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 [http://www.Thai-Culture-Publishing.com], an easy way to learn Thai vocabulary. The software runs on Windows PCs or Macs under BootCamp and includes Fundamentals of Thai Grammar [http://www.learn-faster.org/Thai], 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! [http://www.learn-faster.org/Thai/]

DougBangkok

author of Speak Easy Thai; information on learning Thai at www.learn-faster.org/Thai

63 thoughts on “Thai People and Common Sense

  • January 17, 2009 at 8:15 pm
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    Doug,

    I read your opening and I was all ready for a new and insightful look into Thai common sense but I’m unsure if what you described in this post is lack of common sense or something else.

    I think part of the problem is the Thai educational system breeds children (who then become adults) who are used to being told everything. There is little or no reward in Thai society for being an original thinker. The teacher tells you something and you parrot it back exactly as it was told to you. Period. Don’t ask why. If the teacher tells you the grass is orange then it’s orange and that’s what you answer on the next exam.

    This extends beyond the educational system into the home. I often hear people say things like they don’t like going out in the rain because if they get wet they’ll catch cold. Ask them why they don’t get a cold when they take a shower and you’ll get a deer in the headlights look.

    We farangs have our own set of similar sorts of dogma learned from our well-meaning parents but as we grow older and we see more and take in more experiences we usually embrace those that seem true and reject those that seem false. I’m sure every farang’s parents have told them similar things about going outside in the cold or rain but most of us learned in biology or health classes that colds and flu are caused by viruses and bacteria, not exposure to rain or cold temperatures.

    So, many of the things you mention make perfect sense in that context. Thais are not going to concern themselves with fires because nobody has told them to. Fire safety is not taught in schools nor is there a steady stream of public service announcements discussing how important it is. I can all but guarantee that if Thais got the same pounding over the head that us farangs get about fire safety (stop, drop, and roll) every Thai would have a smoke detector in their home and entertainment venues would have 30 fire exits per venue.

    I think that it’s less about lacking a common sense gene and more about how Thai society values conformity over what’s right.

    Billy

  • January 18, 2009 at 4:34 pm
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    Regarding Nana Plaza, Doug, the situation is worse than you think. When there was a comparitively minor fire at Mandarin a few months back the fire truck arrived and COMPLETELY BLOCKED THE ONLY EXIT. You can only wonder at how stupid people are here and shake your head and hope you aren’t in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  • February 4, 2009 at 12:46 am
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    No offense, but I think fire safety issue is more related to not so strict law enforcement in Thailand. Also turning away from steering wheel for 20 seconds on a vehicle moving at 60 kph should be safe if there is absolutely nothing in about 300m. 🙂 Maybe it is not about common sense but more on Thai people taking everything too easy.

    Talking about common sense, I have met a lot of farangs buying way too expensive fake leather bags or marrying those poor Thai women…

  • April 5, 2009 at 1:36 am
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    I used to really love Thailand until I moved here. Now when I think of the word Thai I also think of corruption, pollution and inability. I get a good laugh sometimes at the naive and childlike way they often look at the world but when I need to actually get something done or when it becomes a dangerous situation like Santika or the travesty that is the infrastructure here it’s not so amusing. I really don’t know what the problem is, I sincerely think it might be genetic. I used to be totally against racism but now I see there are differences in the races and not all races are equal.

  • April 5, 2009 at 2:06 am
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    @Jai Rai: Culture != Genetics. Your comments are 100% racist.

  • July 22, 2009 at 10:00 pm
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    While Thai culture has a great deal of stuff about paying reverence to higher authorities – one could argue that this is very similar with other Asian cultures (Singaporeans, for example, are notorious for displaying a robot-like obedience to the state apparatus). In fact, if you teach in Thailand, you would quickly find out that Thai students are incapable of even the most rudimentary classroom learning (not because they are dumb, but because they would rather chit-chat with their little circle of friends). Therefore, I would refute the argument about rote learning being the root cause of all problems with Thailand – although I would agree that the educational system in this country is abysmal.

    So what then, gives the Thai culture it’s unique flavor that cause us to rant repeatedly (and to no avail)? In my opinion, it’s the ‘Mai Pen Rai’ attitude (translation: ‘No worries’). No fire exit, extinguisher or contingency planning in the case of fire? Mai Pen Rai. Driving on a bicycle path even though it is intended for bicycles? Mai Pen Rai. Rail tracks coming apart, which can potentially cause trains to derail and kill dozens, if not hundreds of people? Mai Pen Rai! Bringing knives and lighter fluid through the X-ray machine at Suvarnabhumi airport as you are boarding an international flight (yes, seriously – you should try it, it’s quite hilarious!)? Mai Pen Rai – have a good flight krub/kaa!

