Top 20 Signs that you’ve started to embrace your inner Thai

By: Cordelia Rojas

If you had told me two years ago that I’d eat in the gutter off plates washed in a plastic basin, filled by a garden pipe, and prefer it to most restaurant meals, I’d have called you as mad as the hatter from Alice in Wonderland. Yet Thailand is just that, a country as wonderful and beguiling as it is perplexing. No sooner do you think you’ve cracked the code that another contradiction presents itself to figure out.  

So here I am, squatting on a plastic stool, finally ordering things other than Pad Thai and Thai Green Curry and loving every second of it. This is my attempt to create a list of my experiences that encapsulates the tell-tale signs that I’ve finally acclimatized to my new home. 

Drumroll please!

20. You no longer bat an eyelash when seeing a man riding on a pink bicycle or a python slithering across your garden.
19. Friends are chosen less by chemistry and more by the number of miles of traffic between your homes.
18. When you talk about a white Christmas, you are referring to a white sandy beach.
17. You stop wondering if you’ve found yourself on the set of Charmed when everyone suddenly freezes in a public place to that lovely tune in the background (aka the national anthem.)
16. TukTuks are for tourists unless you are trying to transport a dining table or 15 friends to a party.
15. You can finally use a squat toilet without peeing on your ankles.
14. You automatically switch between mouth and nose breathing as you walk by sewers and street food, respectively.
13. Sidewalks are for street vendors and open-air eating, not pedestrians.  
12. You think it's weird when you don’t find sugar as a condiment. 
11. You don’t think twice of riding amazon (for us ladies) on a motorbike taxi while texting on your phone.     
10.  You loose your wallet more often than you loose face.
 9. You cringe when new arrivals do the Wai (hands together in a prayer-like position) in stores and restaurants. 
8.You’ve accepted that YES, means ‘yes’, ‘no’, & ‘ I don’t understand a word you’ve just said
7. You aren’t surprised that your waitress, with full foundation and red nails, is sporting  a three-day beard stubble.
6. You eat all baked goods, including chocolate chip cookies, muffins, and --as a New Yorker this last one pains me-- bagels with a fork and knife.
5. Seventy-Five degrees Fahrenheit (24C∘) feels like jeans and sweater weather. 
4. You finally stop trying to shop for booze between two and five in the afternoon. 
3. You eat by pushing food onto a spoon with the back of your fork and your knives haven’t seen the light of day in months.
2. You can’t bear to flush toilet paper and keep reaching for the ‘spray’ when back home.
1. You no longer wonder if that’s his niece.  

Sawatdee khaa Y'all!

P.S. Feel free to share any examples you think should have made the top twenty!

About the author

Expat Blog ListingCordelia Rojas is an American expat living in Thailand. Blog description: A multilingual mama's attempt at raising multilingual kids in a diverse world.
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Contest Comments » There are 85 comments

Zoe wrote 10 years ago:

Reading this makes me feel like I just took a short but fascinating visit to Bangkok. Thanks for the vicarious view of your city!

Karine Gren wrote 10 years ago:

Always a pleasure to see how people CAN be open to change! Yes, it is not easy to live far away from family and friends, and even harder when you find yourself propulsed in an environment completly different from the one you grew up in... But should that stop you?...Absolutaly NOT! We are so fortunate to live in a world composed of so many different cultures, each full of richness. It would be a shame not to explore them. Bravo Coco!!!

Olga@The EuropeanMama wrote 10 years ago:

Hahaha, what a funny list, I love it! I've never been to Thailand, but you made me curious!

Anne Radcliffe wrote 10 years ago:

This list made me laugh out loud. I'm an American expat, but I only moved to Canada. It's only like a cleaner, more polite version of New York, and yet it was still pretty traumatizing (metric and all). Trying to contend with squat toilets? I'd be so lost.

Julie Nowell wrote 10 years ago:

haha! love it! i really do! I have never been to thailand… and honestly, I am not sure I want to go after reading that!

Rita Rosenback wrote 10 years ago:

Very insightful and funny! Made me think of my own experience moving to England ... I now always carry an umbrella with me :)

Nancy wrote 10 years ago:

How wonderful! There is nothing in the world like being an expat. It changes you forever. I am jealous!

Hannah wrote 10 years ago:

Nice one Cordelia - you're a braver lady than I!! Come visit Singers soonxxxx

Vicky Adeney wrote 10 years ago:

Love love love your stories of life in Asia - 20,15,7 and 1 are my favourites :)

Magnolia wrote 10 years ago:

So...what happens when pythons and squat toilets collide? Seriously...this is all I can think about. I would do more than pee on my own feet. Loved this list!!!

