In today’s post I talk further with Valerie Wond an English teacher from London, England, that lives in Thailand.
In part one Valerie gave us her great story on how she came to live in Thailand and make Thailand her home. It’s a journey that saw her working all over Asia as an English teacher, but Thailand was always the place she returned to.
In part two Valerie gave us her personal favourite food and travel choices from Thailand and managed to throw in a bit of Sek Loso (Thai rock star)
In today’s post I wanted to know a few more tips from Valerie on Living in Thailand and adjusting to the Thai way of life.
Trevor: What would you say as a foreigner (farang) living in Thailand were the three most important tips for new arrivals with regards to adjusting to life in Thailand?
Valerie: Three important tips for new arrivals to adjust to living in Thailand in my opinion would be: always smile no matter what the problem, learn a few essential Thai words or phrases, and lastly, but most importantly respect the King.
Trevor: They are excellent tips. When things are not going to plan or misunderstandings occur, smiling through gritted teeth is very difficult to do. It is however a very important skill to develop for anyone spending time in Thailand. Jumping up and down and throwing toys out of the pram tend to delay you further in Thailand and can sometimes have worse consequences. A cool head, respect, patience and a smile will usually see the process moving in the right direction again.
Learn the Thai smile
Trevor: Can you offer any money-saving tips with regards to living in Thailand , that perhaps you use and that may help others.
Valerie: Hmmm! Money saving tips! Please advise me….lol! No, seriously, I save money by not going to expensive farang restaurants and bars. I usually buy a beer from the convenience store and sit with my friends (and dogs) by the khlong. Someone usually has a sound system in the back of their car and I can listen to Sek Loso (surprise) at full blast. Or someone pulls out a guitar and starts singing and strumming along to popular Thai country classics. I love it!
Another way I save money is by having a motorbike. Much cheaper than getting taxis everywhere, but I wouldn’t really advise it in Bangkok! Only for the strong hearted. I live in Bang Phli, where it’s a bit less congested.
Valerie and transport
Trevor: I must admit I have never really understood the constant visiting of farang (foreign, non-Thai) restaurants and bars. For a start as you say they are far more expensive. Secondly, why an earth would you arrive in a foreign land to duplicate exactly what you did daily in your homeland and thirdly I would sooner not eat at all than eat at the well-known Western food chain restaurants.In my view the food is dire.
There are days however and it’s usually after about 5 day’s when I get a bread hankering rather than a rice one. This is quickly sorted out by a good little Thai Restaurant/cafe who specialises in Thai and western dishes and still at very sensible prices. A bit of research needs to be done on this in experimental fashion before you find your prime location, but it’s worth it both in price and quality. On my travels around Thailand I now have several such places pin-pointed. Here is a fantastic place in Chiang Mai specialising in both Thai and Western dishes. One of my favorite’s. After a couple of bread type based dishes I get back on the Thai cuisine train. Sailomjoy Restaurant photo and write-up below.
- By the way a ” Khlong ” is a canal
Trevor: With regards to music at full blast, I don’t think I have ever heard it any other way in Thailand. Last year I was in Nakhon Sawan and they were selling car stereos and using the cars to demonstrate how good the stereo players were. To draw the crowd’s attention were a few very tidy looking, but scantily dressed Thai ladies dancing to the tunes. My goodness I almost went deaf. The noise was at full blast. Any other time I would have left immediately, but my eyes won the battle with my ears on this occasion. Those car stereo’s looked fine.
Trevor: What about the cost of living in Bangkok, have you found things more expensive in the last couple of years. On the other hand what is still great value?
Valerie: As I said, I live in Samut Prakan, on the outskirts of Bangkok, so it’s all a little bit cheaper here. I always judge how expensive a place is by the price of a beer, as you may have guessed by now…but when I first came to Thailand, about 22 years ago, a small Beer Chang was about 25 baht in Khao San Road. I think now it’s about 7o baht or more if in the tourist areas. So, yeah I think prices are rising a lot in the last few years. Less backpackers and more well off tourists come here these days.
On the other hand I can still find reasonably priced accommodation compared to other Asian countries and there are still lots of good, cheap Thai restaurants to be found all over. Banglamphu, in Bangkok, is a good place to go clothes shopping. They have all sizes, and I will go there this weekend to get some skirts and blouses and shoes for work.
Even night shopping
Trevor: I agree Val. I think it’s all about experimenting and doing a bit of leg-work research. When ever I arrive at a new location in Thailand and aim to spend a bit of time there, I check out the local area. I will walk in the early mornings for a couple of hours and note food places that seem to be thriving, have personality and look of good value. Note accommodation places and prices for future reference and get the feel of the area. After I will have a snack in these places or stay at the accommodation .
