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5 Things I will never understand about Thailand

When you live in Thailand for a while you start to get familiar with a lot of things. You start to understand how things work, why is this, and why is that. But then there are things you don't understand, things that just boggle the mind beyond the laws of reason sane and normalcy. Those things can either run you mad or they can be of utter amusement to everyday life in Thailand.

1. Why do Toms use the Girls bathrooms?

You ever been to a club in Thailand and seen the lineup to the bathroom? Pretty typical of a club anywhere in the world really the girls bathroom lines are always long but the thing I'll never understand about Thai public bathrooms is the Kratoeys (lady boys) use the girls bathrooms but then why don't Toms use the boys bathroom?

2. Why do all Thais speak English to me?

No matter how good I get at Thai they still continue to speak English to me. Actually I have a mate who is so pissed off that Thai people continue to speak English to him and why? Because he wants to practice his Thai and no one will speak Thai to him because they all try to speak English. I'm from Australia and there most people say "This is Australia so speak English" in fact if you don't speak English people get offended so maybe that's why I don't understand. This is Thailand so why won't you speak Thai?

3. Why do Thai people tell me when they drop a bomb?

Do I really need to know what your going to do in the bathroom? Do I really need to know that you want to take a shit? Of course I don't and I don't even think Thai people want to know but you'll hear it over and over and over again. Oh I need to Pee oh I need to take a shit. Sure if i'm out with the guys we'll say something like that for laughs but Thai people don't laugh about it, they don't refer to the toilet in some funny slang they just grab their stomach squinch their face and blurt out I need to poo. I'll never understand why Thai's do this.

4. Why are there no speed limit signs?

I've driven on every road down every soi in front of every school backstreet alley anywhere you could drive a car or bike in Chiang Mai and I've never once seen a speed limit sign. I've seen a few in Bangkok and a few I mean very few and they have been in stupid places. Actually the only real places I've seen speed limit signs were on the mountains and placed near the curves thank god they have them there but when I do go the limit people start honking behind me and start tailgating making it even more dangerous. There are speed limits because they briefed over them at the driving test but surely there must be probable reason to put the signs up like in front of schools, I'll never understand.

5. Why do Thai's play music so damn load?

There are plenty of places I don't go out in Thailand now because the noise is so loud I swear i'm going deaf and because I frequented places that play loud music too much I probably have lost some hearing. But why do they play it so damn load something I'll never understand.

So Thailand still remains a place of mystery and wonder and even when you think you know you don't but I wouldn't want to be living anywhere else right now. Oh if you think you know the answers to these questions please let me know in the comments below.


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About Chris

Chris founded LivingThai.org in 2011 and has received over 3 million visitors. In 2017 he stopped writing new content (although does update the site) and is now focused on writing for his new website SlyNomad.com.

23 Responses to 5 Things I will never understand about Thailand

  1. Bentley January 7, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    #5 struck a chord with me: I have stopped going into the clubs because the music is so loud that if I want to talk to anyone I have to cup my hands over their ear and shout – it is ridiculous.
    I have a 6th thing for you: why do taxi drivers show up at the airport (or elsewhere) with an EMPTY tank??? Today I met friends at the airport and on the way back into town the driver stopped in a filling station and we waited behind 10 other taxis and finally we told him we had a restaurant reservation and to get moving and fill his tank on his own time. On the way, he ran out of petrol and turns out his natural gas tank was also empty, so we paid and left him on the side of the road – Thank God he was not out on the highway. We hailed another taxi and this one was also running with his low fuel light on!! We made it but what would make a cabbie go on duty with an empty tank – now I ask you, how stupid is that???

    • Chris January 10, 2012 at 7:59 am #

      I’ve never ran out of gas in my life yet I see Thai people run out all the time. My logic is if it’s on empty go fill it up, but Thai people say oh no you can go further no problems until they end up pushing their bikes to the nearest gas station.