    But here lies the paradox, because not everything in Thailand gets the ‘Mai Pen Rai’ treatment. Rather, the exact opposite occurs! Hitting on another person’s girlfriend in a pub by accident? You might get beaten up and shot by him and 20 of his friends, and not necessarily in that order. Do anything that can be perceived as the least bit offensive to the monarchy? Go straight to jail – and if you’re lucky, some journalists might write about your plight and five years later your government secure your release from jail.

    So my take is that everything in Thailand can be deconstructed to the Can ‘Mai Pen Rai’ and Cannot ‘Mai Pen Rai’. There is no clear pattern as to what belongs to which – but a general rule of the thumb is that anything that is a big deal in the West gets the Mai Pen Rai treatment in Thailand. At the same time, some of the things that seems non-trivial to westerners, can be a matter of life or death for the Thai’s. Once you figured out how this works, then the seemingly confusing, nonsensical Thai people become very, very predictable. Scarily so.

    The sad part is, because of this, Thailand will NEVER, ever, evolve into anything other than a simple, backwater third world country that relies on tourism to survive. And why tourism? Because it’s the easiest thing you can possibly do. Even then, they still manage to screw themselves over by allowing a bunch of street mobs to shut down their own airports, twice in the same year! But as a Thai person would say, ‘Mai Pen Rai, Farang will come back next year!’. Ah, life is indeed good in Thailand…

  • July 27, 2009 at 5:16 pm
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    I don’t think your picture of two men riding the motorcycle was taken in Thailand. It was probably in Vietnam.

  • July 31, 2009 at 9:06 pm
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    Ah Jai Dee, being a Thai myself , your whole comment was hard to swallo but I could not agree more.
    I wanted to move back there to continue my first university year at the Simplakorn Uni but after a month in Thailand I realized I was better off in England. Everything has changed for worse, the people, the environent, the education, the politics. Everything.
    Thailand is not a land of smile anymore, I’ve had to deal with too many money hungry people during my holiday there, they were trying to use the same trick they used on another farang! It saddens me. Thailand isn’t how I remembered it to be. But maybe it has always been this way – I was just too young to realized.

  • November 15, 2009 at 9:53 pm
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    Jai Dee- Totally agree with you on the mai pen rai attitude of the Thais, I have lived out here for three years and they do not give a shit about anything unless it involves eating, sleeping or ripping of farang. I also think that alot of the farang out here don’t help matters when they see something ridiculous or dangerous and they shrug their shoulders and come out with the classic line “well it’s Thailand” these combined “who gives a fuck” attitudes will ensure that Thailand will never pull itself out of the mire. I’m off back to farangland in a couple of weeks and it can’t come bloody quick enough!

  • November 16, 2009 at 5:12 am
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    @Gogsy: Feeling is mutual. Don’t let the plane door hit you in the ass.

  • November 16, 2009 at 7:02 am
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    @Billy Bangkok: Takes a while for the rose tinted glasses to come off but they will.

  • November 16, 2009 at 11:53 am
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    @Gogsy: Nothing rose-tinted here. Just know that people with your sort of attitude never seem to make it. That’s not to say that certain things can’t be frustrating. There are frustrating things in our own cultures. But the difference between those who do well and those who don’t usually comes down to whether or not one can distinguish from what’s important and what isn’t.

    For instance, you hail Jai Dee but he’s not even accurate. Do you think for a moment you aren’t risking bodily harm hitting on someone’s girlfriend back home? Or maybe wearing the wrong football jersey is reason enough to permanently maim or disfigure a fellow countryman. Hell, I’ll be more than happy to show you places in both the US and Europe where simply being white is enough reason to beat you senseless.

    I’ll bet if any of the above happened to you you would be praying for a little old “May ben rai”

    Similarly, Jai Dee seems to be of the opinion that the country is tourism based and you praised what he wrote so I have to assume you are equally ignorant. Tourism only accounts for something like 12% of the county’s income. Maybe part of the frustration is you wish it was more like 90% so when you leave in a huff you’re really hurting the Thai people and they’ll promise to change if you come back. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

    The funny part is that your criticism isn’t even unique. I’ve heard the same about the Spanish, the Italians, the Indians, the Chinese, the Hawaiians, the Mexicans, the Bahamians, etc. etc. The only common denominator is some big whitey complaining about how lazy and corrupt the locals are and how if they don’t change it’s going to doom the country.

  • November 16, 2009 at 1:07 pm
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    @Billy Bangkok. I am aware of the figures concerning tourism and the country’s income but thanks for reiterating. I also know that a fair few of the guys i’ve met out here are of the same opinion as I am but the only alternative to living in this completely frustrating country is to go back home where many of them will struggle to find employment, so stuck between a rock and a hard place they continue their dead end career as a performing monkey (teacher) for the princely sum of 30’000 thb a month. Is that your definition of “making it”?

