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12 Culture Shocks Americans Will Have in Thailand

by Amanda Meyers Jul 10, 2015

1. Pedestrians always have the right of way.

If you expect cars to stop for you to cross Sukhumvit Street, you won’t move a foot in Bangkok. Simply stick your hand out and start walking — blind faith style. No worries if you get hit, Bangkok is actually known for having some of the best hospitals in the world.

2. Everyone is going to want to eat ‘family style.’

When you order a bowl of Tom Yum, an order of Pad Thai, or any other meal either in a restaurant or from a street vendor, it will be served in the center of the table with rice and/or noodles.

And every utensil will be shared and bare hands will be used to prepare the food. So just relax, it’ll boost your immune system.

3. The bathroom accommodations — or lack there of — will require a solid utkatasana stance.

Gravity squatty potties. Look it up.

4. Street food is always going to be the best choice.

When in doubt, ask for the specialty — usually blood soup served with pig intestines. Yummy! If you are simply looking for a snack, the most obvious choice would be protein-packed pan-fried grasshoppers.

5. Thai iced coffee is going to make your Starbucks skinny mochachino taste like sludge.

Your body will go into shock after trying this caffeine-infused, milky sugar drink bought at any corner vendor. Unfortunately, Thailand’s the only place to get the real deal. Dunkin Donuts will never be the same.

6. Thailand’s cost of living will actually allow you to live.

Sukhumvit Road is one of the main strips in Bangkok, you can survive there for 10 USD a day. There are massive malls, world famous restaurants, massage parlors and street vendors — everything you need. When you go back to the US, you’ll be mortified to pay that much for a cobb salad.

7. You’ll have to salute the king before watching a movie.

Movie theaters are one of the only places to escape the heat in the late afternoon, so you’ll want to be in there. But if you don’t stand up to salute during the national anthem, you’ll be asked to leave. But that’s a small price to pay for reclining seats and even a complimentary blanket to make you feel all snuggly.

8. People will be celebrating way more than just three or four times a year.

It doesn’t matter when you go to Thailand, you’re going to be there for at least one holiday. In fact, the word ‘holiday’ is pretty much meaningless in Thailand because they happen almost weekly. In summer, there’s the Buddhist Lent day in July and the Queen’s birthday in August. Markets and tourist attractions are shut down but opportunities for Thai massages and food tours are everywhere. And if you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of the royal family out and about.

9. Everyone’s going to say ‘swatikaa’..?

Sounds strangely like ‘swastika,’ but it’s actually the traditional Thai greeting that you’ll get from the moment you land. No, nobody’s bowing and encouraging white supremacy.

10. The Skytrain will be far cleaner and way more exciting than any Amtrak you’ve taken.

It runs along the tops of buildings throughout the city — what’s cooler than that? Plus, combined with the overall cleanliness of the Thai people and the (somewhat annoying) no food or drinking policy, you’ll never see a cleaner form of public transportation.

11. You can actually barter here.

The price tag says 100 Baht? You can definitely get it for 40.

12. Nobody’s going to care about how trendy your shoes are.

Because you can’t really show them off anyway. Shoes are a big no-no and never worn in any sacred area. It’s barefoot all the way — you couldn’t swing that in New York City.

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