Thai Culture Upon Arrival
While many people who come to the ThailandGuru website expect a lot on this page, it is actually one of the shortest on the website. This is because:
- There are already several sites on the Internet which focus on Thai culture. Rather than "reinvent the wheel," I chose to fill in the gaps between other websites, and to focus on the practical matters of helping expats getting settled in here for both living and working. I have a page on links to selected other websites on Thai culture. I created ThailandGuru because no other website offers a guide to moving, living and working here. ThailandGuru is a practical and fairly complete guide.
- The practical yet important things about Thai culture are discussed in subsections of this website, embedded into pages on specific topics -- in context, not separated and put into this section.
When you hit the ground in Thailand, here's what stands out most:
- The pace is very slow, unlike most of the rest of Asia.
- The cost of things is less, except in the foreigner areas. There just aren't many hustlers in Thailand per capita.
- Most people are easygoing, soft-spoken and gentle. Politeness is the norm in Thai society. You must be fairly respectful before you will be well respected.
- The language barrier is one of the worst in the newly industrialized world. Mainstream Thais cannot speak English, though they can read and write a fair amount. There is plenty of written English around, but if you haven't travelled the world much, the different alphabet here can be intimidating.
- Bangkok is remarkably safe for foreigners, compared with other countries and especially big cities. There are a few exceptions: certain places within certain tourist hot spots, and an occasional slum that's overrun by drug addicts. (Most "slums" by western standards are actually fairly safe.)
Of all the places I've been, Thailand is in the top class in terms of safety -- despite the low per capita income.
Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country (mainly Theravada Buddhism) mixed in with a lot of Thai animism. Approximately 95% of the inhabitants of Thailand are Buddhist.
In Thai culture, to lose your cool is to lose face. In interactions, you get furthest when you are polite. Excessive impatience and assertiveness generally result in others turning the other way, including officials and vendors, basically avoiding you and tuning you out. Patience usually results in a strong effort to help you when your turn comes.
Class is important in Thailand, and if you don't show any class, you won't get much respect. The class of strangers is judged on-the-spot based on appearance and behavior.
Thai culture is one of the most civil civilizations in the world.
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