I have now been in Thailand for just over a week. The experience so far has been nothing short of amazing. I do realize that at this point it is natural to feel at a high, but I honestly never expected it to be this good. Everything from the people that I have met to the Thai food I have eaten to the places I have seen, it has all been a very positive experience.
Thailand has so much to offer, whether you are here to live or just visiting for a couple of weeks. So far, here is a list of my favorite things about my experience in this country.
Top 7 Favorite Things About Thailand
1. The Children
There are no words to explain how you feel the first time you walk through a Thai elementary school. We were immediately bombarded by a bunch of excited Thai children with huge smiles on their faces. They ran up and hugged us, grabbed our hands and gave us high fives. Their energy was contagious. You couldn’t help but have a smile on your face. Class is still in session for another week, so during our TESOL course there is always a group of kids poking their heads in the windows to see what the Westerners are up to. It is also fun because we can go outside and play with them when we have breaks during their recess. All you have to do is go outside and a group of them will gravitate towards you. They love giving high fives and fist bumps. We usually try and speak a little English with them, but their proficiency is very low.
2. Interacting with Thai people
Thailand isn’t called the “Land of Smiles” for nothing! They truly are some of the nicest people in the world. Every time I “Wai” and say “sawatdee ka” (Thai greeting), I always receive a huge smile in return. Thais will go completely out of their way to help you and they are so patient. It is also funny how much Thai people are fascinated by Westerners. They always want to take pictures of us or with us. Usually they aren’t shy to ask, but occasionally we will catch someone taking a sneaky picture on their phone.
3. Speaking in Thai
I am slowly learning the Thai language, but it is very difficult. I am very excited at the opportunity of learning a 3rd language. I know I will probably never be able to read or write, but I think I will pick up a lot of Thai in the coming year. I speak it every chance I get, not only to practice, but also because it shows Thai people that I am not just a backpacker passing through. I am here to stay and learn about their culture. I have mastered numbers 1-999, which has definitely helped me negotiate prices. I have also learned simple phrases like “Hello”, “How are you?”, “A little spicy” and a few others. It is really cool to be able to use a new word or phrase in a real life situation immediately after learning it.
4. Cheap Prices and Negotiating
Everything is so cheap here. I had the best Pad Thai today and it cost me 40 baht, which is just over $1 USD and a frozen coffee drink for 20 baht (60 cents). Last night I ate Khao Soi for dinner and it was 30 baht (a little less than $1). While stuff might be cheap on an American salary, I will be living on a Thai salary soon. I still have to be careful and budget my money.
On top of the prices already being cheap, negotiating is a major part of Thai culture. You can even get a better price if you can negotiate in Thai. I am proud to say that I have already negotiated the price of a bracelet, ordered food, and negotiated a few songthaews (shared taxis) 100% in Thai. I always feel a great sense of accomplishment after communicating in Thai.
5. Being Barefoot
Everyone who knows me knows how much I love to go around barefoot. While this is not exactly acceptable in the States, in Thailand it is ingrained in the culture. It is rude and against cultural norms to walk into a lot of places with your shoes on. At school all of the Thai students and teachers take their shoes off before entering the classroom. It is definitely not allowed to walk into a Temple with your shoes on and it is also customary to remove your shoes before going into shops off of the street. I am so happy I get to walk around barefooted for most of my day.
6. Realizing the importance of why I am here
I have learned so much about Thai culture throughout the week. It is very prevalent how important learning English is to the Thai community. My friends and I have been stopped more than once by locals because they wanted to have a quick conversation to practice their English. I am becoming more aware of how lucky I am that I was born in a country whose primary language is English. It is a skill that I will no longer take for granted. People who learn to speak English have endless opportunities in Thailand.
7. Meeting People in the program
People were a major factor of why I wanted to move to Thailand and live abroad. I am driven by meeting new people and learning about their culture and personal stories. The people that are in my program have exceeded my expectations. It is still mind blowing how I have become close friends with several people who I have only known for a week. I honestly feel like I’ve known some of these people for months. It is amazing to be surrounded by so many people who are extremely similar to who I am as a person, yet come from so many different backgrounds.
I learn something new nearly every day. I’m sure this list will keep growing every month that I live here. I strongly encourage you to at least visit this amazing country and experience all of the great things it has to offer.