I am a 30-something year old guy who’s been living in Thailand for a year. Before I moved here, I had several misconceptions about the people and the country.
This article is based on my own experiences. But I also had a native Thai person read it through and correct anything that would be wrong.
Even though Thailand is one of the hottest tourist destinations in the world, most people are unaware of the actual culture. Many people think of three things when they hear the word “Thailand”:
Beaches, backpackers and the shady tourist areas in Bangkok & Pattaya.
However, these are only some of many stereotypes about Thailand that people tend to bring up when they think of this beautiful South East Asian country.
In this post, we are going to cover most of the common misconceptions and stereotypes that exist out there. After all: not all of them are very nice. And believe me: a lot of what you think Thailand is will probably turn out to simply be untrue.
Keep reading, my friend. I can almost guarantee that you will learn something.
Table of Contents
- Overview: Most common Stereotypes about Thailand
- What is Thailand all about? Pervasive stereotypes about Thailand
- What about the Farangs? Top stereotypes about the Tourism Industry in Thailand
- Weather & food? Top stereotypes about the climate and what Thai people eat
- What’s wrong with this country? Bad stereotypes about Thailand
Overview: Most common Stereotypes about Thailand
If you just came for a quick overview of the stereotypes, I’ve made the table below.
However, I think it’s best if you scroll down and read more about each and every one of them. That’s when you really understand why they are right or false.
|#||Stereotype||Right or false?|
|1||“Thailand = Bangkok, Pattaya, and some islands down south”||Not true|
|2||“Dangerous animals everywhere”||Partly true|
|3||“All Thai people are buddhists”||Not true|
|4||“Thai girls find foreigners attractive”||Partly true|
|5||“Most foreign tourists will get scammed in Thailand”||Not true|
|6||“Most people use Tuk Tuks for transportation in big cities”||Not true|
|7||“There are tourists everywhere in Thailand – it’s become too touristy”||Not true|
|8||“Ladyboys camouflage as normal girls to trick foreign tourists”||Not true|
|9||“All Thai food is spicy”||Not true|
|10||“There is no point visiting Thailand during raining season”||Not true|
|11||“Thailand is noisy”||True|
|12||“It’s so dangerous for foreigners in Thailand”||Not true|
|13||“Elephants and tigers are harmed by the tourism industry in order to make money”||True|
What is Thailand all about? Pervasive stereotypes about Thailand
“Thailand = Bangkok, Pattaya, and some islands down south”
I’d reckon that 90 % of all tourists in Thailand will visit at least one of these three places. And don’t get me wrong: there is nothing wrong with that.
But Thailand is much more than big cities and beaches.
It’s quite rare to find foreigners who reside in other places than Bangkok or Pattaya. But during the last couple of years, Chiang Mai in the North has developed into a popular tourist destination.
“Dangerous animals everywhere”
My fear of cockroaches has been confirmed by several articles on this website. For instance, I wrote a long article about how you can get rid of cockroaches if you live in Shanghai.
Even though cockroaches aren’t considered DANGEROUS, it can be dangerous for your mental health.
Unfortunately, there are far more dangerous animals that can be found in Thailand – even in the biggest cities. One of the Youtube videos that still give me nightmares is the one below. It’s called “Are there really snakes in Bangkok?”.
It features three Americans that casually walk around a neighborhood in Bangkok pulling out one snake after another without any hassle. That scared me from walking on the sidewalks during the evening, haha.
Even though not all of these can be found in popular tourist areas, these are some of the most dangerous animals that can be found in Thailand:
- And Street dogs (they will stand outside 7/11 and bark at you during the night…not cozy).
“All Thai people are buddhists”
According to Wikipedia, there are about 65 million Buddhists in Thailand.
That makes out 95 % of the total population.
What about the Farangs? Top stereotypes about the Tourism Industry in Thailand
“Thai girls find foreigners attractive”
As a decent looking western guy in Thailand, you might be shocked by how popular you’ve suddenly become. It doesn’t mean that you got prettier overnight. However, the small number of westerners in Thailand help you stand out from the crowd.
Even though you’re experiencing more attention in Thailand compared to home, don’t mistake this to think that “all Thai girls like foreign guys”. That’s not the case.
“Most foreign tourists will get scammed in Thailand”
I am a tall white guy at 1,88 meters that is quite young (and looks even younger than my age). In other words: I’m a perfect target for scammers in any Asian country. 🙂
Despite living in Bangkok for more than three months, no people have tried to scam me. That’s very different from other Asian countries I have visited. In China, it didn’t take me more than two hours before some taxi driver scammed me. And in Kuala Lumpur, I guess someone attempted tourist scams at least 10 times during the 1 week I was there.
I’m not saying tourists don’t get scammed in Thailand. They obviously do. But Thailand is not even close to other countries when it comes to tourist scams – luckily.
