Thai People and Common Sense

Having lived in Thailand for a number of years, I am convinced that Thai people lack the common sense gene. I love them, I love living here, but every farang here has seen many examples of seemingly stupid behaviour, ranging from sidewalks that are broken and barely usable to the recent tragedy at the Santika Club on New Year’s Eve.

I live very close to the Nana Entertainment Plaza on Sukhumvit Soi 4, so tonight I walked around before it opened at 7:00 PM. I was checking to see if that complex had any safety features. I didn’t expect much and I didn’t find much.

If you haven’t been there, allow me a moment to describe it. There is a single entrance to a U-shaped complex with bars on 3 levels. The first level is the ground floor; there is no basement. The structure is concrete, although there is lots of wood around. At the entrance, there are bars on opposite sides of the lane, and both are made of wood. I could not see any sprinkler system, fire hose, alarm system, not even a water pail.

I would guess there are about 30-35 bars, ranging from small to huge. All of the bars have decorations of some sort inside, they are not bare concrete. At the Santika, some people died because of the poisonous fumes from the burning decorations.

Wandering around on the two upper levels, and peeking into some of the bars, which had doors open, but were not operating yet (because it was before 7:00 PM), I saw zero evidence of safety features.

No alarms, no fire hoses, no sprinklers, not a single extinguisher in evidence.

And there is only one way out of the complex, and that’s through the small lane at the front. There is often a truck parked in that lane, presumably making deliveries, and there are street vendors as well.

There don’t appear to be any other entrances/exits to this complex, but I do know that there are metal fire escapes on the outside at the right. I know because I used them once when the police raided the short-time hotel in which I was passing a short time and I had to use that metal platform and climb back through a window into one of the ladyboy bars. Got some funny looks that night, as I came out of the ladyboy dressing room and walked in front of the stage in full view of 20 or so patrons. It’s one of the stranger things I have done in my life.

What happened at Santika is tragic. But if a fire ocurred at Nana Plaza, there would likely be 10 times as many deaths because it’s much larger, there’s no safety equipment or emergency equipment of any kind, and there’s only one way out.

I wonder if Bangkok city government (Bangkok Metropolitan Administration) will now clamp down on safety; clearly nothing has been done so far. I suspect most commercial buildings, other than those built by Western companies, are lacking in basic safety features.

I live on a narrow soi, one lane wide. As you probably know, traffic here drives on the left. Except motorcycles, which go wherever they please. I have seen many instances where a car or truck is trying to manoeuver around the tight corners, and a motorcycle comes roaring up and squeezes in between the vehicle and the concrete building at the corner. Common sense would say, stop and wait 30 seconds until there is more clearance, but like I said, that gene is missing.

Walking along the sidewalk near Nana Plaza in the evening is a joke. In too many places, street vendors have blocked the path, leaving a very narrow space. When two Westerners approach from opposite sides, one always gives way; it’s the polite thing to do. Whenever I have done this, invariably two or three Thai people who were walking behind me refuse to stop, and squeeze through the extremely narrow opening, which is even narrower because there’s a hulking great farang coming at them. No common sense.

Today I was walking along the bike path which runs between the train tracks and a service road. My apartment is within a few meters of the service road. I discovered a while ago that it was better to walk along the bike path because it is asphalt and relatively smooth and marked down the middle with a dotted line, indicating two lanes. If you walk on the right side, bikes and motorcycles drive on the left and there is no conflict. That’s right, motorbikes use the bicycle path. This afternoon, however, I was walking along that path, keeping to the right, on my way to Ploenchit Centre. Suddenly there was a loud beep right behind me. I jumped into the ditch at the right, and looked back, and nearly fell over. There were two cars driving along this narrow bike path. No common sense.

A week ago, I was walking along the train track, and was amazed at the condition of the ties. They are very old and rotted. In many places, the spikes that hold the track to the ties are missing; the wood is in such bad condition that the spikes have simply fallen out. In this picture, taken just a few metres from Sukhumvit, the girl has her feet on a tie. Look where that tie meets the rail at the left. There should be a spike there, but there isn’t. These ties are in relatively good condition; in other places, they should have been replaced 10 years ago.

Kids playing on train track near Sukhumvit

There are a dozen trains a day along this track. One wonders how long it will be before a train causes the rails to move apart an extra few centimetres and there is a derailment. Just on the other side of Sukhumvit, many people live within 2 meters of the track. If a derailment occurred there, their houses would be destroyed and many people would die.

When I first came to Thailand in 1988, the traffic was much less and the pollution was ten times worse. One day, I was in a taxi that was driving along Ploenchit at a good clip, maybe 60 km an hour; traffic was light. I was in the back seat. When we got to the intersection with the Erawan Shrine, the driver took both hands off the steering wheel, looked at the Buddha in the shrine and made a wai. This took 20 seconds or so. We’re travelling 60 kph straight ahead and he’s looking 90 degrees to the left. No common sense.

There’s no doubt that living in Thailand is an experience. I just wish the people could learn a little common sense.

