10 most annoying things about living in Thailand

I’d like to begin this with a brief disclaimer: Thailand is a wonderful country to live in, with some of the friendliest people I have encountered anywhere in the world. I wouldn’t have lived here so long if that were not the case, however, every country has its pluses and minuses, and Thailand is no exception.

Following on from my post last week on the 10 things you should not do whilst in Thailand, here is a list of the 10 things that annoy me most about living in Thailand – in no particular order. Next week I’ll re-balance everything with my final post in the series – The 10 best things about living in Thailand!

1. Blatant corruption

This is particularly evident within politics, the police force or it seems, with anyone in positions of authority. It almost seems to be accepted that the police levy their own taxes on the population at will.

2. The bashful nature towards affection & nakedness

I’m English and not one to ‘get down’ to it in public, but why is it considered so embarrassing to hold hands or have a little (affectionate) kiss in public? Why does the merest sign of a female breast seem to send people into fits of embarrassment? Why do people not wear a swimming costume in the sea rather than the clothes they arrived at the beach in? Of course, westerners have a very blasé attitude towards this kind of thing, but there’s something rather liberating about walking down the road holding hands with the person you love isn’t there?

3. Incompetently run ‘public service’ companies

I’d almost go so far as saying the public service companies in Thailand are guilty of extortion. As an illustration, it is perfectly acceptable to set yourself up as an internet service provider company, advertise and charge people a fortune for a ‘super fast’ internet connection package, then deliver absolutely nothing at all. No one seems to say or do anything, especially if the company is TOT. Why might that be? Let’s just call it a form of ‘population tax’.

Loudspeakers - Noise in Thailand4. The noise

Why are there speakers almost everywhere in Thailand? Why are the crappy karaoke VCDs played so loud on the buses that the windows vibrate? Why do all the cars and ice cream vans have megaphones on top? Why are there 25 dogs outside our house that start barking hysterically at the first sign of daylight? You can find yourself in the most beautiful national park in Thailand – surrounded by the wonderful sounds of nature – and inevitably someone will spark up a 2000 watt Karaoke system and sing like a tortured banshee until 2am. Bring some ear plugs – I have boxes and boxes of them.

5. Thai music

After nearly 3 years living in Thailand I have concluded that the music here is possibly (probably?) the worst in the world. Everything seems to be formulaic karaoke-based love longs, and cover versions. Anything ‘original’ I hear is so heavily derivative as to be more or less instantly placeable into the ‘pap’ category.

6. Thai TV

Badly acted, formulaic soap opera nonsense that has a strange ability to grip the locals at the weirdest times and places.

7. Pollution / Disregard of environmental issues

Need to get rid of something? Burn it! If the air quality plummets, and 20,000 people end up in hospital with respiratory illnesses blame it on the street food stalls. Easy! Every year in Chiang Mai, between February and April the air pollution levels soar to dangerously high levels. This is predominantly because the farmers practice ‘slash & burn’ to clear their fields. In London in the UK it is considered a crisis when the PM-10 reading rises to 50, in Chiang Mai last March it topped 300 – see this post for more information.
What’s more, Thai people love to flock to their National Parks and leave piles of plastic cups and empty Whiskey bottles where they got drunk – there seems to be absolutely no sense of leaving a place as it was found. Car windows are rubbish chutes.

8. The non-confrontational “yes” attitude

Any kind of confrontation seems to be frowned upon in Thailand. This has both highly positive and frustratingly negative consequences that are reflected in all sorts of ways. As just one example, if you ask someone a question along the lines of “Will the bus be leaving at 10am?” you will more often that not be told “yes” whatever the answer. This of course can lead to some undesirable consequences – in that the bus doesn’t leave at 10am, you end up missing your flight/boat/train. If you have to speak English to Thai people whilst in Thailand (because you can’t speak Thai), do not ask ‘leading’ questions that beg a “yes” or “no” answer. Do not ask “Do you understand?” and assume that an affirmative answer actually means your point was understood.

9. The all westerners have money attitude

Why do we have to pay TEN TIMES as much as Thai people to go to a National Park? Why are there blatantly two separate pricing structures based on skin colour? This attitude becomes very wearing when you live here and have approximately the same financial resources as the locals.

10. Suspect driving skills

Whenever I drive out onto Thai roads, I feel it could be my last time. There are no road rules here, save for the “I’m bigger than you so f**k off” rule. Every day I see cars in gridlock situations – drivers sitting and staring vacantly at each other – neither party with any idea as to who has the right of way. Cars, bikes, buses and Songthaews (bench taxis) converge on you from every direction, changing lane, overtaking and suddenly stopping without indication or warning – if you’re smaller than them, well, you’d better just get out the way.

Why does it annoy me so much? Because cars and pick-ups are killing machines, and being a motorbike driver, I have been on the receiving end of one too many near-death-experiences at the hands of drivers (especially driving pick-up trucks) in Thailand. If people can’t drive, they should drive something that doesn’t kill people (like a bicycle) until they prove they can. If people can’t drive, they should not attempt to control a Toyota Landcruiser after drinking 2 bottles of whiskey with their mates. Sadly, drink driving is the cause of thousands of deaths in Thailand each year.

And there we have it. The ten most annoying things about living in Thailand. Please feel free to post your comments or questions below Please use the Contact us form for the issuing of any death threats. 🙂