Culture shock in Bangkok


After spending the best part of two months in China we had got very used to the way things are done there. We reluctantly left on the last day our visa was valid and we caught our flight to Bangkok. Arriving in Bangkok presented us with a whole new culture and way of doing things which we needed to adjust to. For example:

1) They drive on the left hand side of the road here! After 100 days of being outside of the UK I had got used to everyone driving on the right.

2) The concept of queuing exists here. An orderly queue was formed at the metro station to buy tickets and then another orderly queue was formed to get through the ticket barrier. We almost committed a social faux pas by not realising there was a queue as we were still in Chinese mode, luckily I spotted it in time and we went and joined the back.

3) The sheer quantity of westerners. Everyone we spoke to in China sort of rolled their eyes at us and declared that “everyone goes to Thailand” and it seems they are right! The place is over run with tourists. I no longer feel like an intrepid traveller but am now a bog standard tourist in Bangkok.

4) Everyone stopping what they are doing at 6pm and 8am to observe the national anthem playing in the metro station and train station. I didn’t realise what was going on the first time, we were trying to fathom out the ticket machine at the station and were busy talking. The next time it happened we figured we should probably act a bit more respectfully and didn’t talk through it.

5) We managed our whole time in China without any significant problems digestively, if you get my drift. Quite often I noticed that places had hygiene certificates on the wall with smiley faces a bit like ones I’ve seen in London. On our first night in Bangkok I woke up at 3am to be sick and spent the rest of the night making good friends with the toilet. Alan was soon getting in on the act and we were both alternating our time in the bathroom for the next 48 hours. I suspect it may have been the food court where we had our dinner and saw a big rat running around after we had finished eating.

6) No one tries to run you over on a pedestrian crossing! We were still fearful of all traffic after two months of conditioning in China so when presented with crossings in Bangkok we stood there waiting for a natural gap like we had done in China. Then we realised from observing others that vehicles DO in fact stop at pedestrian crossings here which was a bit of a relief!

7) Your dinner comes with a spoon and fork to eat it with, not chopsticks.

8) Our bodies had grown accustomed to quite likeable 2.5% beer in China. Being presented with a 6% beer was a surprise!

9) Temperature. We went from a chilly 9 degrees on our last day in Kunming to a baking hot 30+ degrees in Bangkok. We didn’t have the right clothes for this so had to go shopping to find clothes that would be more comfortable in the heat.

10) Language. We kept saying “Nihao” etc for our first few days, especially when we would deliriously drag ourselves to the 7-11 for more fluids while we were still ill. Our Thai is pretty rubbish and extends to thank you and hello. I miss being able to ask basic questions in the local language, but at the same time it is easier and most people can speak English. I do intend to try to learn a bit more Thai though, I feel more polite being able to communicate a little bit rather than expecting everyone to speak English.

Once we had recovered enough to go out and explore we sadly only had 1 day to go sightseeing and I was still feeling as weak as a kitten so it was a very tame (by our standards) day out and we didn’t see an awful lot there. Here are some of our photos from our brief exploration:


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3 Responses to Culture shock in Bangkok

  1. Sandra Viví Andersen says:

    Hehe took me almost a month to understand what was happening 6 and 8 when everyone stopped up… Enjoy your trip 🙂

  2. amyblyth says:

    Sorry to hear you’ve been ill, I hope you’re better now and it hasn’t put too much of a downer on your time in Thailand. It took us a while to figure out the national anthem thing too! I know what you mean about the country feeling very touristy; we went back and forth from other countries in SE Asia to Thailand and each time I got back to Thailand I was relieved to have a bit more comfort for a while but I also felt less adventurous. Being in Thailand became like a holiday from travel for us! I look forward to seeing where you head to next.

    • Helen says:

      We are all ok now, took a few days to chill by the coast and now we are in Koh Tao learning to dive which is pretty exhausting, lots of afternoon naps for us! We are treating it as a holiday, Koh Tao is very touristy which is ok for a little while.

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