  • November 16, 2009 at 8:21 pm
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    @Gogsy: No, that’s not my definition of making it but it’s interesting that that is your point of reference. Actually, I don’t earn any of my money in Thailand. The checks I receive have Euro, Sterling, and dollar signs.

    So no, I did not come over here chasing a dream. I came because I genuinely enjoy being out of my comfort zone. I’ve been an expat several different times in my life and always enjoyed the thrill of gaining a new perspective no matter where I am in the world.

    And because I didn’t come here chasing a dream I don’t come to the table with preconceived notions about the Thais or the culture. Sometimes it makes me laugh and sometimes I am baffled. But it is what it is.

    Not that I don’t get frustrated at times but one of the reasons I love it here is because that gives me a reason to ask myself why. Why am I frustrated? Is it serving a purpose?

    But I’ve always been a problem solver rather than letting it eat at me. If I’ve learned anything in my years of managing people all over the world it’s that people will do whatever they’re incentivized to do.

    People like to talk as if there’s some mutant gene being carried around by Thais that hard codes all of these negative attributes. But it all comes down to incentives. If you want different outcomes you have to change the parameters. And the only way you can do that is to actually understand how they view the situation.

    But that’s not what we like to do. For us the answer is so simple. The choice is obvious. Yet somehow the incentives seem to push people do exactly the opposite of what we want. To me, that sounds like we don’t understand the problem well enough.

  • November 17, 2009 at 7:53 am
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    @Billy Bangkok. The answer for us is simple because we are able to think logically and use common sense, Thais are incapable of this hence the reason for this article. They are not known as the blondes of Asia for nothing.

  • November 17, 2009 at 4:11 pm
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    @Gogsy: Ahhh, I see. We’re going back to the “all Thais are stupid and illogical” argument. Like I said earlier, your presence here won’t be missed. Your departure can’t come soon enough for us either.

  • November 17, 2009 at 4:36 pm
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    @Billy Bangkok- Spoken like one who has been well and truly indoctrinated.

  • November 17, 2009 at 4:37 pm
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    @Gogsy: Nobody’s going to miss you, mate.

  • November 17, 2009 at 5:35 pm
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    I’m absolutely positive of that mate and I won’t miss being treated like a 2nd class citizen by a race of people who don’t use the half a brain they were born with. Adios.

  • November 17, 2009 at 5:53 pm
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    Like I said, good luck to you.

  • December 10, 2009 at 1:32 pm
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    Oh hi there.

    I’m American born and raised, but 100% Thai ethnically. Parents came over here in the 70s.

    Just stumbled over this article, and it’s interesting to get a non-Thai perspective. My take is:

    1.) The government over there is corrupt and doesn’t invest enough in infrastructure.
    2.) The uneducated/poorly thought out policies and practices are passed down from one generation to the next.

    All of the “common sense” issues you described can be see in the country south of the USA – Mexico. Same issues: corruption, drugs, lack of investment in infrastructure and education, and a myriad of other things.

    Even my father, born and raised in Thailand from the rice farms, tells me that Thailand’s gotten to be as bad as Mexico in most cases.

    Personally, I find certain habits of other Thais to be annoying. Lastly, my mom gets satellite channels that broadcast from Thailand, and those Thai soap operas…..I want to throw a brick at the TV when they’re on. They’re stupid, they steal music (I heard Lord of the Rings theme song playing once), and the women make these high pitched squeals that you wouldn’t here anywhere else. It goes something like “ooooooooooooiiiiiyyyyyyy!!!” and it’s worse that the screeching of a chalk board to me.

    I like Thai people. I like the history and culture, but lots of things annoy me about them as well.

  • January 17, 2010 at 7:15 pm
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    Good article and debate, Billy you are a bit delusional and Gogsy you’re almost a proto-Nazi(I get it, I get it, but that’s a bit too far)

    The White Elephant? The bitter CLASS war that the elite are, and always have been, winning. It’s the same everywhere and the local elite here with the help of semi-Imperial intervention from western countries have really been kicking the shit out of the working class and poor here like nowhere else. Educated Thais growing up with some affluence are pretty much as normal and wise as anyone else.

    The results of all this are that I too went from loving it here to hating it in about three years.

  • January 17, 2010 at 9:18 pm
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    “I came because I genuinely enjoy being out of my comfort zone.”
    @BB I have tried numerous times to explain why, though I love my country very much, I don’t like living there. This sums it up nicely for me. Thanks.

  • January 17, 2010 at 10:28 pm
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    I don’t consider myself delusional at all. As I have said, there are things I do find frustrating. But one of the things that has helped me the most is having a fairly sizable group of Thai friends. Both in understanding the Thai perspective on things but also I find that making blanket statements about the Thai people is much harder to do when I know many people who aren’t anything like that. Or, stopping and asking myself if I would like some of my Thai friends to hear me saying those things.

