This isn’t me going full Thai and moving up to the village and enjoying the life of a rice farmer. Instead, I want to focus on the people that move here or visit frequently, make an attempt at going native and failing miserably.
Thai Culture Is Subtle
Let’s remove the bar scene from this discussion. While relevant to some extent it’s really a subculture within the greater Thai culture. It has very little bearing on how Thails interact with each other on a daily basis.
I also want to point out that after 10 years, I know a fair share of what is going and how to behave but I don’t participate unless required. Why? Because as I said, Thai culture is subtle. I do not wish to make a social gaffe when I know I don’t have to.
Trust me, there are things going on around you that you will never understand and even if you do, sometimes you aren’t expected to participate because you aren’t Thai and it’s awkward at best and can be a full on fail at worst. So unless you somehow got managed to be raised by Thais and are still a be definition a farang you will never go full native.
You Look Stupid
I have seen this countless time, usually by frequent travelers who haven’t bothered to do more than fuck bargirls or go to the occasional temple and think they are engaging in some relevant cultural activity.
The reality is you look absolutely stupid in the eyes of a Thai. As I indicated, Thai culture is subtle, if you with an obvious Thai bargirl strike one for you already. Your pecking order within a normal Thais eyes is now down a notch. You give a wai (a raising of hands to chest, face, forehead) and do it wrong, you look stupid. If you tower over a senior ranking Thai which could mean an important person or an elder and don’t bow your head below them you just look awkward.
I have witnessed this countless times and I cringe. Pay attention to the Thais around you who may witness this and they will cringe too. You are trying too hard to blend into a culture you don’t understand.
How To Proceed
First off, I will never go full native. I live in a country full of brown people and I have Thais asking me how is it possible that I live here and am not as brown as I should be. I point out I’m allergic to sunlight.
The reality is I do understand what goes on around me to a decent extent. When I’m forced into a situation where I need to actually use proper manners I’m very careful about it. I rarely wai and when I do its to the nice immigration person that gives me my 90 day extension or the officer stamping me in at the airport. The wai is to my chin and it’s respectful. The same is to a monk if I am in passing, I give them a wai to my nose and done. Anyone else? They get a head nod and a smile. If I know an elder I may give them a respectful wai between my chest and chin. Otherwise, no way. That includes the friendly police officers that pull me over at least twice a week to helpfully check to make sure my drivers licenses are still in order.
Farangs fall outside the social norm. You aren’t expected to know these things. So stop trying to mimic or use them. If you understand when and how and respect the culture Thais are very happy to engage you and not judge you. Speak a few words of Thai and you go a long way. That is more in line with how a Thai thinks. Trying to be Thai when you clearly or not is waste of time and energy and doesn’t gain you any status in the eyes of a Thai.
What Pisses Me Off
Prepare for a rant!
This one totally pisses me off and I break this out for a special breed. Fucking dirty, filthy backpackers! These dumb fucks wear traditional Thai clothes that even Thais don’t wear unless it’s in a massage shop or a freaking tourist show. Otherwise, no fucking Thai is walking around in baggy ass pants and a linen shirt these days unless its in the above scenario and they are on break.
Fucking backpackers are the worst at going full native. Most are gap year students living on Mom and Dad’s money and haven’t a fucking clue but want to get in touch with the culture. You see these twats all decked out in prayer beads, amulets, and all sorts of shit that they have absolutely no idea what they mean. Sure, prayer beads are easy, but ask about an amulet once and they will tell you its about Buddha. When you call them out and go yeah, but what’s the point and what is the power of the amulet you get a look of scorn because clearly you haven’t embraced the culture. What the dumb fucks don’t understand is each amulet has a meaning and a power or spell associated with it. It’s not like a crucifix or a medal of a saint. Each one has some meaning to it.
They also love to lecture you or each other on their native knowledge. Like make sure you take you shoes off before you enter a temple. Well no shit! You are telling me that giant ass fucking line of shoes out front wasn’t hint enough? I like to then go, so tell me how you sit in a temple? They will tell you cross legged. Depending on how much of a dick I am feeling like I will correct them. No your are legs pointed behind you away from all images of Buddha, this generally means towards the exit because there are Buddha’s all around you moron.
My favorite is those that have massive Buddha tattoos on their arms or legs. The ignorant twats haven’t a clue you don’t do that because it’s a sign of disrespect to Buddha. You may get a Sak Yant or similar, but an image of a Buddha or Hindu god is generally a no! Hindu gods are mixed in with Buddhism, try telling that to a filthy backpacker.
Seriously, I wanted to throat punch these fucks every time they started in on this shit.
Respect The Culture
I encourage anyone who lives in another country to respect the culture of that country. Learn it’s ways and languages. You may not agree with them 100% you may not understand them, but least make an attempt.
There are somethings you just will never be able to do simply because you weren’t born and raised within it. Life goes on. Most reasonable people understand that you didn’t grow up here and accept that you can’t or won’t participate in things because it would be socially awkward.
So when you pick your country of choice. Understand the culture as best you can. Just don’t try and go full native because the only one that is thinking you are native is you!