Recently a woman asked me a simple question about living in Thailand, “Are Thais honest people?”. She’s coming to Thailand to teach English and, after reading a few forums populated by westerners who live in Thailand, she’d read comments from several of them saying Thais are not honest. Not wanting to come to a country where she might get ripped off at every turn, she was rightfully worried. So, are Thais honest?
A few are not, the vast majority are. Just like any other country on the planet.
My Experiences with the Honesty of Thais
I’ve lived in Thailand for more than a decade, and 95 percent of my life is spent with and around Thais. I’ve taught in various Thai schools, worked at several major international companies in Bangkok and run my own business. I’ve shopped, eaten with, and vacationed with Thais on many many occurrences.
In all of this time, I can count on one hand (and probably on one finger) the number of times I’ve been ripped off by a Thai. In fact, I can’t remember the last time it happened.
Not only have I had Thais run down the street after me because I’d inadvertently dropped 10 or 20 baht (33 or 66 cents), I’ve also been chased down when I’ve left my ATM card in an ATM machine, been tracked down in another shop when I left an item I’d bought at a previous store and, only yesterday, even had a Thai man working at a supermarket checkout somehow manage to find me elsewhere in the mall as I’d dropped the security card to my apartment building. (And no, I’m not really that careless — all of this was over a 10 year period remember).
In fact, I’ve often found Thais will spend even more effort to return something to you that you’ve lost than many people would in other countries. Even something that’s not worth very much.
I’m also usually given ‘Thai price’ on everything I buy and even offered even lower prices as I’m a farang-who-speaks-Thai. No, I haven’t been ripped off with higher prices on things because I’m a ‘farang’. I’m sorry. I just haven’t.
Deposits at Thai Apartments
I’ve only lived at three apartment buildings in Bangkok but in the first two I got my entire deposit back when I moved out. In the third one, which I still live in, I know many people who have moved out of the building and, when they did, all or almost all of their deposit was returned.
In the more than 15 apartments I lived in while in the US, I didn’t get all or most of my deposit back at any of them. As I’m an incredibly clean person who never damages anything, or if I do I replace it, it’s always infuriated me when an American landlord has kept $100, $200, $500 or all of my deposit for nothing more than faked damage.
If I had to choose between a Thai or an American landlord as to who was the most honest, I’d choose a Thai any day of the week.
Thais Who are Not Honest
Now, before you think I live in cloud cuckoo land and am just ignoring all the dishonesty going on around me, that’s not true at all. Sure, there are Thais who are not honest, just like there are Americans who are not, British who are not, Chinese who are not and Brazilians who are not. But, there are no more than in any other country I’ve visited or lived in and, although some low-class westerners would have you believe otherwise, no, Thais are not liars, cheats and thieves.
There are tourist scams in Thailand just like there are in every country in the world.
Don’t take a tuk-tuk when the driver tells you he can take you to his ‘friend’s gem shop’. It’s a scam. Don’t believe the tout who tells you the Grand Palace in Bangkok is closed that day. It’s not. It’s open. He just wants to take you somewhere else where he might make a commission and, yes, it’s a scam.. And be careful giving money to any Thai girl you meet in a red light district. Yes, these areas of the country have some of the biggest scams going.
And, sure, there is a sizeable percentage of Thais involved in the government, the police and in other official roles that aren’t particularly honest as corruption and kickbacks are rife in Thailand. The average Thai, however, knows this and is often as angry about it as any non-Thai would be as they don’t think it’s acceptable either.
But, if you plan on living in Thailand and live your life as you normally would anywhere else, it’s my guess you will find out quickly, overall, Thais are very honest people. In fact, they may just be more honest than the place where you come from. At least that’s often been my experience.