What do you think of when you hear about Thailand?
Wait, let me guess. The sun, lovely beaches, tasty food. Interesting culture, long history and Buddhist temples.
Accurate thoughts. From tourists perspective, that’s Thailand.
But do you know, what Thailand is like for its inhabitants? What’s everyday life like?
I spent 7 weeks in Thailand. I travelled for 3 and I volunteered for 4, teaching Thai people English via Skype. Every day I talked to a few people with different background, from different environments and age groups. Except for doing language exercises, they told me a lot about their country, opinions and life.
That’s how I learnt a lot about Thailand and I will share my 10 most interesting discoveries about Thai people and life in Thailand. Remember, it is only based on what I heard and saw and it is a generalization.
Life in Thailand – 10 Facts
Table of Contents
- Life in Thailand – 10 Facts
- 1. Thai people are hard-working and ambitious
- 2. Employees have few days of vacation
- 3. They don’t travel much, even in Thailand
- 4. Thai parents are demanding
- 5. Thai people can’t rely on their retirement
- 6. Thai people love food – but they rarely cook at home
- 7. Thai people dress modestly
- 8. Thai people love their king
- 9. Thai people are helpful and always smile
- 10. Thai people are humble and grateful
1. Thai people are hard-working and ambitious
Even though their work day normally lasts 8 hours and working week – 5 days, it’s often a theory. I talked to people who work 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. And to those who commute to work 2 hours one way.
Do they complain? Not in public. They accept it, they are used to hard work, they want to develop and go further.
My host was 8 months pregnant when I arrived to volunteer. She woke up at 4:30 a.m. every day, prepared our day plan, went to work 8 hours and cooked for us all after coming back. On weekends she slowed down just a little bit. I was impressed – but for her it was perfectly normal. Oh well… that’s life in Thailand.
2. Employees have few days of vacation
Vacation is not regulated by the government. Companies decide how many days employees have. So most Thai people have 6 days a year and after working for 10 years in the same company (!) – 12. Crazy, isn’t it?
A doctor was in the worst situation. He had 3 days of vacation. And it doesn’t matter, he said. He didn’t have time to take them anyway.
Maternity leave lasts 3 months.
3. They don’t travel much, even in Thailand
With this amount of vacation, they don’t have time to travel. I just met a few who have been to Europe. Many of them haven’t even been to the most popular places in Thailand. They use their vacation to visit their families, they learn, work or rest at home.
4. Thai parents are demanding
Thai kids go to school. After school – to private English, math or physics classes. They come home, do their homework, learn – and go to sleep. They spend Saturday mornings in private schools, and on Sundays they learn how to play an instrument.
I even met a case of parents choosing career path for their kids.
5. Thai people can’t rely on their retirement
I don’t know in details how Thai retirement system works. But people told me that it is impossible to survive for the retirement you get from the government. Elderly people who didn’t take care of their future before, need to ask their families for help – or need to work, find a way to get additional money.
And it is noticeable in the streets, life in Thailand isn’t easy for the elderly people. A lot of them work, selling food, souvenirs, fruits…
6. Thai people love food – but they rarely cook at home
If you can’t find a common topic with a Thai person – talk about food! Their eyes will shine and they’ll tell you all about their favorite (mostly Thai) dishes. It’s cute, how proud of their national cuisine they are.
They don’t cook at home often though – they buy food or eat out. Some Thai people don’t even have a kitchen at home. What for, if on morning or night markets they can buy cheap and tasty food? They save a lot of time. Lucky them… 🙂
7. Thai people dress modestly
Thai culture requires decent clothing. Even though it’s hot, you won’t see women in miniskirts or shorts barely covering your butt, with bare shoulders or big cleavage.
Majority of clothing I took to Thailand with me was like that. It’s summer, right? During my trip to the USA I used them all the time, it was perfectly normal. After a few days in Thailand I felt weird, like I went out naked. In result, I wore loose trousers I bought there most of the time!
8. Thai people love their king
The king is the most important person in the country for Thai people. His pictures are everywhere – on buildings, on calendars, after a few weeks you wouldn’t be surprised seeing him in your own fridge.
Thai people worship their king, they even kneel in front of his statues like in front of Buddha’s ones.
Even though Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and legislative power belongs to the National Assembly – the king has the biggest authority among people.
I was wondering though, how much of the respect and authority results from history and the king’s achievements and how much from law and propaganda (called “education”) in TV, at schools and universities. I didn’t dare to ask Thai people. It’s dangerous – you can go to prison if you defame or insult the king.
9. Thai people are helpful and always smile
Thai people are amazing. Each and every person I passed in the street smiled to me. Everybody was willing to help me when I needed it. People I taught on Skype found hostels for me, interesting places to see, invited me for lunch. One of them even organized a day trip to the floating market for me, presented me to all her family and told me I am always welcome back in Bangkok (Wha, big hug if you’re reading this! <3 )
These smiles make life in Thailand cheerful. After coming back to Poland I had to get used to no eye contact and serious faces again.
If you’ve read in the Internet before that in Thailand you need to be careful because of frauds – it’s true. In touristic places you will meet people for whom you are nothing but a bag of money. I also “got too little change” and a taxi driver gave me a twice too long ride. These situations don’t influence my opinion about Thai people in general. Stay alert, like everywhere in the world – but don’t be negative. Thai people are amazing 🙂
10. Thai people are humble and grateful
“I can’t speak English”, I heard often right after “hello”. And then for 15 minutes of fluent talk I couldn’t catch a single mistake. I remember just a few Thai people who proudly talked about their achievement, talent or skill. Which doesn’t mean they didn’t have them. When I told them a compliment – they were surprised, shy and they usually denied!
They were grateful an European person decides to spend so much time in their country. To spend time with them. They thanked me I chose Thailand as my “pre-marital honeymoon” destination, that I didn’t leave after two-three weeks but I spent two months there.
I was touched by their approach, so different from Polish one.
So… What do you think of when you hear about life in Thailand?
You’ll still imagine the sun, lovely beaches and tasty food. Interesting culture, long history and Buddhist temples. Accurate thoughts. From tourists perspective, that’s Thailand. But now you know that there is more behind the picture all tourists see.
If you plan a trip to Thailand, check below posts:
- How To Organize A Trip To Thailand?
- What To See In Thailand In 2 Weeks? Complete Itinerary
- Volunteering in Asia. What is it like to teach English in Thailand?
If you know Thailand and Thai people from different perspective, let me know. I’ll be happy to hear about it!
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