No common sense -- carrying a fence on a motorcycle

About the Author:

Douglas Anderson is the author of Speak Easy Thai [], an easy way to learn Thai vocabulary. The software runs on Windows PCs or Macs under BootCamp and includes Fundamentals of Thai Grammar [], a 350-page eBook. Speak Easy Thai uses the Internet for updates, but does not require an Internet connection during operation.

More Thai resources at Learn Thai Faster! []

63 thoughts on “Thai People and Common Sense”

  1. mai-sabai because of their bird brain

    what can i say is…. 555 means Hahaha…,
    you’re such a brave man to make an article about thais and Common sense, i’ve been teaching here for almost a year and honestly.. for 3 to 4 months of staying here i’ve noticed that they have a bird brain which im trying to understand everything and everytime im talking with them they will say they feel headache and sometimes i wanna say… i’m having my headache triple than you… i mean, i’m trying to understand them everyminute and everyhour but they really lack of common sense.. sometimes i cant avoid thinking that when there was a shower of Common Sense, these people were sleeping… haha

  2. Story Teller said…
    A short real Story :
    ” An educated Philippine teacher and an ALcoholic Native English Speaker with no Educational Background.”

    SCHOOL: We are looking for an English Teacher that can be able to teach English.
    NATIVE ALCOHOLIC SPEAKER: I’m interested and want to apply as an English Teacher in your School.
    PHILIPPINE : Good Afternoon Madame/Sir, I read your Job vacancy from the News paper that you are looking for an English teacher and i’m willing to apply for the position.
    SCHOOL: I’m sorry ms.Philippine we preferred the native speaker.
    SCHOOL: Mr.Native can you stat to wok wit Us?? (That’s how they really pronounce it all, Hahaha)

    They will rather choose to hire an ALcoholic Native ENglish Speaker than the Asian teacher who are very dedicated to teach with knowledge in English.

    These people how stupid and moron to choose an English Teacher. They are thinking that the Native one is the best teacher for their stupid brain.!

  3. IN THE MEETING: Thais with one english Teacher
    HEAD: “we have our meeting today”
    HEAD: *&%*(&^&&*^^%% Table of Content.*&^%#$^*((
    ENGLISH TEACHER: ?????????????? Huh ?????????? what are they talking about?
    HEAD: )(*^&^^&%^&**&^% TABLE OF CONTENTS J(&u&%&^&%$$%^&, Do you understand?
    ENGLISH TEACHER : huh? I don’t understand?
    HEAD : %^%$#^&*^ TABLE OFFF CCONNNTEENTSSS !!!! &%*(w^&^#*&#^
    ENGLISH TEACHER : yeah I understand the table of content…
    HEAD : okay, good… (then he continued to speak thai language.. &*^%$^&^%^&
    ENGLISH TEACHER: wAAAaaahhhhh I’m gonna headache with these kinds of people!!!! (inside my heart only)

    This scene is based from the real story of an English Teacher which is suffering to finish his contract and planning to go back to his own country. The point here is of course the English teacher understand about the “Table of Content” but the Head of the meeting doesn’t understand that the English teacher asked about the “Table of Content” …. Hahaha here, you can see that these people are lack..a BIG LACK of Common sense!!!
    This is me who experienced this scene. They were mad when I asked them twice if I don’t understand and if the meeting was finished they will blamed me if I don’t understand.. They are blaming me in their own stupid thing that they did… haaaayyy pls …. They good but if talking about the common sense.. I’m getting crazy to understand their stupid brain!

  4. This is the place where i can’t say :
    “Beauty and BRAIN”.. but…
    “Beauty WITH NO BRAIN” hahaha… they are just concious about beauty not about their brain >__<

  5. I must admit I am guilty for never checking or asking about the fire safety and emergency exits. I assumed it would be up to code but then I forget to realize I’m not in the western world.

  6. while riding motorcycle , they dont wear any helmet but worry about death

    many thai girl went to temple to wash away their sin , and yet end in the club nightly cheating guy money /love. Its a waste of time ..

  7. I just read your article and would like to add my 2 cents. I am a Thai person, born and partly bred i.e Thai-go-inter. In my humble opinion I find that in additional “Mai Pen Rai” my fellow countrymen (and women) have 4 other major-major habits (life philosophies) that desperately need changing.

    1. Mak Ngai (มักง่าย) – This is the Thai philosophy of being careless; shoddy; sloppy. It is made up of 2 words Mak which means “inclined towards” and Ngai Which means “easy”. Examples of this are prevalent: Thais will jaywalk right next to a pedestrian overpass or within sight of a zebra-crossing; Thai motorist will miss a turn and actually drive in reverse against heavy traffic to get back to the turn; throw trash in the proper receptacle? Sod that, we’re just gonna dump it right here; Building safety, it is “more convenient” to construct death traps and falling billboards.

