If you have spent any time in Bangkok you will have noticed it is a very multicultural city. There’s a Little India, China Town, Arab Street, and enclaves of Western Europeans, Koreans and Japanese dotted around the city. Nevertheless, those who spend a long time here will start to blend in with the locals by picking up small Thai idiosyncrasies that persist in every country and are unique to that culture. Of course it starts with the local language, but it starts to affect their life in other, more subtle ways. Here is a list of foibles that are noticeable in the truly integrated foreigner who has been in Bangkok ‘too’ long.
Taking a motorcycle taxi instead of walking short distances
Back in your native country one kilometre might seem like a pleasant stroll, but in Bangkok, this distance turns into a full on assault course of broken paving stones, boiling pots of street side noodle stalls, cars, bikes and beggars. To avoid this, local Bangkokians make use of the groups of motorcycle taxi drivers that sit at the entrance to most streets in the city. Dressed in brightly coloured vests, 'moto cy' drivers are easy to spot and will take you short distances for as little as 10 or 20 baht. As convenient as they are, motorcycle taxis are notorious for overcharging tourists, but for the foreigner who has been in Bangkok too long, most distances are easy to estimate.
Putting ice in your beer
I'm sure the master brewers of Europe would turn in their grave at such sacrilegious behaviour, but in the heat and humidity of the world’s official hottest city, constantly adding ice cubes to your glass is the only way to keep your beer cool and refreshing. It undoubtedly affects the taste, but it does ensure your Singha or Chang is cold, fizzy and hits the spot. Adding ice when you are dining outside might sound strange, but when you start putting ice into your drink when dining indoors and with air-conditioning you can truly consider yourself an ex-pat who has been in Bangkok too long!
Reaching for the toilet hose instead of toilet paper after finishing your mission
For the expat that has been in Thailand too long toilet paper is used for one thing and one thing only: wiping your fingers and lips after eating a meal at a street stall. For all your sanitary needs one only requires a toilet hose, affectionately called a ‘bum gun’. If you think about it, using water to wash yourself makes a lot more sense. After all, you wouldn’t wipe mud off your face only with paper, would you?
Taking off your shoes whenever you enter a house
This one is not limited to Thailand but it sure is apparent for foreigners unaccustomed to this practice - whenever you enter a house, apartment or place of worship, it is a common courtesy to remove your shoes at the entrance or even before you enter. Not to do so would be noticed by everyone although owing to the kind and forgiving nature of most Thai people they may not say anything to you as they wouldn’t want to embarrass you.
Drinking your soda out of a plastic bag
Thai people are nothing if not resourceful and it’s interesting to see how people can adapt items to fit their purpose. An everyday example of this is when you want to buy a drink from a market or local restaurant to take away with you. The shop owner would have to pay money if you take the glass bottle so the solution is to take a small plastic bag, fill it with ice, pour your drink into it and finish it off with a long straw. If this method of drinking on the move pops into your head you may well be a foreigner who has been in Bangkok too long.
Eating rice for breakfast instead of bread or sausages
Thai food is undoubtedly one of the world’s leading cuisines and a major reason why people return to Bangkok year after year (along with the cheap shopping, vibrant nightlife and nearby beaches, mountains and rivers...). But the one issue many newcomers have with Thai cuisine is the apparent lack of breakfast options. The classic western breakfast of fried bacon, sausages and eggs, or even quick bowl of cereal and piece of toast is rarely found outside of your hotel buffet, and if you are a foreigner who’s spent too long in Bangkok, an early morning breakfast consists of noodles or rice – noodles or rice cooked in a variety of ways, but noodles or rice nonetheless. If you reheat last night’s dinner and eat with rice then you score bonus points.
Typical local breakfast in Bangkok:
Jok = rice porridge
Khao niew moo bing = sticky rice with pork skewers
Khao kai dao = fried eggs on rice
Dressing up in a jacket, scarf and socks to go to the movies
In the tropical heat of Bangkok the temperature rarely drops below 25 degrees Celsius so there is absolutely no need for any kind of warm clothing, right? Not quite. Even though the weather outside is scorching, inside offices and shopping malls, air-conditioning is fighting a battle with nature to keep the sweat off our backs. This may be pleasant while shopping, but if you go to watch a movie in your summer clothes, you will end up shivering through the ending. That’s why foreigners who have been here too long remember to bring winter gear to watch the latest blockbuster.
Putting chilli and salt on your fruit
When you buy a fresh pineapple or mango from the friendly fruit stall lady in Bangkok, you will notice a small packet of pink granules put in the bag along with your fruit. If you are new to the city, you would probably ignore it or dip a wary finger into the bag and taste it on the tip of your tongue. This mixture is actually chilli flakes and salt. Sounds weird, right? Not to the foreigner who has been in Bangkok too long, because they think nothing of dunking every piece into the bag.
Convert all prices back to Thai Baht – even when you go back to your native country to visit friends or family
You might have grown up with dollars, maybe pounds or even lira, but for the foreigner who has spent too long in Bangkok, all purchases will first require a conversion back into Thai baht, to truly understand its value. This becomes apparent when it is your once home currency that you can no longer judge. Although the common conception of Bangkok is that everything is so cheap – and while much of life is still far less expensive than other countries – owing to the huge tax placed on luxury items, things like cars and designer clothes are actually cheaper in some western countries.
For guys fresh off the plane, Bangkok can seem like a dream: model-like ladies, dressed to kill in figure hugging cocktail dresses and sexy struts, all interested in the exotic foreigner. But like many things that seem too good to be true, often the boldest ladies are often not ladies at all: welcome to the world of transgenders, katoeys or ladyboys. There are many ways to spot a ladyboy but these take time to learn. For the foreigner who’s been in Bangkok too long the ability to pick out a ‘katoey’ becomes as second nature to them as ignoring tuk-tuk drivers or remembering in which direction the nearest 7-11 is. Read More...