Culture and Contradictions: My Thai adventures

First of all, let me apologise for my lack of posts recently: I've been very busy moving to Thailand and settling into my home. It's taking me a little while to adjust!

Secondly, let me fill you in on my adventures so far! Thailand has well and truly enchanted me and I cannot wait to experience even more of this beautiful lifestyle and culture over the next six months of working as an English teacher.




So I've been living in the Land of Smiles (Thailand) for over a week now. I've moved from bustling Bangkok to the quiet serenity of a more rural Thailand, and I now live in Surin.
The journey here was less than enjoyable, and I've never been more happy to see a flushing toilet than when I arrived at my apartment. What started off as a five hour bus ride turned into an eight and a half hour escapade which included using squat toilets, eating a thai dish that was so spicy it made me physically sick, and being pulled over by the police.

One thing I've realised is that everything in thai culture seems to be sprinkled with an air of contradiction and hypocrisy. There's a strafe fusion of tradition and modernity and it's everywhere you look. For example, if the monks are so much as gently touched by women, they have to go through an elaborate cleansing process that lasts around two years to purge themselves of the touch. Yet when you walk the grounds of the temples, you will see monks smoking a cigarette whilst texting on their iPhone. Similarly, the thai way of life is characterised my the saying 'Mai Pen Rai', which basically means no worries, don't hurry, just relax, take it easy. Yet they drive as if they are constantly in one of the Fast and Furious films: overtaking despite oncoming traffic, recklessly swerving from lane to lane, and hitting speeds unnecessarily high for the pot-hole riddled roads.

Women are expected to dress modestly; as a teacher I must cover from my shoulders down to my knees in order to maintain my respected position in society. Yet in Bangkok there exists a prominent culture of prostitution and Lady boys wearing very few clothes.

The Thai people are very considerate and accommodating; if you mention you want to do something, it is in a Thai person's nature to make it happen. We experienced this when we arrived at our apartment, and one of my fellow teaching interns mentioned to our Thai co-ordinator, Neng, she would like to go check out the markets at some point. To which Neng replied "oh yes we could do that before you start teaching." The next day we were all sat in the local department store having some lunch, when my friend got a call; Neng was sat in a coffee shop, waiting for her to go to the markets. Bear in mind that the extent of the plans made between my friend and Neng were as casual as I mentioned above! Again, this weird contradiction between being extremely accommodating yet not informing you of firm plans.

This being said however, if you upset a Thai person, they will not tell you straight. Rather they'll give you evil stares, ignore you and tell someone else. Even if you were to ask what you had done wrong, they wouldn't tell you: it's just their way. The most important thing to a Thai person is to never lose face, and admitting someone has hurt or annoyed you constitutes losing face.

Overall I am enjoying my experience here so much, I haven't stopped smiling. Despite the constant dodgy tummy, being stared and laughed at for my white skin (there exists some introverted form of racism here against the White 'farangs'), and stroked by old women who are envious of my colouring, I have absolutely fallen in love with the weird and wonderful way of the Thai people.

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