  2. Yayah January 8, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    Answers fromThai:
    1. Women,Toms,and lady boys are thinking alike in Thai’s mind, they are in ladies body(include some lady boys), doing their activities in restroom,they prefer in their territories cause we (Thai)raise boys and girls separately in public especially. You may see some Thai girls love to go to restroom altogether, nothing wrong but we just used to these habits.
    2. Can see that we think differently here, we speak English cause we’d like to honor you as special guests, some feel proud of speaking English ability means you are educated. On the contrary, when I spoke English in France or Japan, some of them ignore and gave the look that I hadn’t tried speaking their country’s language. It’s very nice of your friend trying to speak Thai to Thai people, we just think differently na ka.
    3. For this bomb matter, not all Thai are the same, no comment for this point.55555
    4. For Passing Thai driving license,we must realize that we can not over-speeding at 120 km per hour even on the express way. However, have to confess that I drove more than speed-limit many times and got lucky without ticket, but it’s no good at all for my life(I knew) . This is why they don’t put the sign on ka.
    5. Totally agreed with you. Probably , no one really monitors for the decibel they’re using for their entertainment complex, I hadn’t join this kind of place for such a long time.
    Have to admit that we are weak on using strict law to manage our country, just hope one day it’s better. But this is Thai style, very easy-going huh…huh….

    • David January 9, 2012 at 11:08 am #

      One scam I have personally experienced is the Taxi driver will pick you up, stat the meter, and then somewhere along the way stop and gas up leaving the meter running. They usually will pick the longest line and often check the air in their tires. Your trip costs you more. I’ve also seen them pick lanes that are slower or more congested to keep the meter running.

      • Bentley January 11, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

        Hi David – this of course is a deliberate tactic on his part to run up the fare – if possible, pay what’s displayed on the meter and get out and go to the cab that’s just finished refueling.
        A Thai friend wrote to me the following:
        “Taxis’ gas cylinders are supposed to be filled up before being made available to the public. if you come across bus and taxi problems, please get Nooknik to report to the Call Center (Tel. 1584, 24-hour) of the Department of Land Transport. Taxi drivers have been fined for various offences.”
        If this is true, then let him see you making a note of his name & cab number. It’ll give him something to think on while he waits to fill up.

    • yeahright December 13, 2015 at 3:27 am #

      Well, that´s the problem, some of us don’t want to be “special guests” in Thailand, because we actually are not guests anymore.

      Think about it. Some people have lived in Thailand for over 20 years, own apartments, have families, etc., but just because they are white, some Thai people speak to them in English. I find that a bit rude.

      Also, what about Thai people who have westerner parents? I actually have “farang” friends who had children here. These children look like farang, but they were born in Thailand, and are Thai native speakers. Are they going to be treated like foreigners all their lives? How would you feel if your people treated you as a foreigner?

      To be fair though, most Thai people actually speak Thai to me. But maybe about 1 in 3 refuse to, and keep speaking English, even if I haven’t spoken a word of English. This 33% is enough, however, to face this situation on a daily basis.

      • Chris December 26, 2015 at 8:44 pm #

        I’ve learned never to do any paperwork with a thai friend/girl. You get there and they start asking them all the questions when they have no fricken idea, even when you can speak thai they will just keep asking the other person. it’s rude as fuck! I try to do anything without a Thai these days.

  3. Mr. Somchai January 8, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    I think the lack of regulation and law enforcement is one of the major aspects of Thailand I find so appealing, and probably why it can all be done at such a low cost too. Can you imagine with all the insurance and what not how much a single traffic light must cost? That said have you noticed there are no stop signs at many 4 way intersections as well? I figure either there is no tax money for it, or whatever cash there is, is siphoned off by some corrupt politician.

    1.) Answer: None of them can use the urinals because none of them have cocks, not even the Tom’s.

    2.) Last person’s post sounds pretty good.

    5.) I figure they are overcompensating because of societal pressure to always be polite and quiet. Playing loud music or driving a big noisy douchey looking truck is a way to get around that and feel bigger about oneself.

