Living in Thailand: You Should Never Do This


Have you noticed that life is full of rules, even when living in Thailand? In the Western World, a multitude of useless and meaningless rules pop up quicker than your mates coming out of the woodwork when it’s your round in the pub.


The bureaucratic nonsense that is the bane of the European Union and Western World in modern times makes it easy to be a non-conformist and an anti-establishment rebel. But sometimes adhering to certain rules when living in Thailand is not only common sense but could also save your life or just make things easier.


Thailand might be low-down on the list of law-makers and rule-followers, but there are a few simple rules you can follow to ensure your holiday runs smoothly with the precision of a Mozart concerto or a military dictatorship (excuse the pun).


#1 – Standing on the Money – Living in Thailand

Thai Baht - Do Not stand on Thai money

The first rule is never to step on Thai money with the king’s face

Picture this scenario: your Thai date needs some small change from you to buy some fried locusts or a tampon, and the moment you take out your wallet, a crispy 1,000 THB note decides to go it alone and make a run for freedom, floating through the air on a gust of wind. You now chase down this piece of paper like your life depended on it with the guile and tenacity of a CIA task force searching for middle-aged white men to chastise or banana republics to destabilize.


Weaving in and out of alleyways, stampeding across dual carriageway motorways, you have now gathered a crowd of people who are intrigued to see the outcome of your endeavors. And then you see it. It’s on the floor in front of a crowded bar just a meter away. You leap through the air like a land-mine victim and use your foot to pin the pesky critter to the floor. Job done! Not quite.


What you didn’t realize is that you just stepped on the King of Thailand’s head. It’s just a picture, I hear you proclaim, as bottles and body parts come flying at your head. It’s more than just a picture!


#2 – Dissing the Powers That Be

I know it’s not always easy to hold your tongue and know your place, as your wife told me last night. However, it is also important to remember we are guests in this country when living in Thailand. If you want to go to another country and do what you want while imposing your own views and ways on the local people, go to England for god’s sake.


If you live or are on holiday here, it doesn’t matter your visa type, how many orphanages in Lop Buri you have funded or how many Isan villages that depend on your cash supply each month to keep the old buffalo functioning, you have to live by the local laws and life philosophy.


Slagging off the military dictatorship, haranguing the Royal Family, or explaining to the police that you pay their wages when they stop you for a driving offense will only result in you taking a magical mystery tour to prison. Of course, we need to point out some of life’s uncomfortable truths, but there is a time and place for that, and that time is not now and the place is definitely not in Thailand.

Thailand Prime Minister

Make sure you do not say something wrong to shake the egos of the powers that be

#3 – Making a Joke about a Thai person in Public

Losing face is a massive thing in Thailand and SE-Asia. Where I come from, people constantly berate each other in public, and if you find someone’s weakness, instead of laying off, you really do go for the jugular and wind them up to the point they break or just laugh it off. It’s just the way some Europeans are. But we can safely say that all Thais are not that way inclined! Living in Thailand means that we have to understand their needs and culture. It’s important.


What could be a simple joke in your mind about a Thai person looking like a Teletubby could lead to you waking up with a crowd of people around you. They do not take public criticism very well. If they feel you have made them look stupid in front of other people, especially their friends or superiors, you are in for the shock of your life. Just remember that only small areas of the world understand sarcasm and an ironic sense of humor. Do not make a Thai person lose face in public, or you might lose your face or definitely part of it!


#4 – Arguing with Thai Locals – Living in Thailand

This point is very similar and links nicely into the one before about losing face. If you come from certain places in the UK, having a good old moan or argument is pretty much part of daily life. It’s how we vent our frustrations or make fun of each other. It’s just the way we are, and it is not intended to be a personal attack. It is not uncommon in the west to get in a verbal slagging match that doesn’t turn into fisticuffs. Thailand is a very non-confrontational society, as is most of southern and eastern Asia, which means they get down a little differently when it comes to exchanging heated words.


If you are haggling on a Thai market over a piece of wood that looks and sounds like a frog, be careful you do not go a step too far. I have seen generally light-hearted haggling situations turn into fights all over 100 THB. If you ever find yourself in a situated that you feel is getting a little bit heated, a simple smile and walk away improves your Thailand life.

#5 – Renting out a Jet-Ski or Motorbike

We have lumped these two together because they share a lot of similarities. We would never say you shouldn’t hire out a jet ski or a motorbike when holidaying or living in Thailand because you can have a great time with both, but it’s better if you stay away from renting either. One of the most common scams in Thailand is to rent a jet ski from the beach boys (nothing to do with Surfin’ USA) only to be confronted with accusations of damages to the jet ski after you have fished riding it. In most cases, the damage on the jet ski has been there since the dawn of creation and you might find yourself with 50,000 THB charges or even a visit to the police station. Only a small percentage of jet ski beach boys do this, but you need to be careful to avoid any such situation.

Be Careful When renting a Bike

When it comes to renting out a motorbike, for sure, you can have lots of fun, especially if you are in a place such as Phuket with some stunning coastal and mountain roads. However, as much as we love Thailand, it is one of the most dangerous places in the world to drive with driving rules and nuances that are different from the West. The best course of action to take for a better Thailand life is to never rent a motorbike and instead rent a taxi, take a tuk-tuk or prop yourself on the back of a motorbike taxi.


Thailand is one of the safest places for a Thailand life in the world. Nothing is more amazing or memorable than holidaying or living in Thailand. But like any place in the world, there are certain things you need to avoid ensuring your holiday runs as smoothly as possible, so please take heed of our advice so you can have the great holiday ever!

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