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Greetings from Thailand: Culture shock

14 November 2012 By Conan McEnroe, Columnist One Comment

People say culture shock hits people at different times.

It feels like the hardest part has hit me within the last week. Most of the difficulties come from not being able to do things.

One of the most common activities for students who study abroad is traveling to distant destinations. My classes are set up so that I have class every day, Monday through Friday.

The Monday and Friday classes were unavoidable, so I had to settle for the short weekend. This makes it difficult to travel far. It’s not so bad though because Bangkok is only a short cab ride away and there is plenty to see.

A definite taken-for-granted feature of being home is communication.

Imagine not being able to be descriptive in your conversations. When people talk, you can only understand short fragments. You are mostly lost on conversation topics.

Everyone starts laughing and you don’t know why. In public interactions, people tend to pay you little attention.

They are probably too shy to talk to you because they know only a little bit of English.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, there are lots of enjoyable things.

There is an employee at a nearby 7-11 that knows basic English and will always joke around with us “farangs” (a generic term for someone of Europen ancestry).

It makes for a nice break from broken language conversations. Unfortunately, some more complex English words are above his head, like “curious” or “euphoric.”

The food is generally tasty. The normal, everyday food is much more delicious than my usual diet in the United States.

Restaurant food is about the same in tastiness, just in a more Thai way.

I enjoy eating seafood.

My favorite is a dish that consists of an entire fried fish with tasty toppings of peppers and onions.

Word of warning: the street food in the shady night-club streets can sometimes be disgusting.

Luckily, I’ve only run into such foods a couple of times.

I can say I’m ready to return home and talk to people. Share strong friendships and relationships.

Make small talk with store employees and people who handle my food.

I may be over-thinking things though.

I talk to our dormitory cleaning lady as often as I can. She does not speak any English, so it’s a good way to exercise my vocabulary and Thai conversation skills.

We’ve gotten to where we can make jokes and both laugh. Such times are some of my favorite of the day.

I only have a month left of this semester, after which I will backpack around Southeast Asia for another month.

I’ll be able to navigate most places using Thai and English, but I’m sure there will be many more times I’ll be lost on the local language.

For example, I am going to Myanmar in two weeks.

Myanmar opened its borders for tourism only recently, so very few people would know their language.

I am excited for the trip and feel very positive despite the impending language barrier.

One Comment »

  • Chao Chakri said:

    I advise against all but essential travel to the provinces of Pattani, Yala, Narathiwat and Songkhla on the Thai-Malaysia border. On 21 September a bomb exploded in the Sai Buri district of Pattani causing a number of deaths and injuries. This is a very dangerous place.

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