Pamela Smith wrote 10 years ago:

Oh my god, Coco! I am laughing my whole ass off over here in Canadaland. Number 1 made me actually spit out my Thai House pad thai. Great post & way to embrace change LIKE A BOSS. Love you long time, Lady.

Shannon wrote 10 years ago:

Haha this was funny! I especially liked the Charmed reference. :)

Jiawei Ribaudo wrote 10 years ago:

Informative and fun post! We will feel right at home when we visit Thailand/Bangkok- #14, 13, 8 and 5 are just like Shanghai. We'll fit in just fine. Thanks for the preview!

Judith wrote 10 years ago:

Love this post, very funny! I've never been to Thailand, I'd like to go to experience/witness all of this now!

Priya Koel wrote 10 years ago:

Haha so true! I mastered 15 before I left :-) Also, you've forgotten what bread tastes like and don't think it's weird to eat rice for breakfast. Xx

Ute Limacher-Riebold wrote 10 years ago:

This is a brilliant post, Cordelia! Thank you for taking me to a short trip to Thailand!

Phaswan wrote 10 years ago:

55555555555! (this is the way Thais laugh when they write) Cordelia! you have officially arrived Thailand. Welcome to Thailand, the land of smile (and protesting)!

Alex Robertson Textor wrote 10 years ago:

Nice post. These adjustments & moments of integration are very interesting. I'm an American living in London and I find myself constantly adjusting to different ways of doing things – giving birthday cards, studiously avoiding the gaze of the awkward neighbour on the street (who's of course doing the same thing vis-à-vis me), & drinking far more than I ever have in the past at social encounters, to name three. Do you ever feel that you are *becoming* Thai, Cordelia? That's an interesting bridge to cross emotionally & otherwise - dunno how possible it is to become/feel oneself Thai for a Westerner, but I'm curious.

Manassavee Rukhavibul wrote 10 years ago:

I lol'ed so hard at number 15! and I have a cure for number 10. I always dress as if I don't have money, or earn much money. This will make pick pocketers unsure about money in my pocket

Annabelle Humanes wrote 10 years ago:

Fun post. Ah, my favourite one is the last one....

Susanna Kreinik wrote 10 years ago:

I think this post has resonance for all expats, no matter where they have landed or replanted themselves. The details change but the sense of finally belonging after a time of transition we all have to go through in a new place is pretty clear and at times, very funny. Great post.

Denisse Moreno wrote 10 years ago:

A really good summary of all the things that you learn to live with at the Land of smiles... I feel related to most of them, but not the number 1. The only place I lost my wallet was at home and I always found it. I also have to confess that I started to have emotional feelings towards the royal family :) Good luck!

CA - Adventure Bee wrote 10 years ago:

As someone who just spent some months living in Malaysia and Indonesia, oh how I enjoyed this list! Numbers 14, 13, 8, & 5 were my favorites! And I never did master the squat toilets or the spray.

Line Echivard wrote 10 years ago:

Very funny. Number 3, i would add that I learnt to cut chicken with a spoon and a fork only. You can also say the more a Thai laughs out loud, the more he is uncomfortable.

Lidia Anchisi wrote 10 years ago:

Great post. Funny, witty, insightful. Looking forward to reading more about your experience!

Leanna @ Alldonemonkey wrote 10 years ago:

Oh, Cordelia, thank you for giving me a good laugh today! Glad to hear you're not peeing on your ankles anymore - I can relate to that one from my traveling days!

Coupon Ana wrote 10 years ago:

Loved your list. My daughter is planning a life in Asia. I must share this with her. Good luck on the contest.

Mrs. Chasing The Donkey wrote 10 years ago:

Baaahhhahah, stubble and lady fingers. That one still has me giggling.

Valerie wrote 10 years ago:

Hello, Loved this piece, it is funny, refreshing and full of real life experience. Can relate to some of those, you should keep doing this list.

Javier wrote 10 years ago:

hahahahaha #8 is my favorite. never take yes for an answer!

Gary wrote 10 years ago:

Hahahaha! Funny as heck. Especially 1,7 and 8! And your introduction - perfect!

Maria wrote 10 years ago:

Loved your list Cordelia! Very funny. Life must be so different where you live, but what an adventure!!

