Appearance IS E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G in Thailand

Appearance is everything in Thailand: kee nok is what it looks like

Appearance is everything in Thailand.

The Thais’ will be nice to you anyway, regardless
– but their real feeling when they see a
backpacker or other person from abroad (or another
Thai) that doesn’t shower much, dresses like hell, doesn’t shave, and just generally isn’t concerned about appearance is that they are “Kee Nok”.

Bird Shite.

Today I heard from a co-worker that he was given the axe at work. Fired. Not going to renew his contract for the next year. Now this guy takes teaching
seriously. He puts his heart into it. His time, his effort at school all go into his lesson plans. When we see him interact with the kids in the office – you can tell he GENUINELY cares about the kids and wants to teach them everything he can. That’s obvious to all of us that teach here (12 foreign teachers).

Yeah, they gave no explanation – just gave him a letter. We’ve chosen not to renew your contract. He is the ONLY one out of the teachers here. The guy is brilliant obviously genius level IQ. He’s about 46 years old from the states and has a bachelors degree and teaching certificate from somewhere – I forget where.

There is only one thing this guy DOESN’T have going for him in Thialand. His appearance isn’t cutting it. He’s overweight, doesn’t dress sharply, he is frequently unkempt. He is frequently unshaven. He is often times slovenly. His breath smells like cigarette smoke BAD. I think he smokes the roll your own cigarettes. His class put an ad for underarm deoderant in his mailbox.
To give a hint I guess – though I’ve not smelled that.

He usually has stains of some sort on his shirt or pants.

Twice he has cut his hair with scissors very short but you could see EVERY cut. Very odd hairstyle.

His teeth are greyish and black and he doesn’t seem to care. Cosmetic dental surgery here is VERY cheap.

SO, that’s the story. That’s what I’m thinking the story is anyway. Appearance in Thailand is absolutely everything there is. If you have it – you’re set. If you
don’t – you need to GET it.

Another guy here – covered with tattoos decided he was going to get cut too if he didn’t bail first – so he’s bailing.

Tattoos are not so great either. He covered his up with long-sleeves but he had some idea that he needed to show them to the kids and staff and that wasn’t going over all that well (like a BIG BIRD KEE NOK).

If you want to stay in Thailand and be relatively successful, work here, and have others treat you well not only to your face, but behind your back – you’d
do better if you play the part.

If you just don’t fit the part – no worries – appearances aren’t for everyone – and I’m quite tired of having to maintain one. I’d love to come to work in jeans and unshaven… but I also want to maintain some sort of level of respect from the kids, neighbors, and others.

Are you moving to Thailand anytime soon?

Living in Thailand – What is it like to live in Thailand? Could you do it? Follow one man’s journey.

Moving to Thailand – What is involved in moving across the globe to live in Thailand? What is it like? All your questions answered.

The Ultimate Guide to Teaching in Thailand – There have been a couple attempts at books that cover this subject. We have reviewed them and found them seriously lacking. Here is a very complete book on the subject.

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+.

2 thoughts on “Appearance IS E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G in Thailand”

  1. Yeah, you know it’s a very weird thing… My school asked me to shave everyday and not wear a beard or mustache. I think NONE of the Thai teachers at my school have one. NOBODY has long hair unless they are rebellious 20-30 somethings and usually they are dirty, ripped clothes and have beard/mustache attempts.

    Yes, someone can look sharp with a beard and long hair in a ponytail or something – but Thais’ that think well of themselves and that want others to treat them with respect don’t do it – so if you want to blend you can do it!

    Also, you will STILL get a job here – regardless how you look, smell, talk, or think. That’s a no-brainer. They NEED English speakers, and especially since the visa changes. I’ve seen lots of people get jobs that were hippy types, not clean, don’t tuck their shirts in, wear shitforshoes, don’t shave for days, smell like smoke, pot, and azz, and they’re HIRED!

    So, it’s all up to you really – if you want to conform. You’ll have a nicer experience if you do. But, if you don’t care how Thais’ treat you – you can really do whatever… nobody would ever say anything to your face…

  2. Vern,
    I’m planning to cut off my long hair and beard before I get my passport photos taken. Seems like a good idea after reading this story.

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