9 signs that show that you lived in Thailand

When living in a certain country for a while one is likely to pick up local habits or behavioral patterns. That obviously also applies for a life in the land of smile, Thailand. Here are now a few of those habits that you might see yourself picking up while staying in Thailand for a longer period of time. Expatriates might be able to relate :D

1. No shoes, still service

As soon as you are entering a house, room, or home of some kind you will take off your shoes. No matter where or what or if you have slippers with you. Taking off shoes is a sign of respect and will not only be done in temples but everywhere around the country in order to show respect.

Now when returning home to Europe I still find myself taking off my shoes almost immediately after entering any kind of home. Not a bad thing though I think, just cold ones in a while. #ColdFeet

2. Can’t touch this

While Thailand is dubbed the Land Of Smile and people are quite touchy (girls walk hand in hand, guys would take another guy by the hand to show him the way, etc.) and the definition of private space (just try to take public transport) is completely different to what we are used to, hugging is not that common, so is touching people of the other gender. While Americans might even hug people they just hung out with, Thais wouldn’t usually do this and would rather ‘wai’ then hug someone they don’t really know or feel close to. Same goes with friendly (!) touches. You could do that once you’re closer to each other, but not right of the bat.

For me as a ‘cold’ European I don’t mind and can, somehow, relate. I don’t even shake hands (that, obviously, is replaced with he Wai and a sign of respect) anymore when thinking about it (also when coming home). #CantTouchThis

3. Stop! In the name of

The Royal Family. When you leave the house around 8 in the morning or 6 in the evening you simply expect to hear the Royal anthem and to stand still and to pay respect.

Happened to me a few times when arriving in Amsterdam. 6 pm. I simply waited for the music to hit…but it didn’t happen. #DontMove

4. Time tables? Pah!

It seems as if everybody in Thailand owns a car but the matter of fact is, that many people are still relying on (the terrible) public transport. To do so many of us foreigners are used to checking the time tables for bus departures. This, to no surprise, doesn’t really work in Thailand. If you are looking for a time table at bus station you won’t find what you are looking for. There are none. One just goes and waits for the bus. It will come. Some time.

As a German this was quite a tough task to learn. Now that I adapted it however I always catch myself doing the same thing back home until my family reminds me that I haven’t checked the schedule and that there’s no need to wait for 20 minutes in the cold until the next bus arrives. #ThxMom

5. Cooking? Please!

My current apartment does not have a kitchen. And that is not necessarily something unusual. And even if you have a kitchen you are still quite likely to get your food from outside since it’s quite affordable, delicious and simply the way to go here in Thailand. You will rely more on vendors and restaurants and that’s a hard habit to get rid of once you’re back home again. Last time I was home I was quite confused when entering the supermarket since I’m not used to by groceries in advance anymore.

I haven’t really cooked for myself (with the exception of school kitchens or with friends) in four years now. I do miss it though #SorryMom.

6. Talk with the hand!

Thais, at least from my experience, quite often use their hands to explain something. Not only when talking with foreigners but also when they talk to a waiter in a restaurant (e.g. trying to order different kind of rice – they would form their hands in a weird way trying to visualize the rice, I suppose) or on other occasions.

Besides that Thais, especially younger ones, love to show messages via their hands. Whether it’s to defy the military junta (three finger ‘boy scout’  / ‘hunger games’ sign) or showing ‘I love you’ with three fingers of one hand. Sign language is popular.

I adapted that. Well to some point. Not the ‘I love you’ signals or the one that would bring me to prison of course. However every time I talk with friends or family back home I find myself using my hands a lot – for no real reason. I usually blame my work as a teacher and my pseudo Italian blood (I simply love Pizza) for that.  #CiaoBella

7. Yes (no).

In Thailand, as in many other Asian countries and cultures, losing face is one of the most terrible things that could happen to you and you will try to prevent it by all means necessary. This also includes ‘white lies’. If someone asks you for the way but you don’t know it, you might still end up saying yes and just guess the way that you tell him. Saying ‘no, I don’t know’ is something that many Thais are afraid of.

After living in Thailand for a long time adapting this style is something that puzzles me a bit but I still see it happening with me or my friends once in a while. We usually don’t go through wit it but the automated ‘yes’ to whatever questions there is, becomes more apparent. However we still manage to say ‘yes…oh well, actually not…’ but it does feel weird. #YesYesYes

8. V for Fun.

Take any given picture of you from the time before you came to Thailand and compare it to pictures you took after you came to Thailand. There will be one significant difference. The way you hold your hands on the picture. After coming to Thailand you’re quite likely to form a V with your middle finger and forefinger right next to your face. Why? Because it’s “cute” here in Thailand and resembles a smile as well as happiness. If only anonymous would know that.

I hate taking pictures of myself or having pictures taken of me but I do find myself with this pose more often than not these days simply not doing anything now does feel weird. #Awkward #VForFun

9. Using the number 9

People in Thailand are quite superstitious. Some more, some less. But almost everyone agrees that 9 is the lucky number (after all, we do have the 9th king right now!). Therefore everything that includes the number 9 is seen as something good. Telephone numbers, license plates,….

…this list!


Did I forget something? What habits did you adapt? 

Sascha Funk

Founder / Editor at
Sascha is the publisher of and switched from an online marketing agency life in Europe to a teaching and education life in Thailand. He also writes about Teaching & Technology.

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