This week, Bangkok Post's guest columnist Songkran Grachangnetara wrote about "11 simple ways to tell if you're really Thai", his follow-up piece to "How to Tell Whether You're a Farang".
His articles prompted me to share my own take on a similar subject: how to know if you are in Thailand.
You know you're in Thailand when a cabinet minister is so confident in the security of his cabinet post that he'll tell you to your face that he is "a liar" and will lose no sleep over it.
You know you're in Thailand when the colours you wear are of utmost importance. Don't be caught wearing the wrong colour at a certain gathering, or you could risk offending others.
You know you're in Thailand if you are driving and encounter this warning sign: "Drive carefully. You have entered an area where traffic law is strictly enforced." What does that say then about other areas?
You know you're in Thailand when you see pedestrians crossing the road beneath a flyover even though motorists feel no need to halt for you at zebra-crossings. A good, kind-hearted motorist who does stop suffers impatient honks from trailing motorists who can't be bothered to wait a moment. And take note, this happens in the areas of "strict enforcement of traffic rules".
Only in Thailand are pedestrians forced to walk on the roads with the motorists because the pavements are jammed full of vendors with their goods.
You know you're in Thailand when you encounter a traffic-rule violator - say, one who parks in a non-parking zone - but when you notify a nearby police officer he plainly tells you, "Sorry. Not my jurisdiction".
Only in Thailand do bandits, when hunting for victims, disguise themselves as police officers.
You know you're in Thailand when road signs leading you to your destination suddenly disappear when you're only halfway there.
You know you're in Thailand when road works suddenly appear in front of you without any prior warnings whatsoever. And by that time, you are frustratingly trapped in traffic amid hundreds of other motorists scrambling for limited road surface. The same problem exists for utility work sites like water and electricity. Would it hurt to put up a sign?
You know you're in Thailand when all the motorists around speed up to outrun an approaching train even though the warning lights at the cross-junction are blinking.
You know you're in Thailand if a movie star's car is stolen but is found by police shortly thereafter. Good luck to anyone else who hopes to get a stolen car back.
Only in Thailand do restaurant and food shop operators post notices claiming their food is "safe and hygienic" and will not harm you.
Trust me, the signs don't prove anything.
I am sure few, if any, food shop owners, know what san (substances) they are protecting you from. But what choice do you have?
The signs show that no one really cares about taste and authenticity - the main selling point restaurants across the world use to attract would-be patrons.
You know you're in Thailand if a taxi driver refuses to take you somewhere because it's either "too near" or "too far".
You know you're in Thailand if a temple near your house promotes its activities by turning its speakers up to the highest volume at six in the morning. The same goes for vendors on pickup trucks who also feel free to blast their speakers, ruining your peace on the weekend.
You know you're in Thailand if your neighbours do not think it is necessary to respect your rights by keeping quiet at night, or see no problem in letting their pet dogs use your front gate as a toilet.
You know you're in Thailand when you are not allowed to buy a bottle of beer or wine for the sole reason that its either between 2-5pm or after midnight. Yet, it's perfectly acceptable to buy a dozen bottles or more during that restricted time. But since this is Thailand, and despite all these things, it's still the best place to live in the world.
Ploenpote Atthakor is Deputy Editorial Pages Editor, the Bangkok Post.
About the author
- Writer: Ploenpote Atthakor
Position: Deputy Editorial Pages Editor