Last year my life as an international traveler started. Of all places in the world to go for my first international trip, I ended up in Thailand. I had friends that were there for work so I made a trip to see them my vacation last year. Talk about a culture shock! I wasn’t expecting things to be like the U.S. at all but it was still a shock to the system.
Here is what I learned about Thailand.
- Come prepared to haggle. Anything you see at street vendors, outdoor markets or that people approach you with has a negotiable price. Always negotiate! You will give them a number and they will say a number that is not your number and say “same same” expecting you to cave. You say no and keep negotiating. You may when the battle, you may not. But it’s fun and worth the effort.
- Motorcycle taxis are perfect for the adventurous souls. You are literally putting your life into the hands of someone on a glorified dirt bike – you have no helmet, not safety gear, it’s hot so you are wearing a sundress or shorts with flip flops. Traffic rules are flexible at best and their job is to get you where you are going as quickly as possible. While it was one of the freest and most fun experiences it was also one of the most terrifying. ALWAYS negotiate price prior to starting the trip.
- Learn to say thank you and the wai (phonetically pronounced “way”). Thank you is said differently by men and women. If you are a man, you would say “kob kun krab” (phonetically pronounced “cob coon crob” although to me it always sounded like “cop coon cop”). For us ladies we say “kob kun kaa”pronounced “cob coon ka”. The wai is a bow that you greet people with. Press your hands together in a prayer type manner and give a slight bow from the waist.
- Just because its cheap doesn’t mean you should skimp on your gratuity. The Thai bhat is approximately 30 bhat for 1 USD (to keep math easy) so you can get meals for less than $5 if you do street food or a local cafe on the street. If you tip well you will be treated like royalty. Tipping well got us not only amazing service (which in Thailand is not only slow but usually tough due to language barriers) but typically got us good local intel, extra serving of one of the cafes specialties. One street vendor sold us mango sticky rice that was delicious! It was 8 bhat and we gave her a 10 and told her to keep the change. So she fixed a whole second portion for us just to say thank you.
- Embrace T.I.T.. You will see and experience things in Thailand that will make you laugh, scratch your head and/or wonder if you have enter loony land. This is what people that live or visit Thailand often refer to a T.I.T. meaning “This is Thailand”. Basically anything crazy you see, if you ask an expat that is sitting close by, their reply will be a casual shrug and a casual “T.I.T.”. This phrase is so common that there is actually a Facebook page dedicated to This is Thailand T.I.T. A few examples of T.I.T. that truly aren’t near as bad as it gets.
Over all the trip was amazing and I have memories to last me a lifetime – the nice ladyboy that taught me the game Shut the Box, the monkeys on Monkey Island, snorkeling in the reefs, my very awkward Thai massage, the sweet people everywhere we went. If you ever go to Thailand hopefully this will help you not have the culture shock I experienced!