    Don’t get me wrong though. I do find things frustrating at times. Just today I was ready to explode at the glacier pace people were walking at in Pratunam. It’s easy to just say “Yeah, these f*cking Thais blah, blah, blah.” It’s a lot harder to remind yourself that you know Pratunam is like this and you chose to come anyway. Nobody’s being malicious. They’re just slow 🙂

  • January 18, 2010 at 5:31 pm
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    @Billy
    You crack me up! “I don’t consider myself delusional at all.”
    Find me a delusional person who considers themselves to be delusional and I’ll show you one tripped out wacko that should be committed to the local asylum! lol Of course you don’t consider yourself delusional!

    The comparisons you make are not in context at all. You make comparisons about local problems in a home country as opposed to something that is widespread here. Comparing apples and oranges will always make you look right if you can get it by people without them realizing what you have done. Maybe you have been here too long and have slid down the slippery slope of senselessness? I cannot fathom for a moment any kind of physical altercation arising from a simple misunderstanding if trying to hit on someone’s girlfriend back home. To the contrary, it would probably be a good laugh to most. Although, I’m sure there are some locales where there could be enough ignorant bums around to turn it into an altercation. Opposing team’s jerseys causing fights!? lol In VERY local contexts perhaps. And simply being white (or any other color, for that matter) as a reason to beat one senseless is yet another example of VERY localized problems that are not at all widespread by any of your wildest imaginations! Perhaps you should start a scarecrow manufacturing company, you are quite good at coming up with strawmen! lol

    You ask yourself if being frustrated serves a purpose…. as though being frustrated is a bad thing and you should just let it go (mai pen rai). You seem to have swallowed the Thai fixture. Of course being frustrated serves a purpose! As you mentioned about incentive, but didn’t seem to be able to put two and two together… frustration is incentive! If you are frustrated about something, it should be incentive to want to make it better or correct the problem, unless of course you have adopted the, impossible to make decent progress, attitude of mai pen rai! Let’s just be sure everything is sanuk and forget about anything that matters because that could cause frustration!

    By the way, you mention that, “Tourism only accounts for something like 12% of the county’s income”, and therefore Thailand is not dependent on it!? Just to inform you a little better… Travel and Tourism accounts for 14.7% of Thailands GDP ( a bit different than the country’s “income”, but I imagine that is what you meant ) as of 2009 and is expected to grow to 15.6% over the coming decade. It also accounts for 1 in every 9 jobs in the country! Of course the country wouldn’t collapse if the Tourism industry evaporated overnight, but there are a very significant number of families depending on Tourism in order to eat! And of course the ripple effect of them losing their jobs would be much more severe on the economy than only causing problems withing the Tourism industry.

    Of course, there are positive aspects to “mai pen rai”, and it is not the only problem that causes this country to stagnate, but combined with their bastardized Buddhism in traditional daily life, they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, that’s for sure! Not that it would help much if they unbastardized (if that could be a word! lol) their religious practices and superstitions… but it might help if they started thinking with the minds they have instead of settling for a happy mediocrity that is not truly happy at all. Sort of like the happiness displayed by the not uncommon kind of thinking and behavior displayed by the girl you wrote about in your article “Strangeness on ThaiLoveLinks”. She is so happy to search for a farang, but obviously not happy at all! It would help if she used her brain! A common prescription needed here in Thailand.

  • January 19, 2010 at 3:01 pm
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    @Jack: You, sir, are the one who is delusional. From first hand experience I can tell you that fights between guys over trying to pick up a girl are very common. I would so love to see you hit on some guy’s girlfriend in any Latin American country.

    Likewise, I was denied entrance into a shithole bar in Spain because I was wearing a Real Madrid jersey and the bouncers were concerned that it might cause a fight if there were any Barcelona supporters inside.

    And if you don’t think that the color of you skin is enough reason to kick your ass, I’ll be more than happy to drop your ass off in Harlem, South Central LA, or Watts. If you make it out alive you can apologize for your stupidity. And that’s not even accounting for abroad. Try walking down the wrong street in the Caribbean or in Rio. Try taking a stroll through some parts of Mexico City.

    Listen, I’ve had a gun pointed in my face in Turkey. I’ve been chased down back alleys by a gang of thugs in the Bahamas. I’ve had to work side by side with ex-cons with tattoos on their face (tear drops which means they’ve killed someone). I’m not talking about this stuff in hypothetical. I know the f*cking world. I’ve seen some pretty scary shit.

