I was asked recently how to impress Thais with more than the basics that everyone resident in the kingdom is supposed to know – more than just wai-ing reasonably correctly, more than knowing that it might be inappropriate to ruffle the hair of your girlfriend’s gran when greeting her, more even than using your hand rather than your foot when turning on the fan on the floor (many Thais probably do that anyway).
So here are my top thirty tips:
If you know nothing of the language do learn how to say “I am completely stupid and I know nothing” – it will act as a good ice breaker as you then revert to English. “Phom eng ngo mark na krap – phom mai ruu ruang arai leuy”, or something like that should suffice.
Don’t bore Thais with details – complaining about the inappropriateness of, say, Donald Trump is a waste of time. Just tell them who he is (they are unlikely to have the faintest) and ask their opinion about whether he is wearing a wig or not.
Smile a lot and shower regularly. If people do complain about your body odor tell them you will have a shower tomorrow as it is your birthday.
Never complain about bad service or a cockroach in your food in a restaurant. Just moan on and on about it in the car on the way home.
If you invite people out to dinner pay for everything. If they invite you pay for nothing. Never haggle over bills – just moan on and on about it in the car on the way home.
Don’t sit down next to a pretty girl on the Sky train – ogle her from a distance and nudge the Thai man next to you to “get a good look at that”.
Do not pick up important objects like trophies or Buddhist images by the top. Use the base. If it proves necessary to eject your mother-in-law from the premises use neither the base nor top. Give her 100 baht and tell her to buy a treat at 7/11 then change the locks.
If a really ugly bar girl sits down next to you ask her which province she is from and say it is beautiful there. Then go to the toilet. If she is still there when you come back tell her that your wife is due in in a few minutes and she is a jealous sort who works in a knife factory.
Always praise Thailand for everything good and blame the government or the police for everything bad. Check first you are not talking to a politician or member of the constabulary.
If you must complain about anything stick to mosquitos, spicy food, traffic and people who are running online Ponzi schemes. If they have fallen victim to the latter – sympathize.
Always say that you can take more spice in your food than your Thai wife – even if your wife is not Thai. Everyone should have a least one Thai wife.
If a Thai man asks you about your wife always say” “Which one?” If an attractive Thai women asks you about your Thai wife mention that you haven’t seen her for twenty years but you always send her money every month.
Never think it is cleaver to make “boing” or “tawaang” sounds when your wife is watching Thai soaps. Always feign interest in Thai soaps and learn the names of three current soap stars so that conversation is possible with her. If your wife does not like Thai soaps, check that she is actually Thai.
Find out the name of a famous and respected Thai person that resembles you. Say that someone in the street mistook you for them and asked for your autograph.
If you see a stunning and well know Thai movie actress when out in public with your Thai wife say that your nearest and dearest is prettier. No need to qualify it by saying that the actress has gone downhill in recent years. When your wife posts on Facebook about the incident, click ‘like’.
Pay a substantial dowry and buy your bride a house for her parents – when parting with your life savings at the land office and signing the bit of paper confirming you have no claim to it, smile and thank the officer for his or her help. The damage is done, no need to be churlish after the fact.
When other Thai people’s children behave abysmally smile and say that all children are monkeys and your own are worse. Don’t worry – they know the truth.
If chatting with someone online who you suspect is using Google translate praise them for their English.
Always arrive thirty minutes late for appointments. You will still be early. If someone insists that you arrive exactly at the allotted time arrive thirty minutes late and if they are actually there blame the government and the police for the traffic.
Always ask immigration officers or police officers at roadside checkpoints what English Premier League football team they support. Tell them you support that team too. Visas will be quickly processed and fines have a tendency to become warnings not to be in the outside lane again.
Never compare the West favorably to Thailand. Always say that a plate of plain rice at a Thai restaurant in, say, London is 150 baht and say “don’t know how anyone in their right mind could live there”.
Always dress more appropriately than even the Thais when visiting places like temples and schools. When you see Thai people badly dressed – smile inanely and say nothing.
Pray to Buddha and Thai monks even if you are a rabid Muslim fundamentalist.
Generally drive on the left – when you do drive on the wrong side of the road nod appreciatively while smiling at oncoming traffic.
When meeting a group of Thai women always pick on the oldest person and say how young she looks. When meeting a group of Thai men always pick on the oldest person and say how handsome he is and what a young wife he must have. These comments will ensure harmony and mean you will never need to pay for dinner.
When you become aware that people are talking about you stare vacantly out the window as if admiring the buffalos roaming in the fields. If you hear the word “farang” they will be talking about guava anyway.
When you see an extremely gruesome image of a murder or accident victim on TV or in a newspaper say something like “waat siaw” (oooh, that’s scary) but do not avert your gaze for a second. That shows weakness.
If you feel the need to burp or let rip in Thai company just go ahead. There are a million faux pas that you don’t even know about anyway so why worry.
On the subject of which, install a remote control fart machine in your toilet for when your Thai mother-in- law visits. Humor is a much better way of breaking the ice than making any pretense about being remotely interested in her.
Finally…if asked if you will ever go back to your home country say that the only way you could ever imagine leaving such a wonderful country as Thailand is by going up in smoke through a temple chimney.