With only 2 more days at the camp, I have started to reflect on how I’ve changed. Many locals have increasingly mentioned what a great Thai girl I’ve become over the past few months. Indeed, I’ve adopted many Thai habits, some of which I’ve listed and explained below.

  1. It’s never too warm for long sleeves and pants. It’s hot in Thailand, especially in April. You can apply as much sunscreen as you want – you will burn eventually! I’ve started to wear long pants and sleeves to protect my skin (too much sun makes your skin wrinkly and causes skin cancer). According to Thai culture, it has also turned me into a respectable girl; especially the older population likes my decent clothing.
  2. Eat with a spoon.  Use your fork to push food on to your spoon. Don’t use a knife (most places don’t even have one), but cut stuff with your spoon. Use your hands if needed. I found it weird at first, but now I appreciate this ‘lazy’ and informal way of eating.
  3. Seize the day: rise with the sun and go to bed early. It’s not as hot in the early hours (6am – 8am) and therefore perfect for being outside and getting stuff done. Cleaning, exercise, watering plants, sightseeing, etc. Take a rest during lunch hours until the early afternoon. Get light stuff done until dinner. Once it gets dark, go to bed, as mosquitos and other bugs will come out.
  4. Spicy, spicy. If it doesn’t contain chili, it’s not a meal! While I didn’t like spicy food before, I am now addicted to it.Western food just tastes bland in comparison to Thai dishes. I dip green mangos and other fruits into spicy chili lime sauce; I love green and red curry and omelette with fresh green chili; I eat fried fish with dried red chili. Sometimes, my ear drums start to burn due to chili overload (ouch!). I don’t care – I’m all in for spiciness!
  5. It’s not gossiping; it’s called sharing news. Thai people love to discuss other people’s business. It makes up about 90% of their conversations. Even if you tell someone a secret and ask them not to share it with anyone else, it will get out. This is very annoying but also helpful. For instance, I only announced my departure date to two people and yet everybody knew about it the next day. That’s what I call efficient communication!
  6. Laugh and smile, especially if you have no idea what’s going on. It makes everything so much easier and will put others and yourself at ease. It’s a basic yet friendly way to communicate. Combined with the right gestures and body language, people will be more than happy to help.
  7. First eat, then drink. I found this habit weird at first: the Thai people I live with only drink water once they are finished with their meal. But if they drink something else for dinner (e.g. beer, wine or coke), they will enjoy it during their meal. I have no explanation for this behavior; it’s just the way it is.
  8. Be heartbroken and hopelessly in love, even if you are in a relationship. It’s just part of Thai culture. You always dream about that one boy or girl you couldn’t have. That one person who broke your heart. You always know somebody whose partner was unfaithful or who is in several relationships. One thing I really like is that Thai people are extremely relaxed when it comes to being gay. They seem to accept and tolerate it better than many Westerners. It doesn’t matter who you love: as long as you love somebody, you’re okay.
  9. Take off your shoes, please. It is extremely impolite and disrespectful to enter a house or temple without taking off shoes first. Since I’m only wearing flip-flops, this is a custom I’ve readily accepted (no shoelaces!).
  10. Share your dish. Unlike Western countries where you cook or order only one dish for yourself, Thai people eat a variety of dishes during one meal (e.g. curries, meat, vegetables, soup). These are placed in the middle of the table and shared among everybody. You fill your plate with rice but only take a spoonful of each dish, one at a time. Sharing is caring!