    When you start off with such absurdity, it’s difficult for anyone to listen to anything else you say. No matter how dense you are, you know walking into a pub with a Liverpool jersey in Manchester will get your ass kicked. To say that it doesn’t happen is simply retarded. It doesn’t happen because people aren’t stupid enough to do it. But if you were that stupid you would certainly get your ass kicked into a bloody pulp.

    You call it localized but what I’m saying is that in many different localities different things will get your ass kicked for different reasons. Yeah, being white in Compton is a localized problem but being black in parts of the south will also get your ass kicked. It’s only localized in the sense that different things will get your ass kicked in different neighborhoods.

    I’m not sure what world you live in but, all things considered, the only people I have any fear of in Thailand outside of the police are other farangs. I don’t worry about the Thais. Unless you do something supremely stupid, most Thais won’t bother you. Those that will . . . anything that makes them gain face will get you out of it.

    If you get caught trying to pick up some Thai dude’s girlfriend in a nightclub, an apology and an offer to buy the guy a drink or a bottle of whiskey will end the situation 99.9999% of the time. In the western world I would say that is about 60%. Forty percent of the time the guy will still want to kick your ass. The comment that the guy would get a good laugh out of it is so f*cking retarded that it’s not even worth responding to. Please find me one other person in the world who agrees with that. There are two things that don’t mix well no matter where you are in the world, testosterone and alcohol. Trying to make a move on some dude’s girl puts testosterone on overdrive and if there’s even a hint of alcohol involved the chances of a fight skyrocket.

    And believe me, I often hang out in parts of Bangkok that they don’t regularly see farangs. In fact, just last night I was out with some friends at some go-gos out in the sticks and we were the only white guys in the clubs. One place refused to bring girls over to the table because we were farangs so mai ben rai we paid up and went to the next club where they (and the girls) were happy to take our money.

    So if there was a huge risk for farangs in Thailand, I certainly would have run into it by now.

    Again, if you think I’m making up strawmen arguments or you want to lol some more, let me take you through Inglewood California and throw your ass out of the car. Even the fast food joints there have bullet proof glass between the cashier and the customer because they get held up so often. So you can lol to some thugs who ask you what you’re doing in their neighborhood and see how far that gets you chuckles the clown.

    Frustration only serves a purpose if you have the means to fix the problem. Getting mad at Thai corruption serves absolutely no purpose since you have no voting rights and no recourse. Getting frustrated that you’re stuck in traffic is pointless. So, no, I don’t believe in getting frustrated at things I can’t change.

    I know that sounds a tad defeatist but I also don’t get frustrated at things I can change. I simply look at how I can change them. I view those as problems to be solved.

    And oh, sorry 12% and 14.7% . . . yes, certainly a need to correct me there. Such a huge gap in the numbers. The point, of course, was that many bitter farangs seem to think that tourism is 80% of Thailand’s GDP. They love to stand on their soapboxes and preach that if Thailand doesn’t change things they’ll sink into a pit of ruin because tourists will stop coming.

    The reality is, even as you admit, it would have a significant impact if tourism dropped to 0% but things would have to get pretty bad here for that to happen. Even Syria and Lebanon have tourism even though I wouldn’t set foot in either country and neither would many people who regularly visit Thailand.

    If tourism dropped off significantly it would probably drop to 9% of GDP. That would be enough to be considered a panic. Even with all of the unrest in Thailand it hasn’t dropped that low on an annual basis so going to 9% would be an extreme.

    But what would really happen? The first few years people would struggle hoping the tourists would come back but after the reality of the situation set in they would integrate back into society. The Thai government would push for more exports. They would look to sign up more foreign investment. And eventually, they would be back at break-even.

    The thought that Thailand is going to bow down to some farang because he doesn’t like it here is stupid. Like you say, even with all the problems, corruption, scams, etc tourism is expected to rise. What incentive do the Thai people have to change any of that when we keep coming anyway?

    Your last paragraph displays how really ignorant you are of Thailand. Thailand is this way because the people are brainwashed to be this way. You can’t snap your fingers and tell people to change overnight. Even if they had a radical transformation it would be at least a generation before you saw real change.

    Dude, the entire school curriculum is teaching children not to question the government or their elders. Do what you’re told. Never ask questions. Thailand is the greatest country in the world, Thai food is the best food in the world, and Thai people are the greatest people in the world. Thai xenophobia didn’t come about randomly. It’s institutionalized. It’s the only way the elite can hold onto power. Why the hell do you think there’s a free channel that shows pandas 24 hours a day? They keep people distracted so they can rob the country blind.

    That’s not something you can change overnight. Every Thai person alive today has been indoctrinated with this thinking. It would take one or two generations for any significant change to ripple through Thailand.

    Which puts us right back where we started . . . that can frustrate you or you can just accept that this is how Thailand is. If it takes 10 – 20 years for a major change like this to ripple through society why bother getting frustrated about things today?

