Thailand offers incredible beauty and one of the advantages of living in Bangkok is its proximity to a variety of exotic locations, such as beaches, national parks or world heritage sites, in addition to everything that this bussling city has to offer. Traveling is cheap and Thailand’s geographic location with Suvarnabhumi Airport as a travel hub makes it ideal for traveling around and exploring Asia.
Thailand is called “The Land of Smiles” for a good reason. People are incredibly friendly and polite and they offer plenty of smiles. Thais also smile in situations that you may not expect them to, such as in embarrassing moments, out of shyness or simply because they disagree with you but are too polite to say so. It will take some time to understand the subtle nuances.
Since Thailand is a major tourist destination, living here has many perks and there is a general understanding about us “farang”, as foreigners are called, and our different approach to life. Because life in general is much cheaper than in the west, we do live well. You can even get your daily English, French or German newspaper in areas like Sukhumvit or Silom.
But the different way of life can also be frustrating for foreigners at times and you need to learn how to go with the flow. It is usually the small things that completely puzzle us. For example: In local restaurants food arrives as it is ready and not necessarily all main courses will be served at the same time. If you want something as an appetizer, you need to explicitly say so. Often, dishes just kind of arrive in a constant flow a few minutes apart.
“Thai time” can be confusing. There is a more relaxed attitude towards punctuality and Thailand has a different way to read the clock. 1 am is 1 at night, 7 am is 1 in the morning, 1 pm is 1 in the afternoon and 7 pm is 1 in the evening. Confused? So are we! But it’s not really that hard. The day is split into four parts of six hours each. If you are brave and want to see how to tell “Thai time”, visit thai-language.com.
Understanding when a yes means “yes” or when a yes means “no” is still challenging for expats, even after living in Thailand for years. In order to be polite, a person may not want to tell you that they disagree and give you a polite and positive answer without actually making a clear statement either way. You will have to learn how to discern between “Yes, I can see how that would work!” and “Yes, I can see how that would work [for you, but not really for me]!” In those situations it is best to remind yourself that the person means well and wants to let you down gently.
It is all part of “Saving Face”, which is the art of maintaining a good self image. Face saving is an important aspect of many Asian cultures, including the Thai culture. Read about Face Saving on Wikipedia.
If you have never been to Asia and don’t know what to expect from the different culture and traditions, we do advise you to read some of the recommended books in the “Recommended Books and Websites” section and read the information in the “Thai Culture and Traditions” section too.