What are the things that strike us as "strange" or "different" when we first visit Thailand? What should we think about them? These questions and a few more are hopefully answered (more or less in random order) on these pages!
Some issues on these pages may also have been mentioned on other pages of this site. Not everybody reads all the pages, so this should be accepted by the visitor!
Please realize that these pages will never be complete! We will do our best to add new items to them regularly, however.
I will never get used to them! In Thai restaurants (and in Thai homes too, if it comes to that) you will find a container with micro-sized tissues on the table. They are meant to be used as napkins, but they are so terribly thin and small that they hardly can serve any purpose at all.
Consider them as part of Thai culture when you find them a bit small and thin too. In large hotels and restaurants, aimed at foreigners, you will get a napkin as you are used to in your country.
You must have seen them and have wondered what they are. I mean the water tanks like the ones on the picture above. Every house, office, hotel, in short every building has them. They are meant to raise the pressure in the water tubes in the building. In Thailand the pressure is too low to bring water with an acceptable pressure out of the taps. Therefore the owners of buildings have to raise the pressure a bit themselves. The tanks do the job.
So they are not meant as a water reservoir, in case of shortage, as some foreign people think. They simply keep up the pressure.
How are you?
We have learned as a child that if somebody inquires after our health, or -more generally speaking- how we are, that it is impolite to say that we are not well. So, the standard answer to the question "How are you?" is "Thank you, I'm fine", or some similar expression. I have heard people say this that really were very seriously ill!
In Thailand, however, people will give you a real answer to the question. So, if you ask a Thai person "How are you?", the answer will probably be "I'm normal", or "Not good, not bad" or even "Not so good".
Well, what makes more sense? The polite line you and I have learned, or a real answer like you will get in Thailand?
Pick-up trucks are immensely popular in Thailand. Not in order to transport goods for the family business, but in the first place for the family outing.
Especially in weekends you will see lots of them, loaded with people.
The picture shows you a family outing in a pick-up truck. The family just takes a rest (and a snack of course).
Thai families will prefer this way to transport their family to a "normal "car, like you and I own. Why? Don't ask me. Ask your Thai friends and they find it so obvious that they won't understand your question!
Elsewhere on this site I have recommended you to eat khao thom (literally "boiled rice") for your breakfast when in Thailand (see pictures of two popular brands above this text) and I cannot recommend this strongly enough! A typical thing to know about khao thom is that every housewife in Thailand has her own ("secret") recipe of khao thom. And every Thai housewife is convinced that she makes the best khao thom in Thailand.
When I once said to my sister-in-law that in hotel so-and-so they serve the best khao thom in Thailand, she was highly offended. "No", she said. "The best khao thom in Thailand comes from my kitchen!". This was on a morning after we spent the night in her house, so she went to the kitchen, and came back with a plate of khao thom. I was (just) allowed to say that my wife (her sister) even made better khao thom, but I had to take back my words about hotel so-and-so.
"Feeding the ducks"
This observation is not based on my personal experience. Apart from an observation of Thai culture it also is a warning to those male visitors to Thailand who think they can easily start a non-serious relationship with a serious Thai lady. Follow the English-language Thai newspapers if you do not believe me. You will find references to what I am going to write at least twice a year. This is -however- only the top of the iceberg, because only those cases where the act could be reversed will reach the newspapers. The other cases are routine and are not considered news. Here it is:
When a Thai lady discovers that her husband or (now that sex before marriage is becoming more accepted) her fiance is unfaithful to her, she will take a kitchen knife and cut off his private parts when he is asleep. And because in Thai hospitals reuniting these parts with the rest of the body is one of the top specialties, a Thai lady that is really angry, will feed the cut-off parts to the ducks (that most Thai people up-country will keep on their grounds). In that case the act is irreversible. In the cities -according to the newspapers- they may throw the cut-off parts somewhere in the street in a dustbin.
Punishment in Thailand for this crime is relatively mild, and ladies, hurt in their honor, accept a possible punishment gladly, it seems. That is why it happens again and again. Even a serious news medium like the BBC World Service Radio recently devoted a broadcast to this unique bit of Thai culture. So, be aware and know what you are doing when you start a relationship with a Thai lady!