After two years of living in Thailand, I picked up some useful (and some comical) tips about life. Here are 7 of them…
1. Don’t point your feet at Buddha
Did you know that pointing your feet at a person (or more importantly, a Buddha statue), is considered insulting? The head is the highest part of the body and thought of as sacred. The feet, on the other hand, are the lowest part of the body and considered dirty. Showing the bottoms of your feet should be avoided, so try tucking them behind you.
2. Stop worrying about what people think
I was once in the 7Eleven with my (Thai) boyfriend. It was a particularly heavy day for rainfall. A woman entered the store wearing a shower cap. “Look at her wearing a shower cap out in public”, I scoffed. He turned to me completely straight faced and replied “it’s raining outside”. Still leading with my (awful) judgemental Western foot I continued “but she looks silly”. He replied “Her hair is dry, your’s is wet. Who looks more silly?”
3. Chill out
I caught on pretty quickly that the Thai’s are in no hurry to do most things (Thai time). Tourists would become agitated fast. Why was the boat not leaving when they said it would? I overheard a local boatman saying to someone “Why are you getting so angry? You are getting this boat to an island to lie in the sun and relax. Why do you think you can’t do that here whilst you wait?”
4. Being called fat is not an insult
If you’re in Asia and someone tells you you’re fat, I’m afraid you’re going to have to suck it up. It doesn’t carry the same negative connotations that it does in our part of the world, with many rural areas seeing it as an indication that you are wealthy enough to feed yourself. I found (most of the time) it was being used to refer to the fact that I looked healthy. If I had £1 for every time someone told me I was a “big lady”… (I’m a UK size 8!!!).
5. Don’t take your medical system for granted
I once got a urine infection whilst living in the South of Thailand. At home, I’d have nipped to the chemist and picked up one of those cranberry powder sachets that go in your water. Job done. Thailand didn’t have that. The pharmacy couldn’t help, and after 2 days of trying my best to flush it away naturally, it got so bad that I went to A&E. Here they refused to believe I had a kidney infection, charging me for expensive kidney stone tests before sending me away. A day later, I paid for a boat to take me to the International hospital who ended up putting me on a drip to clear my (out of control) kidney infection. It cost me £200. I’ll never slam the UK NHS system again.
6. Be content with what you have
I met a lady at our local market who was selling AMAZING up-cycled vintage shirts. I bought a few, put them on Ebay, and doubled the cost. I went back to her, explaining that I was heading back the UK, and that there was business potential if we could set up a bulk posting arrangement. She refused, explaining that her small stand made enough to pay her rent, buy her food, and take care of her family. She didn’t need anything else to make her more happy.
7. The bum gun is king
In a lot of local establishments, toilet roll was replaced with what we call ‘the bum gun’ (essentially a hose pipe). You wash, rather than wipe. During a weekend stay at a boutique hotel in Bangkok, my (previously mentioned) boyfriend had a small melt down mid toilet visit, after discovering the lack of bum gun. Afterwards I asked him, “why such a fuss? Why not just use the paper?”. He replied “You guys are disgusting. If you had sh*t anywhere else on your body, would you wash it off, or wipe it off with paper?!” My mind was blown!!
A huge thanks to my pal Katie for sending me immediate bum gun shots on demand (haha). Check out one of my favourite Thailand post: 7 secret things to do in Bangkok
I love hearing about both the funny (and the serious) things that people have learned on their travels. Please share below!