Blogging has taken something of a backseat in my life right now as I work on getting adjusted to my new life in Bangkok, where I’ll be based for the next year or so. I decided to come here and reunite with Mrs. Adamu (who’s working at an NGO here) after visiting in May and seeing that it wouldn’t be a complete disaster for me.
While I’ve traveled to several countries in Asia, this is my first time living someplace other than the US or Japan – the two parts of the world with possibly the highest living standards. Now I am living in a strange country that I know next to nothing about. I’m aware of some of the basic stuff, but certainly not enough to rant about it semi-coherently on this blog. But while I’m here, I’ll give you a list of some aspects of Thailand that have culture-shocked me so far:
Outlets that spark when you plug something into them.
Badly designed infrastructure (random low ceilings on staircases, doorknobs with sharp objects jutting out from them, unevenly spaced stairs, a tangle of low-hanging electrical wires in the streets with the occasional loose dangler) forcing me to stay extra vigilant.
Bangkok, a city the size of New York, has next no traffic lights.
Grime on the street (supposedly caused by diesel trucks and “tuktuks” – little scooter-taxis). The grime turns to grime-mud when it rains, making the streets slippery.
Speaking of the streets, they smell of funky Thai food constantly because they are lined with street vendors selling guavas, some kind of stinky spiked fruit, sausages, chicken, and other meats exposed to the open air and thus made inedible (to me anyway).
Constant reminders of how great the king is. It’s illegal to criticize the king here, but just to let you know I already think the king is great – I don’t really need to be reminded of it every day.
TV shows in Thailand make liberal use of cliched comedy sound effects – lots of slide whistles and BOIOIOING!
Living somewhere where I speak none of the language – but thankfully gesturing isn’t that tough and most Thai people can communicate with you in Tinglish. In fact, I would say that in general Thais’ English communication skills surpass those of the Japanese.
Aggressive salesmanship – tuktuk drivers scream “WHERE YOU GO” at me, the DVD sellers at Pintip Plaza get right in your damn face, Big C (a discount store, Thailand’s got lots of them) employs something like 6 people in their electronics section whose sole job is to approach people and sling them some jive.
There is a general chaos about this city. Thai people seem to like their driving aggressive, their crowds dense, and their food outside and on the sidewalk.
Just to name a few. That’s not to say things are all that bad here. It’s wonderful to be back with Mrs. Adamu, the food is generally pretty good, many people are friendly, and I can find more good American food (Dunkin Donuts, Pizza Hut – you know, only the best) here than I could in Japan.
I still really need to learn the language though. Thai is a little similar to Chinese in that it’s a tonal language. Right now most people just chuckle whenever I try and say something since I am just randomly stabbing at the tones.
I’ll try and keep you posted on interesting stuff I notice here. I’m especially interested in getting at some of the more interesting aspects of the Thailand-Japan relationship (though supply channels/factory management/FTA negotiations tend not to make great conversation starters), as that’s at least some sort of perspective I can start with.