  4. ChiangMaiGuy January 9, 2012 at 2:37 am #

    6. Why do Thais NEVER use the indicator on their car? they assume I am a mind reader?

  5. Ray January 9, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

    Q. Why do Thais have zero ability to plan things logically?

    A. Because it’s easier to manipulate people when terms and conditions are ambiguous.

  6. Steve January 10, 2012 at 5:52 am #

    I think that most of the “mysteries” we experience in Thailand can be traced back to the education system. It seems to me that Thai education is based on memorizing rote learned beliefs that support Thai ideals and principles. Thai education does not seem to encourage debate, discussion or individuality. Meaning that if you trust what you are taught, you don’t need to be personally responsible for consequences. Those that conform just follow the masses, which in behavioral terms means driving badly etc, because they have no awareness that they are “personally” driving badly – they are just following everyone else. Those Thais that try to better themselves, despite wanting to think independently, have equally not been equipped by the education system to make decisions based on the consequences of their actions, so they too drive badly etc. It is only those Thais that have literally stepped outside of the education system, by studying abroad, studying at international school or re-educating themselves personally, that seem to understand that every individual’s behavior has a consequence. But that still doesn’t guarantee they will “care” about the affect of their actions or drive any better. I think that depends on personal integrity. Ironically cause and affect too is a fundamental principle in Buddhism.

  7. Johnnie Walker January 10, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

    That’s a good and quite accurate post by Steve.
    I wonder if Yaya can see this in her(?) own society?

    Re #3. Westerners tend to be quite reserved/shy/embarrassed about bodily functions (including sex), Thais are not.

    Also perhaps its a way of getting the message accross that they wish to be excused from your company for some time rather than just a few minutes for a pee.

  8. jack January 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    the day oh&s ,not taking responsibility for your own actions,ridiculous road rules, speeding cameras, red light cameras, even traffic lights,excess sign pollution,
    western europe crapology comes to thailand is the day i will never return.

  9. ChiangMaiGuy January 11, 2012 at 12:57 am #

    not sure about that your #3 comment Johnnie – Thais are very reserved about sex much,much more than westerners and same about having a pee etc. you try and stand in the bathroom brushing your teeth while she wants a pee.

    It’s more a lack of politeness – Thais, generally, are not very polite people (i.e. driving, parking, pushing in front, playing loud music etc.) – it’s back to education and upbringing – they are taught ‘mai pan rai’ (translated as ‘I don’t give a shit’) at a very early age.

  10. Yay ah January 11, 2012 at 2:53 am #

    thank you for mentioning about me na ka. At first I thought I would never come back to this website and read the frustration from foreigners to Thai. I don’t excuse myself as being a normal human being,and did something wrong sometimes without intention, it doesn’t mean I love doing it.
    What Khun Steve talked about some Thai education is true, now there are several alternative schools’d opened and have offered alternative ways of teaching but slightly expensive. To fix the education system has to come from the core government’s policy,which I havn’t seen any but think they’re trying, some politics culture won’t allow things to change easily here, but doesn’t mean it won’t be never changed.
    You know how Thai people’s feeling when they have chance reading your criticism on Thai or how to have sex with Thai girls for free and for fun?? Please kindly guess na ka.
    However, in the way we’d been taught is our behaviors and mentality reflect from family background and education. I just think that a coin always has two sides. Still remember the day I had been abroad for study and stayed in a dormitory which boys and girls living in the same building in university. I could stay there only 3 days and moved out to a house further by. What I told myself was culture shock but I had to adjust myself, another sample that I’d never forgot was a western student who had approached to be my friend couple days earlier, asking me to have sex with him, at the front of computer lab, I said no and tried to be polite with the thought that I might not understand their culture, he even tried to tell me that it’s normal here and he has big penis(sorry to say this kha), so I ran away and didn’t talk to him since.
    All my expression here doesn’t represent to all Thai’s thought, and I would think similar to all articles on this website. I don’t mean to attack anyone here, just patriot’s feeling sometimes. Thank you for staying in my country, besides of the dark side you’ve found here, hopefully you find something worth to think about when you go back to your country na ka.
    Cheers,…

    • Johnnie Walker January 11, 2012 at 10:38 am #

      Yah ah thank you for coming back and posting again. My apologies for misspelling your name earlier.
      Reading your writing style, use of English and content, it was no suprise when you mention having been educated abroad, I almost guessed it already.
      Your contributions here as a Thai are most welcome. (from me anyway, I can’t speak for the other members).