Clare wrote 10 years ago:

So true and accurate, Cordelia! A true insight to Thai expat living! Although I do still wonder if it's his "niece" !

Louise wrote 10 years ago:

I would've thought the public toilettes in Paris would be excellent training for the Thai squat toilets you speak of....que de cauchemars! Je t'embrasse bien fort ainsi que tes deux superbes filles!

Vanessa wrote 10 years ago:

Great post! Number 8 has been the story of my life in Asia….

Vcaevans wrote 10 years ago:

Christmas = white sandy beaches, does not sound that bad!!!! You are making everyone want to live in Thailand :)

Sue Chong wrote 10 years ago:

So funny!! You have no problem when you get to Kota Kinabalu then. You can find similar things on your list here. :-)

Catherine wrote 10 years ago:

Great post, very funny. I definitely want the white Christmas. Had enough of squat conveniences though in France!

Jody wrote 10 years ago:

I love this! There are some surprising similarities in adjusting to life here!

Rachel Coward wrote 10 years ago:

You manage to make every single one of those things, squat toilet included, sound funly exotic - are you working for the Thai Tourist Board? Makes me - ME! - want to travel - imagine!

Cherry wrote 10 years ago:

Ha ha... Thanks for bringing me back to Asia! Now at least you've experienced to squat while Peeing! Have you ever experience peeing in a bushes?:) If not, well maybe it's nice to try! :-)

Mel wrote 10 years ago:

haha love it Coco!I can relate to brilliant!

Vivian wrote 10 years ago:

#8 is true in Mexico too. My mother calls it the Mexican Yes! I would also argue that #14 is required in New York during the summer as well.

Erin wrote 10 years ago:

What a great way to start the day; sipping coffee and laughing out loud! Loved your post and hope to visit some day.

James King wrote 10 years ago:

Cordelia. You've obviously been in Thailand a fair while as you have got virtually everything sussed out. great to see you have got loads of comments for the team Thanks for being the only comment on my submission. I don't know how to drum up more for Thailand. James.

Andres Aradillas-Lopez wrote 10 years ago:

Number 15 made me laugh out loud. Also there are at least 2 or 3 that would apply with minor variations to the Mexican experience, I think.

Rudi Meunier wrote 10 years ago:

I've never been to Thailand but, when I moved from New Orleans to Miami, I, too, found a new meaning of "white Christmas." Pleasure reading this!

Ley Langford wrote 10 years ago:

We have been away from Phuket since May - I miss embracing my inner Thai - thanks Cordelia for rekindling it.

Lani V. Cox wrote 10 years ago:

I haven't broken down and done #6 yet. Pray that I don't. I still eat my pizza with my hands. Cause I'm 'Merican!!!!

Francesca Mabon wrote 10 years ago:

I LOVE: #15, #10, #14 (reminds me of NYC), and #3. OMG wait, tell me more about not wanting to flush toilet paper??? I had no idea. And sugar is a condiment everywhere? Is it white condensed sugar? All of these are fascinating....

Biripbirip wrote 10 years ago:

still giggling after reading thru this...#14 is brilliant. still trying to master that one

Mark Mahoney wrote 10 years ago:

Thailand sounds like an interesting place, Cordelia, yes? I assume you're enjoying it, yes?

Jrojas wrote 10 years ago:

great list...and seriously, what is wrong with people who don't put sugar on their rice's "aroi maak maak"!

John wrote 10 years ago:

A very different experience to being an expat in Europe. I can only relate to no.19, but can imagine that the rest make life interesting.

Lily wrote 10 years ago:

Great post - amusing and spot on! Surprised by how many boxes I tick after only a few months in the country. If you lived in Chiang Mai I would have added (as of today) "you don't bat an eyelid when locals start dressing street dogs in old tshirts on a cold winters day".

Michelle R-R wrote 10 years ago:

All this AND you usually do it with two little girls in tow! What an adventure and an amazing gift you are giving them. Love reading about you and your family!

Shveta Miller wrote 10 years ago:

Reminds me of India...14, 8 and 2 especially! (Much more exciting than the Sing days, ehh?) Great list and good luck!

Fil wrote 10 years ago:

HA! While miss you in the cold frozen Christmasland, I think the white sands win. Love the list, just curious how often the niece also has the stubble? booze between 2-5? I need more information on this when planning a white Christmas trip...

Lynn Morrison wrote 10 years ago:

This cracked me up. I really, really need to know how you can pee in the squat toilets without splashing your ankles. Every year we go to the beach in Italy and inevitably I come home with pee-splashed flip flops. Why can I not master this skill? Obviously the only answer is to come and visit you!

