Phuket’s long-term residents and expats often take on the habits of the local people, whether they are unusual, funny, good or bad. Adaptation is the main asset of the human species; people leaving their country to settle on the other side of the world have to be open-minded and light-hearted enough to adapt themselves to a totally different culture. Thailand is an extremely tolerant country that features its lot of idiosyncrasies.
St Ambrose’s quote – “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” –perfectly describes the way of life adopted by long-term residents in Phuket and Thailand in general. The positive and humorous spirit of Thai people is pretty contagious, often making farangs (foreigners) more Thai than the Thai people. Check out our non-exhaustive list of Thai habits that are often embraced by long-established strangers in Phuket.
We drink beer on the rocks... lots of rocks
A fresh drink is always welcomed in the warm climate of Phuket. Even coming straight out of a fridge, a beer doesn’t stay cold very long on a bar’s or restaurant’s outdoor terrace. One can instantly spot an expat or a regular visitor to Phuket by the fact that his/her glass of beer is filled up with ice cubes, helping it to remain as cold as can be.
We use toilet paper as a napkin while dining
First-time visitors to Phuket are often surprised to see, at local restaurants, a roll of toilet paper instead of napkins on their table. Thais are very pragmatic people, with lot of common sense when it comes to practical life. It also has to be mentioned that toilet paper is not part of the Thai culture (see the point below). Therefore, many expats do the same at home.
We use a water hose in the toilets, not paper!
If there is one thing that absolutely cannot be criticised in Thailand, it is corporal hygiene. As mentioned above, toilet paper has no part in Thai culture. As in most countries of the southern hemisphere, water is used to wipe oneself. Technological progress simply replaced water buckets with a spray hose in most house and hotel toilets, and it is actually a psychological nuisance for people long-established in Thailand to use toilets when they are back in their home country.
We need to convert all prices to Thai baht back home
This point may be obvious, yet is still amusing: people coming to settle in Thailand spend the first few months converting all prices to their home-country currency. After using Thai baht on a daily basis for years, it becomes second-nature for expats to convert all prices to Thai baht when back at home for holidays or travelling abroad.
For those who don't own a car, a motorbike is a simple and cheap convenience – it helps you get from A to B and back again without having to hunt around for a taxi and haggle down the price of the ride. Pretty soon, you find yourself carrying more and more cargo, precariously balanced on the footplate. Then you start offering rides to more and more people – way more than the bike was ever designed for. It’s not long before you find that a simple Honda Click is more versatile than any family saloon car and is able to carry four passengers, a small dog and a large suitcase, sometimes all at once! Read More...
We take shoes off before entering a building... even back home
Visitors to Phuket’s notable religious sites, such as Wat Chalong or the many Chinese shrines, will have noticed the huge collection of sandals and shoes left outside by the devotees within. Well, this isn’t a practise exclusive to temples – Thais take their shoes off before entering most buildings, particularly homes. It doesn’t take long for the practise to rub off on expatriates, who even start applying it to their own house out of habit. This also means that you can spot an expat by the fact they mostly wear shoes you can easily slip on and off.
We go to the beach, but never swim or sunbathe
You can always spot an expat by their suntan. Generally, the forearms are quite well-browned (except for the left wrist, if they routinely wear a watch) and the lower legs will usually be a little tan, but much of the rest of their body is as pale as the driven snow. Phuket is loved for its gorgeous beaches, but those who have lived here a little too long have long-since given up on any hope of maintaining an even tan! They also rarely venture into the warm sea, instead just enjoying the cool breeze and a refreshing beer (with ice, naturally) in the shade of the treeline.
We need to wear warm clothing below 25°C!
The average temperature in Phuket is 29°C, which is obviously a lot higher than most of the European nations many of the resident expats originate from. With time, you get so used to that heat that it comes as a shock when it disappears. After a few years living in the warm tropical climate of Phuket, most foreigners start reaching for jackets and even woolly jumpers as soon as the temperature drops below 25°C.
With the fame of Thai cuisine’s unique flavours having spread around the globe, it is no surprise that the majority of tourists coming to Phuket are looking for great local food. Industrious restaurant owners in the major resort destinations like Patong and Kamala have obviously realised this and their diners are slightly more geared towards foreign taste buds, with fewer chillies and milder combinations of herbs and spices. As popular as these places are, they are rarely visited by local Thais or long-term expats, who prefer the real taste of Thailand (and the lower prices) you get from a real local restaurant. Read More...
Your first sight of the tall and strikingly beautiful dancers in their exotic costumes on Bangla Road or outside one of the popular cabaret theatres is such a remarkable sight that you cannot help but stop and pose with them for a photo. You know that you’ve probably been in Phuket too long when, after years of encountering transsexuals and transvestites in everyday life, seeing them just ceases to be a surprise. Of course, that doesn’t stop you from being able to tell them apart from the natural-born females at a distance of 20 paces! Read More...