Going to a party in Thailand is unlike attending a party anywhere else in the world. Unlike in the US, where I thought most parties were boring, Thailand is a whole other matter. Parties in Thailand are organized for just about any reason – birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, college graduation, getting a first job, buying a new house, getting a promotion, opening a new restaurant or business, Songkran, Loy Krathong and on and on.
Thais are very open about parties. Anyone is invited, sometimes the whole neighborhood if they feel like coming, and often most of them do. If you’re in Thailand and end up invited to a Thai party, what will it be like and what should you expect?
Invitations to a Thai Party – Unlike in some countries, where someone will invite you to a party but never follow up and not really mean it, if a Thai invites you to a party they mean it. Come. Thai parties are unlike parties in most western countries. They’re large affairs, usually include all family members, plus distant family members, plus friends, plus acquaintances, plus the lady who lives in the next street, plus the neighborhood, plus the kid’s teachers, and all the kids and on and on.
Thais love large gatherings, so the more the merrier, which means if you’re invited to a party in Thailand the person who asked you really wants you to come and, oh by the way, it’s fine if you bring a couple of close friends too.
What to Wear – Other than weddings where Thais dress up to the nines, most parties I’ve been to in Thailand have been casual affairs. People show up in jeans and a t shirt, a traditional Thai shirt over shorts or slacks, a cute skirt and a casual top – nothing too elaborate. Of course, like most other places in Thailand, it’s appropriate not to wear anything too short or revealing and sleeveless shirts and tanks tops are usually frowned upon.
Other than that though, something comfortable and relaxed (as long as it’s clean and pressed) is fine.
What Time Should You Go? – Every party in Thailand I’ve attended has started late and continued on much later than I expected. I now arrive 30 minutes to an hour after the party starts, with other people arriving on late into the evening. If the party begins at 4pm, you’ll still see people arriving at 9pm. No-one seems concerned or worried and it’s not looked upon as rude. They’re just happy you came and hope you stay.
Should You Take Something? – The best two gifts to take in Thailand are food and flowers. If you’re not sure if you should take something or not, take flowers. A nice floral bouquet is cheap and the host or hostess will be pleased. If you know there’s going to be food, a covered dish, box of cookies, some fresh fruit, something prepared from a local restaurant is perfectly appropriate.
Most Thais will take food, as Thais love food more than anything. If there’s likely to be a lot of drinking (which will happen if the party has a lot of men attending) a good bottle of whiskey also won’t go amiss. Whatever you take, your host or hostess will be gracious and appreciate it. In Thailand, it’s always the thought that counts.
Music and Noise – One thing that’s always amazed me in Thailand, for a very quiet people when they’re alone, when Thais get in a group they’re the loudest people on the planet.
For almost every party, stacks of loud speakers will be ordered and strategically placed around the party area. When the party begins, the music will be cranked so loud you can’t hear yourself think, and it will continue like that for the rest of the night. Nobody complains, everyone just shouts and continues to have a great time. The neighbors won’t tell you to turn it down and the police will never arrive. Thais think people should be allowed to celebrate so, as long as it’s not a nightly occurrence, nobody’s going to begrudge you your fun.
Will There Be Food? – Remember I mentioned Thais love food more than anything? Believe me, at any function in Thailand, there is always food. So, don’t worry about ‘eating before you get there’. There will be so much food there, you won’t be able to try it all.
I’ve been to parties with literally 50 different dishes and more keep arriving. Every Thai snack, entree, snack, dessert and drink seems to appear at some time during the party and, when you leave, Thais will often send you away loaded down with more. You will never go hungry in Thailand. Anywhere. Honest.
If you’re invited to a party in Thailand – go. They are seriously the most fun affairs you will ever experience. People will ply you with food and drink, always make sure you’re having a good time, there’ll be tons of folks wanting to talk to you (especially if you’re a foreigner) and everyone will make you feel at home. The music will be deafening, the energy pulsating, but you’ll leave there wishing you could do it all over again. Soon.