1. Fail in the bathroom.
Toilet paper is generally not kept in individual bathroom stalls, so it’s likely that you’ll forget to take it to the toilet with you — but you will find a hand hose to spray your bits clean. Don’t hurt yourself with the high-pressure hoses, and if you get too crazy, you may end up squirting your clothes.
After you’re done washing your hands, attempt to dry them with toilet paper — a maddening Thai technique. At best, you’ll walk out of the bathroom with a wet spot on your shirt and bits of toilet paper stuck to your damp hands.
2. Let a ladyboy fool you.
Guys, be careful with the beautiful, young Thai ladies with perky breasts and extravagant makeup who vie for your attention. You may think you’re getting lucky, but if you end up bringing a ladyboy home with you, you’re in for a big surprise.
3. Bring up the king in conversation.
“He’s gettin’ pretty old, huh?!” That comment will be met with disapproving stares and awkward silence. Insulting or questionable comments about the King or the royal family are considered disrespectful and are even punishable by law under Thailand’s strict lèse majesté laws. Thais love and revere their king, so the childhood adage goes for this topic: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.
4. Take to the streets during Songkran.
Foreigners are a sought after target during Songkran, Thailand’s multi-day new year’s celebration. In this massive country-wide water fight, everyone is fair game, but Thais will take extra pleasure in blasting their water gun into the face of a farang or dumping an ice cold bucket over you. You’ll be freezing cold and sopping wet, but it won’t be half as fun if you can’t laugh at yourself.
5. Make a scene.
‘Saving face’ is a big part of Thai culture; Thai people passively swallow their dissent and discontent and slap on a happy face without any fuss. Angrily raising your voice to argue or complain will not get you what you want, but it will cause quite a scene. Heads will turn from a mile away to see which crazy tourist is causing this hullabaloo.
6. Injure yourself while partying too hard.
Think you can come to Thailand and party like you’re in the Hangover 2 without any repercussions? It’s more likely that you’ll score burn wounds at an island party after trying to jump a flaming rope or a break your wrist after attempting to drive your cheap, rented motorbike with too many Chang beers in your system. Thai people are too polite to roll their eyes at your bandaged body, but they know what you did last night.
7. Assume everyone will understand English.
In general, Thailand has very low English proficiency. If your entire trip isn’t like a game of charades, you’re probably not getting your point across. Bust out the body language and be prepared to use your pointer finger for selecting street food. Raising your voice and over-enunciating will get you right back to #3. Better yet, learn a few Thai words; a simple sawadee to greet anyone will be useful and much appreciated.
8. Have a really spicy meal.
Ask for your som tum salad or tom yum soup to be extra spicy or phet phet in Thai. It’s a full body experience; your eyes tear up, snot pools in you nose, beads of sweat squeeze their way onto your forehead, and your head reels from the punch of Thai chilies. Your waiters will be highly amused at how poorly your body handles spice — especially when you start panting like a dog and gulping down all the beverages at the table to soothe the excruciating heat in your mouth.
Meanwhile, the spicy Thai food is blasting through your intestines, so you may have to push your snickering waiters out of the way as you dash to the nearest toilet.
9. Go shopping for clothes.
Thailand is famous for its surplus of shopping malls and outdoor markets stocked with cheap purchases, but even as an average size American gal, I’m in permanent ‘OOH you big size’ territory. Unless your waist is the size of a small child, shopping for clothes is your worst nightmare. Plus, without the privacy of dressing rooms, you’re on display, and groups of Thai ladies are free to stop and titter at you as the shopkeeper attempts to squeeze you into an evening gown that wouldn’t zip up in your wildest dreams.
10. Do aerobics in the park.
Outdoor aerobic workouts are trending at many parks in Bangkok. Join one of these big, energetic groups and purposefully and publicly sweat buckets in the heat and humidity as an aerobics instructor orders you to sashay and sidestep about. Onlookers strolling through the park will surely stop and watch, and you may get more looks than the Thai people, but hey, they’re embarrassing themselves too.
11. Forget your umbrella in the rainy season.
Without much warning, the rain pours down in the afternoon like clockwork. If you catch yourself out in this tropical, torrential rainstorm without an umbrella, you’ll be soaked to the bone, and taxi drivers will be reluctant to let you into their dry cabs. Or you’ll end up sheepishly waiting out the rain under the tarp of a street food vendor who just doesn’t approve of you going into the rain without an umbrella.
12. Keep your head up.
This is an expedited way to humiliate yourself, as it’ll only be a matter of seconds before you’re tripping over Thailand’s notoriously uneven sidewalk tiles. Dare to take your eyes off of the ground, and you’ll send yourself lurching over the corner of a potholed spot or a jutting tile. Watch your step.