    • Tom December 30, 2014 at 3:33 am #

      Why are you thanking all these fuckers to stay? Lol

  11. ChiangMaiGuy January 11, 2012 at 10:28 am #

    Yay ah – I think all of us have many, many more good things to feel about Thailand – much more good than bad.

    Every country has good points and bad points and we all feel the good out-weighs the bad. But there are some things that are frustrating – same with our own country’s. I can give you a long, long list about the things that frustrate me about Europe!

    I think Thais are a bit more sensitive about farang criticism than the other way around – I would be very ok with any Thai criticizing Europe and would probably agree with most of it 🙂

    So please do not take it personally or as an attack on Thailand – Don’t forget it’s in our culture to be open, argue and say what we want about anything – not really the same as here. It’s a cultural thing for us to moan 🙂

  12. Don February 25, 2012 at 4:32 pm #

    I agree with no.5. It’s the middle of the day, in a mostly empty bar, and the music, or crappy karaoke, is still turned up so loud that you can’t hear what the person sitting across the table from you is saying.

    Does anyone know when Thais will learn to tell time? I don’t mean just being able to read the numbers, I mean actually realizing that “be there at 5” means to actually physically be there at 5. Not 6!

  13. Careyy February 25, 2013 at 6:33 am #

    The exact answer for the reason why thai listen to music so loudly is actually because some thai especially north eastern(e-sarn) likes fun and loud music, the thai people who open loud music would problaby be the North Eastern Thais.
    Im sure for that because im a native thai, luckily im just a very few kids who is clever enough to go to international school because most thais cant speak english XD.
    Also, im living in Bangkok and my neighborhood whos a North East thai always open loud music everyday until im getting used to it.
    Thai people who lived in different places, would have some different personality. Northern thai people dont like loud music and they are very calm than a normal thai people and Southern thai just like my mom are a bit easy-to-get-mad kind of person.

    • Chris February 26, 2013 at 12:54 am #

      Music is load in Chiang Mai also.

      • Steve January 24, 2016 at 3:49 pm #

        Mate, I live in Don Kaeo, up towards Mae Rim, and it’s shocking up here, Yu wouldn’t think so, as there are rice fields and such around, plus being near the Ping, but…. Over December and half of January, my wife calls the holiday season, there were a average of four bars competing with each other every night for 6 weeks… I actually would go out at nights and track them down, two were up on 121 road, 4 k from our house, two more across the Ping.. Honestly. The bass and kick drum were so loud they would go right through the house, we had to leave and stay at a hotel 4-5 times, amazing… Then no one thinks anything of showing up at 7 AM across the road with their pick up pounding out Thai dance music, then leave the doors open and go in the house ,so the whole neighbourhood could enjoy it too… I ‘Ve spoken to other people who live around CM and even they say that’s bad…. Never understand why they have to have everything on 11… Guy going to the monk party, on 11…. Funeral, on 11… Weddings, on 11 for 3 days… When I go back to the Gold Coast I can’t believe how quiet it is, even on a busy road…. What can do?

  14. Krypt February 27, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    Well, I’ve been to Thailand several times and have met many Thai girls (though I’m a man). Some girls talk about sex as a joke, some proposed me (for sex or a relationship) by herself, some flirted me (I wonder why) and some (especially the Isans) don’t tend to (and some never) talk about dirty things with me. I am fluent in writing, reading and speaking Thai, when I talk to a Thai in English he/she would answer in determined English, and if I change into Thai they looked relieved and tried to talk slow Thai with me. I guess part of the Thai community are quite good ones. I like them. They have a strange kind of humor (to me).

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