Our Bangkok student Maike gives 5 tips on what you need to know before starting your studies in Bangkok
My semester abroad in Bangkok is halfway done. So far, I have learned a lot about the Thai way of living and of course, I noticed major differences in the culture from what I´m used to back home in Germany. Before coming here, I read about what to expect and eventually I got a general idea about life here in Thailand. I spent a long time abroad before coming here and therefore I knew that cultural shocks can be normal and getting used to a new environment can also take a while. I expected major differences compared to western culture, but when I came here, the culture shock was more intense than I imagined.
Before going abroad, you should read about the country you are going to live in. Also, you should clarify all organizational things related to your home country before leaving, e.g. arranging everything with your bank (since it is difficult to organize abroad).
The listed things below are things I read about before I left Germany. But I still would have appreciated knowing more about it. Of course, reading can help you but when coming to Thailand you are going to see, that those facts are even more extreme when you experience them in real life. Being open-minded and not predetermined about the culture as well as the life in Thailand surely is going to help you when coming here. Here are top 5 things I would have appreciated knowing more about before leaving Germany:
1. Not as cheap as you think
Some things are not as cheap as you think they are. Many students who come here think Asian countries are cheap to live in and that everything is low-priced. Of course, that is true when it comes to traveling, shopping and living here in general. But some products are pricier than in European countries like groceries from the supermarket as well as cosmetic or hygiene products. Make sure to buy products that you need regularly in advance.
2. Lack of English
The lack of English is a fact I heard of before coming here. I assumed that communication in Thailand can be hard because it is common that most Thai people do not know English very well. After arriving I realized quickly that the situation was even more difficult than I expected. Even though I used the simplest phrases in English, it was a challenge to communicate. In the touristic areas you can expect the people being able to talk to you, but since I am not living in the city center it can get quite difficult. Therefore, I would suggest you to learn some Thai words and phrases. When you use Thai words, communicating can still be a challenge, but it is highly appreciated among the locals and they immediately try their best for you to understand them.
3. Keep a good attitude in public
The thing I was not completely aware of is that you should stay calm and friendly in almost every possible situation. People here are in general friendly, but you can tell that the Thai people dislike when you have a different opinion. It is something I had to deal with once in a while, but you simply have to accept the fact that you spend one semester in a different culture and this also includes that you have to adapt to their behavior pattern.
4. Different understanding of organizing
My home country Germany is known for its great importance on punctuality and organization. To be honest, back in Germany I was not the most organized person, but suddenly here in Bangkok I am. I could feel a different understanding of organization right when I arrived in Thailand. It started with renting a condo and continued with the organization at the university. It is not necessarily worse, but just different.
5. Get rid of old values
This point summarizes all of the topics above pretty well. Growing up in a western culture you have to change your usual way of thinking when coming to Thailand. Also, you should adapt slowly and accept a different way of behaving and thinking. After two months I really feel welcomed in Bangkok and I appreciate. I am highly appreciative of the opportunity of experiencing such a different way of life.
Adapting to the new lifestyle might sound difficult, but you are going to grow into it. Sometimes you should remind yourself, that this experience will only last for a limited time and after all, you will look back and realize how much you have learned.
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This article was written by Siam student Maike!