If you have spent some time in Bangkok, you'll have noticed it's a very multicultural city. There's a Little India, Chinatown, Arab Street, and enclaves of Koreans and Japanese dotted around the city. Those who spend a long time here will start to blend in with the locals by picking up small Thai idiosyncrasies that are unique to that culture.

    It typically starts with the local language, but it starts to influence their life in subtler ways. Here's a list of foibles that are noticeable in the truly integrated foreigner who has been in Bangkok for too long.


    Taking a motorcycle taxi instead of walking short distances

    Back in your native country, 1 km might seem like a pleasant stroll. But in Bangkok, this distance turns into a full-on assault course of broken paving stones, boiling pots of street-side noodle stalls, cars, bikes and beggars (not to . To avoid this, locals often make use of the groups of motorcycle taxi drivers that sit at the entrance to most streets in the city.

    Dressed in bright vests, they're easy to spot and will take you short distances for as little as 10 or 20 baht. As convenient as they are, motorcycle taxis are notorious for overcharging tourists, but for the foreigner who has been in Bangkok too long, most distances are easy to estimate.

    photo by Mark Fischer (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Putting ice in your beer

    We’re certain the master brewers of Europe would turn in their grave at such sacrilegious behaviour, but in the heat and humidity of Bangkok (known as the world's hottest city), constantly adding ice cubes to your glass is the only way to keep your beer cold. It undoubtedly affects the taste, but it does ensure your Singha or Chang stays cold and fizzy until the last drop.

    photo by MOs810 (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Reaching for the toilet hose instead of toilet paper

    For an expat that has been in Thailand too long, toilet paper is used for wiping your mouth and hands after eating a meal at a street stall. For all your sanitary needs, one only requires a toilet hose, affectionately called a ‘bum gun'. If you think about it, using water to wash yourself makes a lot more sense. After all, you wouldn't wipe mud off your face using only paper, would you?


    Taking off your shoes whenever you enter a house

    This one is not limited to Thailand but it sure is apparent for foreigners unaccustomed to this practice. Whenever you enter a house, apartment or place of worship, it's a common courtesy to remove your shoes at the entrance or even before you enter. Not doing so would be noticed by everyone, though thanks to the kind and forgiving nature of most Thai people, they may not say anything to you as they wouldn't want to embarrass you.


    Drinking out of a plastic bag

    Thai people are nothing if not resourceful, and it's interesting to see how people can adapt items to fit their purpose. An everyday example of this is when you want to buy a drink from a market or local restaurant to take away with you. The shop owner would have to pay if you take the glass bottle, so the solution is to take a small plastic bag, fill it with ice, pour your drink into it, and finish it off with a long straw.


    Eating rice for breakfast instead of toast

    Thai food is undoubtedly one of the world's leading cuisines and a major reason why people return to Bangkok year after year. But the one issue many newcomers have with Thai cuisine is the apparent lack of breakfast options. The classic western breakfast of fried bacon, sausages and eggs, or even quick bowl of cereal and toast is rarely found outside of your hotel buffet, and if you are a foreigner who's lived in Bangkok for a long time, an early morning breakfast might consist of noodles or rice cooked in a variety of ways.

    Typical local breakfast options in Bangkok:

    • Jok: rice porridge
    • Khao niew moo bing: sticky rice with pork skewers
    • Khao kai dao: fried eggs on rice

    Dressing up in a jacket, scarf and socks to go to the movies

    The temperature in Bangkok rarely drops below 25°C, so there's absolutely no need for any kind of warm clothing, right? Not quite. While the weather outside is scorching, offices and shopping malls often put on air-conditioning at full blast to keep the sweat off our backs.

    This may be pleasant while shopping, but if you go to the cinema in your summer clothes, you will end up shivering throughout the film. That's why foreigners who have been here too long remember to bring winter gear whenever they want to catch the latest blockbuster.

    photo by Wpcpey (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Putting chilli and salt on your fruit

    When you buy fresh pineapple or mango from a fruit stall in Bangkok, you'll notice a small packet of pink granules put in the bag along with your fruit. This mixture is actually chilli flakes and salt. Sounds weird, right? Not to the foreigner who has been in Bangkok too long, because they often think nothing of dunking every piece into the bag.


    Convert all prices back to Thai Baht – even in your native country

    You might have grown up with dollars, maybe pounds or even lira, but for a foreigner who has spent too long in Bangkok, all purchases often require conversion into Thai baht to truly understand its value. This becomes apparent when it is your once home currency that you can no longer judge.

    Paul Smith | Compulsive Traveller

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