtam

You fell in love with this spicy papaya salad, one of the staple dishes here, and at first you asked a Thai friend how to order it so to avoid burning your mouth with those chillies. No matter how well your friend taught you, you would inevitably find it impossible to get the level of spiciness about right. But you have learned from your past mistakes and are now able to tell a vendor that you want a kind of kindergarten Somtam which means one chilli or none at all as the “fire” is already there in the mortar. And you always welcome a generous amount of MSG in your somtam!

Ordering somtam like a Pro.

• You put seasonings in every dish including chili powder on your pizza

First you were puzzled about the small jars of sugar, vinegar and chilli on the table in any noodle shop. But now you automatically reach out for them when your bowl of noodles has been served. You’ve become like a Thai who can’t eat without those seasonings! Once you start putting a drop (or a few ) of vinegar and sugar into your noodles, there is no way back. The seasoning habit has also spread to Western menu items like pizza and you sprinkle chilli powder on your pie leaving any non-Thai friends wide eyed.

• You put ice in your beer and wine

You don’t care what master brewers would say, but in the heat and humidity of Thailand, you’d always put ice cubes in your beer glass to keep your suds cold. Will it affect the taste? Maybe, but we have heard that local beer brands like Singha or Chang have been carefully created to taste okay with some ice in them. And if you are a wine-lover, you feel it is okay to have a glass of chilled red wine or put an ice-cube in a glass too!

· You prefer indoor seating at any hour of the day

It is chic and somehow classy to sit in the sun at a café if you are elsewhere….like in Europe, but here in Thailand indoor seating is considered more luxurious. Even when the sun has gone down, you will not sit outside. Why try to be classy when sitting inside offers the comfort of air-conditioning?

• You always plan where to eat and what to eat next even immediately after finishing a meal

That’s what Thai people always do: plan the next meal as soon as they finish eating. If you have stayed in Thailand for too long, you may have “unconsciously” adopted that habit too.

• You always watch out for a motorcycle taxi on a footpath

Walking in Thailand, and especially Bangkok, is nothing like a stroll along a street in Europe or any city where traffic sticks to the road. Now you have learned that the footpath is not for you or any pedestrian alone, as motorbike riders take the space as their “expressway” during rush hour or even normal hours. Although there’s a fine, no one really takes it seriously. Motorcycle guys always take the footpath as their common route.

Things you would reach out once your bowl of noodles is served.

• You prefer to take a motorcycle taxi or a Grab bike to a destination rather than walk a short distance

Why walk when the footpaths in Thailand, mostly occupied by street vendors, are not pedestrian-friendly and, as we mentioned, you have to watch out for motorcycles coming at you in all directions? Long-time expats know that a motorcycle taxi or a Grab bike is a more convenient way to get to where they are going even if it is only a few hundred meters away.

• You label people according to their political stance

While the US has the Democrats and the Republicans, Thailand once used colors to describe political leanings. “He’s a Yellow-shirt or She’s a Red-shirt,” was a common comment. Now, the Red shirts  (group mainly loyal to Pheu Thai Party and Thaksin Shinawatra and his clan) are the only ones to have retained their name, with the conservative and rightist groups known colloquially as the Salim and the liberal and anti-establishment group referred to as 3-kips (three fingers). If you understand these and have started grouping your friends likewise, then you are a full member of the Thailand club.

• You argue vehemently if your non-Thai friends said Thailand isn’t a democratic country

You may complain about many aspects of Thailand and perhaps even joined the opposition to the long-staying Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, but if some of your friends abroad or new arrivals say Thailand is not democratic, you will somehow feel obliged to explain the complicated Thai-style democracy. If they don’t stop, you will give the example of Singapore and shut them up by comparing Thailand to the likes of Myanmar or Cambodia.

• You start to become a mild “believer” in any superstition

You used to feel so surprised when you spotted someone decorating a big tree and worshipping it with lots of offerings, or a friend telling you that he/she dresses according to their lucky colours of each day in line with their astrological sign. Maybe Thais sometimes said “don’t do this as you may anger a spirit” and you might roll your eyes. These days, you have started to unconsciously follow them, unthinkingly paying respect to a big tree near your office and doing a ”wai” gesture if you pass any spirit house. Oh.. and you just changed your mobile phone number for one that is more auspicious.

By Veena Thoopkrajae