  • January 19, 2010 at 9:00 pm
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    @Ruai
    Thanks. You’re right, it is a great place. And thanks for reinforcing my point of localized problems.

    @Billy
    Thanks for the decorum at the start of your note in calling me sir. But I have a funny feeling that you use that word lightly after your long assault full of insinuations and making arguments against things I never even said, but you imply that I did. And likewise, thanks for reinforcing my point about localized problems. I see you grasp that, although you seem to still like to compare localized problems with isolated problems.

    I found it interesting to note that there are bragging rights for living in/with/through the dredges of society. I fail to see how that gives you a wider view of life without the opposing experience to complement it. I’ve seen more than I care to recount as well, but prefer to live among people who don’t continue giving the word farang such a poor connotation, as well as to show many Thai that not all farang enjoy promoting the very things that are scourges to their society (i.e. go-go bars, “massage” parlors, and their associated prostitutes), but rather spend their time with people who are making a positive difference in their land.

    At any rate, I think we probably agree on more things that you seem to allow. It appears that you took my note as some sort of an assault on your person and apparently let your pride get the better of you. Perhaps when you have a chance to read my note with a bit more objectivity, you will see that I wasn’t arguing the arguments that you accuse me of at all. I did go back to see if I may have said something that may have been offensive and could only see one. I can understand how my question about the possibility of you having slid down the slippery slope of senselessness would be insulting. I apologize. Other than that, I have no idea why you are so intent on attacking me. I did not call you delusional, and didn’t even insinuate it. I simply got a laugh out of your statement because it made no sense. It made me laugh, that’s all, nothing intended to demean you in that. If you can’t laugh at yourself, you truly will have more frustration than you need. There are so many things that you mention that are in apparent opposition to things that you think I said, which I didn’t, it would take too long to go over them all and I’m not so certain that it would be of any benefit anyway. You seem to take yourself far too seriously and I think you would go a long way toward a better dialog and enhancing people’s understanding of issues you think important if you were more irenic in your demeanor and argumentation. For example, why do you take offense at my giving you some more updated information so that you would be better informed? How on earth you construe that to be some sort of an argument or insult was one of many surprises. We agree on that issue, as probably on many, but you turned it into some sort of adversarial issue…. It is pretty difficult to communicate with a person who comes across as already knowing everything, which you seem to strive to prove in various ways. No doubt you have much interesting life experience and knowledge. So do others. Perhaps you may be better served keeping your mind open to them rather than jumping down their throat when you perceive your pride has been assaulted. Just a suggestion. I may be off base and have crossed the line. I don’t want to get into a tit for tat argument like the foolish imbeciles fighting over sports teams… just trying to dialog about these things. I imagine I’ll quit after this though… we’ll see.

    One last thing, you accuse me of being ignorant about Thailand. And you write four paragraphs about things of which I said nothing as though I was opposed to those ideas. That was somewhat humorous, considering that I can be nearly certain that my understanding of Thailand and her ways is well beyond your wildest imaginations of what it might be. You should know your opponent before you make such rash statements. I say opponent only because that is what your bearing toward me has been. I have no desire to have a contentious relationship with you or anyone else. Therefore, mai pen rai 😉

    Again, my apologies if my previous post is as contentious as you perceive it to be. I had no intention of it being so.

  • February 1, 2010 at 12:37 pm
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    holy cow you people sure like to argue, personally i like to just gain knowledge and perspective, not win a “point” here and there. Get the point? Sticks and stones but words on a screen will never hurt you, think about it, people.

  • February 27, 2010 at 7:10 pm
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    Is this just one person writing every post under different names?

  • March 2, 2010 at 2:02 am
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    @Nat Nat,

    I agree on Thai soap opera. We also should have a class called “Common Sense”for pre-school:).

    Thai flight attendant.

  • March 29, 2010 at 9:08 pm
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    If you guys think Thailand and Thai people are bad. Why are you here?
    Go back and live in your hometown. Do not complain!
    When in Rome, do as Roma do! Have you ever heard that? You guys should be thankful to be here in Thailand.

  • March 31, 2010 at 9:31 am
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    Someone –
    Because everybody knows thatthe joy in poking fun at the Thai is the wonderful reaction you get. I make a point everyday of baiting some unsuspecting local. The amount of venom, and the ease with which it is delievered, is in direct proportion to their level of blind jingoistic indoctrination by a country with little capacity for dealing constructively with criticism.

