Culture Shock Moments (Part 3)

In this final post on the “Culture shock” series, here are 10 more weird and interesting things about Thailand from an expat’s perspective.

If you didn’t read part 1 or part 2 yet, have a look at them first.

1. Superstitions and belief in lucky “things”

Luck in Thailand

Many Thai people are strong believers in good luck and bad luck.  When I first came to Thailand and bought a sim card, I wondered why the sim cards (each with their own phone numbers) had different prices.  And my guide at the time explained that it’s because some phone numbers were considered “lucky” so they could charge a higher price.  And this extends to other things as well, like license plates. The most expensive license plate (“Ror Wor Yor 9999”) was sold for 18.5 million baht!  I’ve also encountered Thai people who’ve changed their entire first and last name because they believed their old name was “unlucky” and they would have a better life if they changed their name to something else.   

2. Massage shops everywhere

A Thai masseuse giving a Thai massage

In my home country of America, massage shops are a fairly rare sight. Plus they are super expensive!  In fact, I never had a single massage back in America. But in Thailand, you see massage shops everywhere!  It makes me wonder how they can all find enough customers to stay in business, but I suppose they find a way.  Massages in Thailand are super cheap.  The standard rate for a traditional Thai massage is 300 baht per hour which is $8.68 as of this writing.  But be warned, Thai massages can be quite painful!  You will be twisted and contorted in weird ways and the masseuse will often dig their elbows deep into your soft tissue.  For me, it’s a good kind of pain, but others don’t enjoy them. They often provide other massages too like oil massage, foot massage, and others. But one thing is for certain, if you are fan of massages, Thailand is one of the best places in the world to get them.  Availability, quality, and price are all exceptional. 

3. Electric Cable Mess

Electrical cable mess in Thailand

I’ve been here so long that I’ve gotten used to it, but when I first came to Thailand, these huge bundles of electrical cables stuck out like a sore thumb.  They look dangerous, but I personally haven’t heard of any issues with them besides being an eyesore. 

4. No Middle Names

Thai people have no middle names

In all the western nations, people have three names: First name, Middle name, and Surname.  Here, they also have three names, but they don’t have a middle name.  Instead, they have a First name, Surname and Nickname (everybody has a nickname and it usually has nothing to do with their first name).

5. Crazy driving

A chaotic scene with motorbikes and cars in Bangkok Thailand

I admittedly don’t do a lot of driving in Thailand (motorbike or car).  But from speaking with all of my friends who do, they often tell me how crazy the roads are here.  Scooters everywhere weaving in and out of traffic.  People going the wrong way in a one way street.  Running red lights.  You name it.  It seems like driving in Thailand is more of a controlled chaos than anything else.  And I guess that’s the reason why Thailand’s roads are considered the 9th most dangerous in the world.  

6. Alcohol bans

During Buddhist holidays, alcohol is often banned in Thailand

Similar to the last point, I don’t have much direct experience with this one (because I don’t buy or drink alcohol very much).  But I’ve heard complaints from my more alcoholic friends. Alcohol is only allowed to be sold during these times 11:00 – 14:00 and 17:00 – 24:00. You’ll probably be able to find some mom and pop shop on the side of the street who’ll sell you alcohol outside of these hours, but it technically would be illegal.  Plus, there are many Buddhist holidays throughout the year where you can’t buy any alcohol for the whole day (at grocery stores, convenience stores, or bars).  Coming from America, you can buy alcohol pretty much any time you want. 

7. Vaping is illegal but weed is legal

A woman vaping, which is illegal in thailand while marijuana is legal

Recently marijuana became legal, which for many is a huge step forward for Thailand.  But at the same time, vapes are illegal!  But that doesn’t stop them from being sold on street markets and other places all over Thailand.  It’s the kind of thing where you shouldn’t vape in front of a police officer (because they will probably fine you and take your vape away) but I know many people who have and use vapes regularly and it’s not an issue.  So if you like vaping, you’ll have to decide if you want to take that risk in Thailand because it’s technically illegal (even though you see so many people vaping here, both Thai and foreigner).

8. No dryers

Hanging clothes up to dry because people don't use dryers in Thailand

I’m not sure why, but very few people in Thailand use dryers.  So that means most apartments are not even fitted with them. People here will use a washing machine, but then just hang up their clothes to dry.  

9. Sharing food

A common Asian practice of sharing food

If you’re going out to eat with Thai people, they’ll often order many dishes that are placed in the center and shared together.  In the west, we all generally order separate dishes for each person and there isn’t a lot of sharing going on (besides sneaking a bite or two to see how something tastes).  But here the standard way is for all the food to be in the center, and you have your own bowl and plate and you just take from the communal food in the center rather than having your own separate dishes. 

10. Royalty

The royal family and king of Thailand featured on Time magazine

Coming from America, the concept of royalty has always been a foreign concept to me.  If you know anything about American history, one of the big reasons why America decided to separate from British rule is because the early Americans decided they didn’t want some monarch telling them what to do.  So most Americans have a natural suspicion for monarchy, myself included.  But here royalty is a big thing.  You often see pictures of the king (current or previous) hanging up in people’s homes, restaurants, or other establishments. And speaking negatively about the royal family is not allowed here, so whatever your thoughts may be on them, it’s best to keep it to yourself.  Thailand is a very free country in many ways (in many ways way more free than my home country), but in this area, it’s not.  So be careful. 


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