It all depends on your wants and desires in life I suppose. If you need the fast food restaurants, the top-notch hotels, the brand named shopping luxuries and the non-stop partying then be prepared to spend big. I tend not to require those things and that makes life in Thailand when I am there very reasonable. I certainly do enjoy a Singha beer like the next man or woman, but usually save this for when Manchester United are playing. It can be very thirsty work when cheering your team on.
Trevor: What would you say were the three most important tips for foreigners with regards to forming a good working or personal relationship with Thai people.
Valerie: In order to form a good working or personal relationship with Thai people I think foreigners should be flexible and try to understand that Thai culture is very different from Western culture. Thai people do not like to ‘lose face’ and so it is not appropriate to confront a Thai person, even though you believe that you are in the right.
Also, it’s good to bear in mind, ‘Thai Time’. When a Thai person says, ‘One moment, please’, expect to wait at least 30 minutes…lol!
Lastly, Thai people are always so generous and love to give their friends and work colleagues little gifts, sometimes for no reason at all. Return the favour and you will be very much appreciated and loved!
Observing Thai culture
Trevor: I think a volume of books could be put together consisting of stories based on the subject of time and I have had enough experiences to write many myself. I actually call it the time challenge, but that’s a topic for another day. In the book ” The Cultural Detective” by Christopher G. Moore a Canadian author who has lived in Thailand for 25 years, he talks about this. Each chapter is an essay and the chapter I am referring to is called ” The Language Barrier: The March Of Time.
He talks of the Thai language playing a part here or more to the point the vagueness in the phrases that might cause some challenges.
Kamlang ja pai (about to leave) , Kamlang ja theung (about to arrive) or Kamlang ja set (about to finish). Christopher explains that the phrase kamlang ja which precedes a verb keeps everything superbly flexible and open-ended and avoids showing any particular time that someone might show up. And that includes for an appointment, finishing a task or make up one’s mind about something.
He goes on to say that if you were waiting for invited guests to arrive for dinner and they phone to say they are running late, but kamlang ja theung (about to arrive). This can be translated into anything from a few minutes to a couple of hours.
I enjoy reading such cultural insights and there is a lot more superb stuff in not only that chapter, but the whole book, which I would highly recommend. After 25 years of living in Thailand and some 23 novels later he is a superb source to learn from and a fantastic author.
Find out more about this book and further work from author Christopher G. Moore at the link below. I have also just obtained a copy of his new book ” Faking It In Bangkok” which is all about crime and culture in the digital age. I have yet to finish all the essay’s, but am already loving it.
Trevor: Knowing the differences in the Thai and Western mindsets, what would you say were the three most common misunderstandings in a Thai/Western cross cultural relationship?
Valerie: The 3 most common misunderstandings in a Thai/Western cross-cultural relationship. Hmmmm! Let me think. I can only speak from my own experience on this matter.
So… most important of all is to make sure from the very beginning what each of you expect to gain from the relationship, and don’t allow the other person to take over in a way that you forget your own dream of how it should be.
Also, many arguments stem from either a lack of communication or a misunderstanding due to the language barrier. You say one thing and they think you mean another or vice versa. Always double-check that you have made yourselves absolutely clear. A bit like when I’m teaching English actually!
Lastly, don’t rush into things. Take your time and be sure that the decisions you make are the right ones for you both.
Trevor: Really good Valerie. I have seen so many small language barrier based misunderstandings grow into near enough all out war that it is basically another volume of books. There is good money to be made for an instant on the spot translator, I am sure.
Often we have intervened and sorted out a small problem before it got out of hand. The last one was the eastern European who could not get his fruit smoothie request over without the poor Thai lady adding an ingredient he did not want. He became angry for very little reason and almost ended up wearing the smoothie machine.
We managed to negotiate the frosty relationship between vendor and customer. Final outcome he had mixed fruit smoothie with ingredients he wanted, vendor had money and all left peacefully on this occasion. It’s no place to be when a fruit smoothie war breaks out through a lack of understanding though. (ha ha ha)
The fruit smoothie stand
Trevor: Thanks Valerie and once again you have been terrific. We have one more part to hear from you later which is about lifestyle. I look forward to that .
1) Sponsor A Dog Today
To find out more information
2) Lanta Animal Welfare
To find out more information
Relieve the suffering and pain of the animals on the island through sterilisation and care.
For more information on Thailand