    In particular, I thoroughly enjoyed the Thai festival in Sydney last week, at which I made a point of not standing up for the Thai national anthem. And if they don’t like it they can bloody well bugger off to their own country! haha

  • April 11, 2010 at 9:13 am
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    Yes these things about Thai people that people have mentioned are so true they have no common sense! I was born raised and lived in Thailand for 15 years and am half Thai and I admit a lot of Thai people who are educated through Thai schools are not very smart, someone wrote an example of when it rains Thai people say they don’t want to go out because they are afraid of catching a cold, now that was a very good example because Thai people do just listen to what they learn through education and they never question whether it is right or wrong and that made me laugh because it is so true. I am half Thai and i criticize my own people and my mother who is Thai because i just get so annoyed with Thai people sometimes with their lack of common sense. I speak Thai fluently but look like a farang because i got my fathers dominant genes but sometimes Thai people are so shocked when I start speaking Thai and continue to try and speak English to me even though i am speaking Thai to them!, which i also find very funny. And another point how slow Thai people walk when they are in supermarkets and shopping malls, they just walk and stare around have no common sense to move out of the way or even realize that there are people behind them trying to get though or people who walk faster then them. And Thai soap operas for god sake so many Thai women watch it and it is the most retarded thing you can ever watch, they never allow kissing on Thai Television and the women scream and make the stupidest noises. Also another thing about Thai people that I find funny is when I am driving and you go through a small narrow street and you let someone go through first and when you do in western culture you usually put your hand up to say thank you and i do that and Thai people just get so confused and think they are waving to you.
    I got to say I get very annoyed with Thai people a lot of the time by their lack of common sense even though i am half Thai, i like the country and the people they are very nice and generous people but their lack of common sense and stupidity sometimes is really pisses me of but over the years I have learned to deal with it though and sometimes when something goes wrong i make a joke to my friends “like what do you expect it’s thai people or a thai person ” but I would never say that in front of my Thai friends because they would find it offensive. I am sorry for criticizing Thai people but it is the truth and i sort have the right to since I am half Thai.

  • April 11, 2010 at 9:22 am
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    Also i just read jai dee’s post about the mai pen rai theory and that is so true and thailand will never develop if that sort of mai pen rai and not mai pen rai attitude and way of thinking doesnt change!

  • May 6, 2010 at 12:17 pm
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    u fuckin racist ashsole. U think thai peopel r ulke this, look at ur own culture u gay ass faggot. farangas suck like shit, dun u know. u got people like george bush who only want to domintae the world, and pizza deliveries system faster than ur ambulances. ur a bunch of faggtots, thats it.

  • July 10, 2010 at 3:17 pm
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    It called using ur head. Typical farang thinking its poverety and stupid thinking, its not poverty living beside a railroad its called fucking living ur life. what a fucking snob. Why live in the country. With farang its always i love the thais but then u backstab them. for fuck sake. You need to learn that thai people are just living their lives and thats the thai way!!! retard

  • July 20, 2010 at 1:16 am
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    Honestly, I just think that a lot of Thai people don’t grow up with as much fortune as other countries like the United States. I’m not saying that the United states are bad, (I’m Thai-American also.) but this could be one of the likely causes. Life can be a lot harder for people whose countries’ government is in turmoil, and that have many rebels running around. Other countries seem to have many people who are close-minded, and are scared to face a different culture. They also don’t have as much common sense, if you ask me. They don’t even know how much to eat before they’re overweight, for instance. Now, Thai people I admit, can be senseless sometimes, but isn’t everyone senseless at one point or another?

  • July 21, 2010 at 9:45 pm
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    I’m not a Thai basher. I like Thailand and I like Thai people – I must do as I’ve been here for seventeen years – but it’s my firm belief that the lousy education system, in this country, is the root cause of so many of the percieved inadequacies that foriegners find in the locals. To the apparent lack of common sense (And remember we’re too often guilty of judging them by the western version of common sense. They have a common sense which serves them okay) you can add a poor standard of general knowledge of the world beyond the borders of Thailand, a lack of decisiveness and spontaneous problem solving skills.

    I’d be interested to know what percentage of the population don’t know in what compass direction are the countries that border Thailand. Hell, what about something even simpler; at what compass bearing does the sun rise in?

  • November 2, 2010 at 10:09 pm
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    @MEGALITHIC I am thai and I am happy to say we Thai have a way to say east and west, Thawan ok(west) have a perfect simple meaning of rising sun and thawan thok(east) have a perfect simple meaning of setting sun.

  • November 2, 2010 at 10:16 pm
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    It will be a long journey for Thai people to adopt western ideas. But I have experienced a revolutionary teacher who tutors me for math. She resents the older teachers since they are more doctrinate (correct me if I use this word incorrectly). So I believe that the long journey might be about a century or so. It wont be long. Just after our generation.

  • November 14, 2010 at 7:10 pm
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    That Billy does like the sound of his own voice, doesn’t he?