There’s a reason why Thailand is called “The Land of Smiles” (LOS). Most people are extremely well-behaved and nice to foreign tourists.
“Most people use Tuk Tuks for transportation in big cities”
Not only are Tuk Tuks super uncomfortable and dangerous. They are also about double the price of a normal taxi.
If you ever come to Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Pattaya: stay away from the Tuk Tuks. From what I’ve heard, they are not exactly shy for asking for a large sum of money to transport you a very short distance.
I’ve never seen a local person use Tuk Tuk, but I’ve seen a couple of tourists try them out.
“There are tourists everywhere in Thailand – it’s become too touristy”
This is partly true. Over the recent years, we have seen several incidents on where mass tourism has damaged several beautiful places in Thailand.
The most famous one is the closing of a full island called Phi Phi Le. That island was featured in the movie “The Beach”. It simply got so many tourists that it wasn’t sustainable anymore.
You can read the full story on BBC.
However, I have now done four trips around Thailand. If you are good at finding hidden gems, there are still many beautiful places that are not taken over by tourists. But again: if you are one of these “Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket” tourists … you will probably see as many foreigners as Thai people during your stay.
Being surrounded by other tourists in Thailand is a choice.
“Ladyboys camouflage as normal girls to trick foreign tourists”
Oh. My. God. I am tired of hearing about this myth. Back in Europe, everyone apparently had a “friend who went to Thailand and met a ladyboy he thought was a normal girl”.
Out of 1 million times someone meets a girl in Thailand, I reckon this happens maybe 1 time. Maximum. After speaking with several expats and foreign students, these things just don’t happen.
Why would a ladyboy in Thailand try to trick someone to meet up with them without telling the truth?
It just doesn’t happen – and is one of the longest living urban myths about Thailand.
Weather & food? Top stereotypes about the climate and what Thai people eat
“All Thai food is spicy”
Just like with a lot of other stuff in life, food is not binary. ALL Thai food is not spicy. Just like not all Japanese dishes contain fish and rice. Or all Americans eat fat and fried food for lunch every day.
That being said, the overall spiciness (if that is even a word?) of Thai food is significantly higher compared to many other countries. If you are not very good with spicy food, I would suggest that you keep away from traditional dishes like Pad Thai and various curry soups. I burned my tongue once – and it was not a very pleasant experience.
However, you should try to discover the Thai kitchen as much as you can when you’re traveling here. The raw materials are very often super fresh – and the spices they use are simply amazing.
After moving to Thailand, I’ve definitely discovered a new cuisine that goes straight to the top of my list.
“There is no point visiting Thailand during raining season”
Thailand during raining season is beautiful for several reasons.
- It doesn’t rain that much (maximum 90 minutes every day)
- It doesn’t rain every day (even though some foreign “Thai experts” claim it does)
- There are less tourists
- Hotels, apartments and tourist activities are cheaper during low season
I can’t stress how much I enjoy Bangkok from 15th June until the end of August. It’s 10 times better compared to when all the tourists are here. 🙂
What’s wrong with this country? Bad stereotypes about Thailand
“Thailand is noisy”
After living several years in China, I find it natural to compare China to Thailand in regards to noise.
And I will be very clear on two things.
- The people in China are 10 times noisier than the Thai people.
- ….yet the noise coming from the traffic in the big cities are very similar in these two countries.
So this is partly true. However, Thai people are friendly, speak in a low voice and do not shout in the street. Yet, their cars and motorbikes contribute to a lot of noise pollution in the larger cities.
“It’s so dangerous for foreigners in Thailand”
No, it’s not. Thailand is very safe compared to a lot of other countries.
Sure – if you’re super drunk in the middle of the night at Nana Plaza in Bangkok at 04:00: bad stuff might happen to you. And those are often the situations where foreigners complain about being mugged or even injured.
For those (few) foreign tourists who have common sense, Thailand is not a dangerous place at all.
I personally feel extremely safe in Bangkok – and safety is one of the key reasons why so many tourists come back…. and back …. and back.
“Elephants and tigers are harmed by the tourism industry in order to make money”
Unfortunately, this is true.
I’ve spoken to a lot of local Thai people about this problem and they all agree: tourists should not support any business that exploits exotic animals in any way.
Personally, I haven’t done too much research on this topic. Yet, I know that many westerners care a lot about animal cruelty. Some people visit these tiger parks to try to figure out whether or not the tigers are actually drugged.
The video below suggests that not everything is right in the Chiang Mai Tiger Park…unfortunately.
I hope you learned something from this article.
Stereotypes can be dangerous. You know what they say about lies….if you tell them frequent enough, they become the truth.
And there are still a lot of people walking around in various countries believing that all Thai food is extremely spicy or that ladyboys for some reason trick foreign men into believeing that they are women.
Neither of those are right.
Want to speck Thai? These are the best Thai learning books for beginners.
PS! I’ve also written a similar article about China. You can find that article by clicking this link.