Top 5 WTF’s about Thailand

There are many things that I’m still saying ‘What the F_?” about here in Thailand. It started as I arrived in Bangkok. Some things I got over. Others – I’m still saying – WTF??

5. Telling time in Isaan. I still can’t. I lived there for 19 months and still ask me what time it is at 8am I couldn’t tell you in Isaan dialect to save my life. I think I have the hours of 1pm to 6pm down OK, but maybe not. WHY did they subtract 6 hours from what the clock SAYS it is? WHY, my god, why?

4. Answering the phone while driving a motorbike – rain or shine. As if motorbikes here weren’t dangerous enough. First of all how do they feel the phone ringing on vibrate? The motorbike is like a big vibrator – but still they can feel the tiny buzz of the mobile phone without fail. This is why I say, if the girl says she was on her motorbike and didn’t know the phone was ringing – it’s probably a lie. They are pre-wired to feel it.

3. How can Thais’ go through their entire lives without telling someone the simple command, “Don’t”?? How? I tell strangers “Don’t”. I tell stranger’s kids, “Don’t”. But I’ve heard the word only a handful of times in 3 years. Amazing. I guess in a good way. Not sure.

2. People that speed up from behind you only to jam on their brakes and make left turns directly in front of you. Forcing you to stop and cuss them, all the while losing face because you can’t deal with it the “Thai way”.

1. When Thai people don’t listen. I honestly think due to a genetic problem their eardrums don’t work. They’re well-intentioned, yes. Thankfully they read lips, but of course they can’t lip read your accent and so never really understand you. If I tallied all the times I interacted with a Thai person verbally the times they listened to what I said must hover around 50%. I want to say 10%, but that can’t be correct because I’d be a lunatic by this point.

The 10% figure is appropriate when talking about the number of times I ordered at a restaurant, the Thai repeated the order back, I said, “Yes, that’s right” and then was served something different than what I ordered.

Anyone care to share their WTF’s?

Author: Vern

I'm an American expat living in Thailand. I like to write informative pieces about life in, living in Thailand, including topics like: Thai People, Thai Culture, Nightlife, Technology, and I have published a lot of photographs, videos, and even books on Thailand that you can find at There are many photographs of Thailand here - feel free to share with attribution (a link back to the home page). All written content on this site by Vern Lovic. Contact me at Google+.

4 thoughts on “Top 5 WTF’s about Thailand”

  1. Even though I’m a woman I still get alot of ‘ Yes Sir’. I understand they are being polite but honestly just say ‘yes’ not ‘yes sir’!!!Or speak thai !!

  2. Yeah, I think you’re right about cases like that. I’ve had that happen many, many times and you just have to go with it when it happens. It doesn’t bother me much now at all. What really gets me is at the restaurant as I like to eat what I order – not what they feel like bringing. You know?

  3. Hi Vern, interesting post.

    the not listening thing happens all over Asia because of a simple fact: people want to be accommodating. examples:

    someone offers to carry something for you. you tell that that you’ll get it. they don’t listen to you and they pick the thing up by the worn out handle. the handle breaks and it falls to the ground. it was fucked up but you didn’t have the time (or the inclination) to explain it to them.

    that person thought you were being ‘polite’ but not wanting to impose on them.

    this is one of the most prominent cultural differences between East and West. in Asia, people assume you are being polite when you say “no” to something and they go right ahead and do whatever, thinking they are assisting you. they ignore the fact that you just might know what you’re doing.

    i wrote a guest article on this very subject and it had quite a few examples.

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