Andrew wrote 10 years ago:

Nice one! Hilarious list - after reading some of the other posts, this one captures expat culture shock or rather adaptation like no other - CLEAR WINNER. Not that the list isn't perfect, but maybe for a future blog post: 1) You easily realize who the "ladyboys" are just from a half second glance 2) The spicy hot curries are no longer spicy hot on the way out 3) You no longer even blink at dishes such as Goong Ten (dancing shrimp - yes alive) or Larb Mote Daeng (Red ants and their eggs) and after a few drinks you would even try Kai Khao (fertilized eggs with full grown embryo)

Megan wrote 10 years ago:

This is great! I've never been but your blog paints and vivid picture.

Marisha wrote 10 years ago:

So funny, clever and spot on!! You've captured so many of the exquisite features of life in Bangkok with such flare!

Tom Lyall wrote 10 years ago:

And I thought sidewalks were only for motorcycles....learned something new!

Jill wrote 10 years ago:

I love your humor - very similar to mine. Fantastic array of hilariousness!

Amanda @ MarocMAma wrote 10 years ago:

Oh this is hilarious! I must say that many of the things you described are equally fitting in Morocco. You've inspired me to brainstorm for a new blog post!

Gwyn wrote 10 years ago:

Makes me want to go and visit to experience it myself.

Betty Jo Hendrickosn wrote 10 years ago:

Thanks for sharing your list. So interesting and you've shed light on what travel brochures and "culture" texts leave out!

Katie Thibeault wrote 10 years ago:

I have never been to Thailand but this list still made me laugh. It must be a huge culture shock to live there compared to the U.S. Very interesting indeed!

Tiphany Murillo wrote 10 years ago:

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Some made me cringe, such as the python going through the garden. Although some had me at hello, a white sandy beach Christmas and jeans and sweaters at 75.

Sunny Lea wrote 10 years ago:

I really enjoyed reading that, made me smiles lots and felt the vibe, thank you!

Jessika wrote 10 years ago:

Love this post, very well written. Thanks for sharing I like how you articulated about your country and you have a knack for the written word.

Shanti wrote 10 years ago:

Great post! I always enjoy reading your blog! Thanks so much for sharing!

Tracy Turissini wrote 10 years ago:

Wonderful article. Thank you for posting. It sounds like an awesome life experience!

Stan wrote 10 years ago:

21. You no longer get scared when strolling straight into Patpong by mistake ... actually you have friends there! Not talking from personal experience of course. Great post: keep'em coming!!

Jess Benoit wrote 10 years ago:

WOW...This is a great read! I loved the countdown. :)

Y.H wrote 10 years ago:

I love this! I feel similarly acclimated to living in China. No white sand, gorgeous beaches though! I have to come to Thailand for that :)

Philippe NEWLIN wrote 10 years ago:

I laughed, I cried. Cordelia helped me embrace my inner Thai. The one about three-day stubble peaking through the heavy base was hysterical.

Alix H wrote 10 years ago:

Well done Cordelia! A refreshing peak at your inner Thai. We'll definitely come and visit... Too many family ties not to :-)

Frances Diaz Evans wrote 10 years ago:

Wow! The white Christmas comment reminds me of Puerto Rico, and yes we do have white Christmas and we're referring to the white sandy beaches. I would love to visit Thailand, and thank you for this funny, and witty piece about embracing your inner Thai!

Rachel wrote 10 years ago:

We dream of living as expats - it was fun to read about life freom your side of the globe

Ilzele wrote 10 years ago:

A great read, made me feel like travelling to Southeast Asia again :)

Elisabeth wrote 10 years ago:

This is Cordelia's mother. She keeps asking me to leave a comment but I am not sure how. Cherie, please don't eat in the street and send me more pictures of my grand children. I am very proud of you except when you ride motorcycles? You know how if feel about that. Take taxis.

Rodri wrote 10 years ago:

what a great post. as a new arrival to thailand myself i am certainly looking forward to experiencing all of these!

Nona wrote 10 years ago:

First, I want to visit you now! Second, are bagels edible there? Knife and fork aside.

Liz wrote 10 years ago:

I would have added something about 7-Eleven. It's become a vital part of my life here and something about not fearing riding on a motorbike with a ton of groceries/other people. ขอบคุณมาก Thanks! This made me smile! The sugar one is sooooo true! I never noticed that one before!

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