  • November 15, 2010 at 12:34 pm
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    i think they are clever when it comes to $$$…

  • December 26, 2010 at 3:50 am
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    Thai is not a race, its a political structure. Not all Tais live in Thailand and not all Tais are or want to be Thai. Thailand means freedomland. Hence, there are no idiot laws in Thailand, and yes they go a little overboard with their liberty. IF u do anything stupid u will not have a chance to have stupid kids, simple.

  • January 8, 2011 at 7:35 pm
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    realy i have been here for about 3 years and cant stop seeing funny things here in Thailand interms of common sense. Realy there is no common sense in Thailand and is due to the educational system. Even right down in hiring an English teacher for a school, looks count, eg i might be better experienced and got the gift of teaching but if im ugly hell no you will be lay off when a more goodlookin teacher shows up withough even a barchelors degree. And as i said earlier im a teacher here and i do much about private tutoring, ask a thai university student to name just 4 countries in Europe or just 2 in Africa u will be shock.

    sometimes i feel like crying when trying to put up a conversation with them.
    THEY ARE RETARDED.

  • January 10, 2011 at 9:52 am
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    Re: Pekki

    This has got to be a wind up, surely?

    If you’re an English teacher then my mother is the Queen of Sheeba.

  • February 10, 2011 at 11:04 am
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    So… Who’s winning right now? Or is it still 0-0?

  • May 15, 2011 at 2:07 pm
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    It’s not that they lack the common sense gene. It’s that you don’t understand that common sense is a cultural thing. Their common sense is different from yours. That’s all! Do some study and research before you publish your self-rightous thinking.

  • May 17, 2011 at 6:00 am
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    @Billy and Jack

    If you observed the shape of many Thai heads, it has a gorrila- like shape and is much smaller than the farang’s in Thailand. This could be that they also have smaller brains, maybe. So the “using half the brain” logic could play in. Their SAT scores are also very low at 80 being the average.

    For tourism, I want you guys to think of the Thai economy as a pyramid with tourism (majority) and the production rice (not very much) at the bottom. If tourism is gone, most if Thailand will collapes. So to say 12%- 14% is from tourist, they didn’t tell you that the same money from toursim has been circulated around the country for decades.

    I’ve been living in Thailand for 3 years now and I love the people, but I hate the fact that all the Thais that I know, simply cannot understand the truth about how idiotic their ways’ and society really is.

    By the way, their culture (literally) came from the Khmers. I’m not talking about their logic of thinking. Some troller is going to say I’m racist too I bet.

  • July 21, 2011 at 10:28 am
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    Came across this article while looking for the Thai translation of “common sense” (they do have one, by the way, it’s săa-man săm-néuk), and all I can say about it is that it speaks volumes about the type of foreigners who come to Thailand and why after so many years here I have dozens of Thai friends and exactly ZERO farang friends.

    So a guy who lives within walking distance to a red-light district (to be close to the action), is complaining about other people’s lack of common sense? Really? Does the pot call the kettle black?

    He frequents this establishment in spite of the obvious fire hazards and the propensity of the police to raid it, but he points fingers at others for lacking common sense? Yes, because walking into a fire-prone death trap to break the law and have sex with prostitutes (many of whom have AIDS) is SOOO SENSIBLE.

    Seriously, dude, take a look in the mirror before you start pointing fingers at other people.

    I’ve lived in Thailand for over a decade and I don’t think I’ve set foot within a 1000 meters of Nana Plaza, nor have I ever felt the need to do so. Why would I travel halfway around the world to associate with scummy dirtbags who think the sexual exploitation of women is A-OK as long as they can do it at a discount price. Ugh.

    Guys like you are an embarrassment. You come to Thailand because you can’t assimilate like a normal person in your home country. You’re freaks and outcasts back home, but here, you seem “normal”, only because you’re surrounded by hundreds of other dirtbags who think and act the same as you do.

    You engage in all sorts of idiotic, moronic, and downright reprehensible behavior and then have the audacity to complain about the lack of Thai common sense. Did it ever occur to you that the reason you think Thai people have no common sense is because you only associate with the Thai equivalent of a low-class dirtbag, like yourself? Perhaps if you associated with a better class of people, you might form different opinions, but that’d be difficult for you to do sense NORMAL Thai people don’t associate with low-class scumbags who need to crawl through the fire-escape window of a ladyboy-prostitute bar to escape a police raid. Try that story out as dinner conversation and most normal Thai people, like normal people everywhere, would shun you.

    Quite honestly, I loathe people like you. Every day I have to deal with the repercussions of the stereotypes you dirtbags helped create. Nothing is more annoying than having Thai people make negative assumptions about ME based on their experiences dealing with idiots like YOU. Please go find some rock in the middle of the ocean and leave Thailand alone.

    But if you’re going to stay here, then just shut the hell up. You’ve got no business complaining about Thai common sense when you clearly demonstrate a complete lack of it yourself.

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