1. Visit and explore the local markets
If you want to become a local, you may start by visiting some of the close-by night markets. In Phuket you have for example Naka Market, Chillva Market or the Phuket Old town Sunday Market. They are all located close to the Prince of Songkla University.
Night markets are usually very busy and chaotic, but you will enjoy it. It’s really worth the experience. Also, try to bargain with the vendors. Usually, they will try to charge you a higher price because of your western appearance. Don’t be shy and don’t accept unreasonable prices!
2. Get familiar with the local food
There are heaps of local dishes you need to try, including fried ice-cream, Dim sum or Papaya salad. Apart from that, there are a lot of local restaurants serving sticky rice, grilled fish or Pad Thai. Do not let fear of getting food poisoning stop you!
3. Get around with a scooter
In order to experience the real Thai lifestyle in Phuket, make sure you rent a scooter to get around. It’s a really convenient way to discover the area. Don’t be scared, even if you have never ridden a scooter before – you can learn it very quickly and it’s heaps of fun. Just remember to always wear a helmet, be aware of your surrounding and follow the speed signs!
4. Learn the basics of Thai language
In order to get an insight into Thai culture and the people, try to meet Thai people from or outside the university. If you study in Phuket, you should take part in the university’s buddy program. Your buddy will make sure you get out of the tourist bubble!
Do not get frustrated if Thai people act shy in the beginning. Just keep on going and you will see that they are really nice people to be around. Usually, it takes a little longer to “break the ice” and to get along, but this is just how some Thai people connect and communicate to Westerners.
You should try to learn some basic Thai words. The university in Phuket offers beginner classes so try to take part in those. Basics like “mai ped” (not spicy) “ped mak” (very spicy), “sawasdee” (hello) or “khop-khun kha” (thank you) will show Thai people that you are looking for connection and prove your interest in their culture.
By simply adding “khop-khun kha” in a local restaurant when receiving your order, Thai peoples’ face will light up, and usually they will ask where you come from and what you do in Thailand.
5. Surround yourself with locals
Another way to become a local is to live in the dormitory on the university campus. There you will find Thai friends and get involved in their routine and daily life quickly.
Try to spend most of your time with Thai people. It’s the best way to understand why they act the way they do. You will realize that some behavior is really different from what you know. Respect is very important in Thailand and you will see how much it means to Thai people.
6. Take part in cultural events and activities
You should also try the Thai wellness, including spa and massages. If you look for the real experience, try the Thai massage. Thai wellness is a big part of the culture and it is really enjoyable, make sure you try it as often as you can.
Moreover, pay attention to special events that take place like Krathong Festival, the Vegetarian Festival or the Thailand New Year, named Songkran Festival.
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This text was written by our Phuket student Angelina!