Top 10 Things I Don’t Understand About Thais and Thailand: I Love Thailand but that Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Think It’s Weird!

Thai girls throwing water on each other for Songkran.
Thai girls throwing water on each other for Songkran.

I’ve lived in Thailand for five years now, so am quite familiar with the culture. However, just like most westerners living in Thailand, there are still many things I don’t understand about Thais and Thailand.

As much as Thailand has become more modernized and slightly more western, it’s still obviously Thai. Because of this, and the Thai culture that’s unlike any other culture, it can still be frustrating for westerners to understand.

Even though I’ll probably live here for the rest of my life, chances are I’ll never understand Thais and Thailand either, no matter how hard I try.

In fact, there must be hundreds of things I don’t understand about Thailand but here are my top ten.

10. The Thai Escalator Problem – Why, when Thais take escalators, do they wait until they get to the top to decide where they’re going?

Having reached the top, many will stand completely still a foot away from where the escalator ends, with their fingers in their mouths aimlessly looking around, while other people continue to stack up behind them. Nobody can go anywhere until the folks right at the top of the escalator move.

This, of course, has never crossed their minds.

9. Why Do Thais Not Talk in Elevators? – In a group, Thais are one of the loudest peoples in the world. Standing outside an elevator waiting, they’ll have long, loud conversations with the people they’re with.

Yet, when the elevator door opens and they walk inside, an eerie quiet settles over the elevator and nobody talks until the elevator doors open and out they get. Why?

8. How Do Thai Girls Eat So Much, Yet Stay So Thin? – Almost all Thai girls are thin. But….they can put away more food than a lot of full-grown western men I know, and still stay the same pencil-like shape.

How is this possible? I eat a normal amount for a woman and seem to gain weight all the time. My Thai female friends eat twice as much as I do but are half my size. Seriously, how is this possible?

7. How Do Thai Men Find Time To Have Five Girlfriends? – In Thai culture for hundreds of years, Thai men have always had many girlfriends. Most of my Thai male friends have a girlfriend or a wife, and three or four other girlfriends on the side. How do they find the time?

If you ask a Thai women how this is possible, they’ll usually tell you Thai men are good time managers. Must be, because I don’t understand it.

6. Why Do Thai Girls Want White Skin? – Every Thai woman I know uses boatloads of whitening products to make sure her skin stays pale. Whitening hand creams, whitening body lotions, whitening facial creams, and even whitening deodorant. There isn’t a Thai woman alive who doesn’t want to be whiter. Why?

Many Thai women have beautiful dusky brown skin that most western women would give anything to have. Why don’t Thai women understand how beautiful their skin is? Why do they always want to be lighter?

5. Why Do Thais Think Westerners Are So Great? – So many Thais think westerners are better than them. I was even told by one of the owners of the company I work for that Thais have always thought westerners (called ‘farangs’ in Thailand) are better than them and that’s why they are always striving to make as much money as westerners, be as well-educated and look like westerners.

Yet, some of the lowest of the low westerners (usually dodgy western men) come to Thailand, but many Thais treat them like they are gods. Why? Just because they’re western, it doesn’t mean they should be idolized and most Thais I know are ten times better people.

4. Why Do Older Thai Women Still Love Dolls and Soft Toys? – Western women grow out of dolls and soft toys when they’re around the age of ten. Thai women in their 30s and 40s still love dolls, soft toys and cartoon characters.

They carry around Doraemon bags or have a cell phone cover with Hello Kitty on it. They read comic books starring their favorite cartoon characters and, at home, their bedrooms are stuffed full of Minnie Mouse pillows, Blythe dolls and stuffed toys.

One married 36-year old Thai women I know, who has a child, even spends her weekends painting make-up onto her collection of Blythe dolls and redoing their hair styles. This is normal for many Thai women. Why? (Although I must admit, I’m so used to it now, even I actually think it’s cute).

3. Why Do Thai Women Join Gyms? – 90% of my Thai female friends have joined a gym. Probably 5% actually use the gym. The rest of them pay their gym memberships every month, but never set foot in the place. Why would they? Thai women hate exercising. So why do they join gyms?

2. Why Are Thais Usually the Nicest People in the World, But Behind the Wheel of a Car They’re Scary? – Every Thai I know is polite, kind and respectful. That is, until they get behind the wheel of a car, and then they become the rudest people on the planet.

They don’t stop for you on a pedestrian crossing (nobody does, including the police), when it’s pouring rain Thais continue to sit in their nice, dry cars while making you (who are walking!) wait to cross the road, and then they’ll drive through a huge puddle right next to you and soak you from head to foot without even stopping to think.

How is it that the nicest people in the world can suddenly become the rudest?

1. Why Are Thai Girls So Slow? – Thai girls are the slowest people on the planet. There. I’ve said it. They walk at the pace of a snail, they are always right in front of you and, if you try to move around them to get by them, they will move in the same direction you’re trying to move in. It’s like they have radar and feel you coming up behind them.

Every westerner and other expat I know complain about the slow speed of Thai girls. It’s impossible to do anything fast in Thailand because, no matter where you are, one of the 30-plus million painfully slow Thai girls is right in front of you, and she’s not moving.

Honestly, these 10 things I don’t understand are said tongue-in-cheek. I love Thailand and plan on staying here permanently, but some things I’ll just never understand.