    2. Mai Rap Pid Chob (ไม่รับผิดชอบ) – Thai people as a whole lack any concept of responsibility – to be answerable or accountable for something within one’s power. Thai people have a morbid fear of sticking their neck out. The other day I tried to get the legal status in Thailand of a plant named Salvia – it is legal. However, seventeen calls to the Thai FDA, DEA, Customs was all for naught. I could not get anyone from any institution regardless of rank to put their name to paper to certify the legality of the plant – yet everyone says it is legal and that there would be no problems (mai pen rai). This is not limited to the government: go to any institution with Thai people of any age and you will see that getting the buck to stop anywhere is almost impossible. In my office excuses fly thick in the air – the blame game is simple: anyone but me. An except from a recent conversation I had “Am I the project leader? Yes, I am but it was that other idiots fault. Yes, that idiot works for me but I shouldn’t be responsible for other peoples actions – if he shits do I have to wipe his ass? (<-this was actually said). So you're saying I don't have to wipe his ass but I must tell him to do it and make sure it is done? Yes, I am a manager but he is unmanageable." etc etc.

    3. Hen Kae Tua (เห็นแก่ตัว) – in a single word: selfish. This pertains mostly to city dwellers and politicians but it is becoming more prevalent up country. A recent example of selfishness was with the National football team. For other nations being on the National Side is an honor, something you proudly strive to do. Not in Thailand, several Thai players either declined to play for the National Team or if they couldn't get away then play at about 25% so as to "save" themselves for club games – disgustingly selfish, and yes we lost. These players don 't give 2 shits about the Nation's pride.
    Another facet of Hen Kae Tua is Thai people will not get involved unless they have a stake in it. This Thai philosophy is called: ผลประโยชน์ (Pohl Prayohd) – a stake or interest in something. This is the moving force in Thailand. If there is a stake in something then mountains can be moved but if interest are not aligned the you'd better watch your back (i.e. the Honeywell project).

    4. Mai Samakee (ไม่สามัคคี) – Not united. This is a by-product of 3. Hen Kae Tua (เห็นแก่ตัว) – The country is split and no one gives a shit about each other and selfishly tout each others ideologies without ever trying to listen. Nothing moves unless someone important has a stake in it. At this rate there will be no reconciliation and nothing worth reconciling over.

    That, my dears, is my rant for the day. I think its pretty accurate.

  8. They can live with little food, but cant live without making themselves pretty.

    They can tolerate working physically tired on their strength/body, But they cant tolerate work on mental stress. They hate Headache mak mak.. as in thai… “kit mak ”

    My girl stayed in an unhygienic, bad environment for 33 yrs.. She born a 10yrs old daughter , now she born a 2 yrs old daughter.(both dont belong to me but i take care for 5yrs. Am i stupid enough?)

    Seems like both daughter will follow the mum foot step in future.
    I am not sure how to cure them.. Or maybe thats their way of life.

  9. they dont live with little food, yhey always eat no matter when and what….they exagerate with make themselves pretty, because they make up so much and when they forget to make up, they become like dr, jackill and mr Hyde….
    the best solution about thai woman with childreen and you must take care her and her childreen and may be also parents and relatives, is that you find a woman without childreen and take her only her without spoling her too much with expensives….you dont like that way? am so sorry for you!!!!!!

  10. ant45 :

    is there anyway to change a thai women concept from their stubborn attitude to our farang way of thinking ?

  11. Maybe Thai don’t care of security, but in their country nobody enter a bar with a gun and kill everyone like in USA (for Africa?) or in Europe.
    If Americans as so clever, they have to show it up to the world, actually they only destroying everything on earth.

  12. All of what’s being said are spot on, more especially, the comment from Xydtipaht.

    On top of lacking common sense, Thais do have the other attitude of being complacent, and they are very much lazy.

    They only care about their appearances, and other than that, there’s nothing inside their pea brain. They are just good for copying what the west have and/or copying others without having their own original ideas.

    Thais are very well aware of these gene problems, but they don’t give a damn thing to change them because they can’t agree among themselves.

    And speaking about no Thais will enter a bar with a gun and kill everyone. Who said that Thais do not enter a bar with gun without the intention of killing? Thais are those who don’t really think about consequences, they’ll kill and they’ll have no regrets at all. They’ll only show regrets when they are caught and are shown publicly as a murderer or some sort on TV.

    Jealousy is another problem as well here. They can’t see their neighbors with new gadgets, the very next day, they’ll break their piggy bank to have the very same gadget or whatever it is.

    Last but not least, Thais don’t like being confronted, or else, you’ll find yourself in a very bad situation.

  13. Well, these considerations are only hate against Thai people, you certainly ignoring almost everything about this very kind population. Of course , they copy west lifestyle (alas), but they also keep their traditions and culture, the best for you is staying in your country and stop visiting other ones that you will not probably never understand, because you are lazy to learn their culture or maybe you feel just superior. When I look at people in Europe or USA, watching TV all day, eating poisonous and horrible food, buying useless stuffs…and having empty brains, I don’t envy them at all.
    If you encounter problems with Thai people, it’s certainly depending of your own attitude, you are the stranger, you have to stick to their culture, not the opposite, you are just a visitor, please remember, if you don’t like, please leave…

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