Common misconceptions and clichés about life in Thailand

Hello everyone,

Old clichés die hard, as the saying goes... and living in Thailand can generate lots of misconceptions in the eyes of the people.

What are the most common misconceptions about the expat lifestyle in Thailand?

What are the most common clichés about life in Thailand in general?

Did you have a biased view of the country before moving there? What is you view now?

Thanks in advance,


The Thai improvement in English.  English is the go to language for all of visitors from all over the world here.
In Panama, and Costa Rica you need to probably know some Spanish.
I am learning a little bit of Thai for various courtesies in store transactions, etc.

Good to visit when your young, not a good country to get old in.

One price for foreigners one price for Thais.

Thais lie to save face, prostitute their children for money and more.

No human rights in Thailand.

One of the most corrupt countries in the world.

Those are some of the stereotypes related to Thailand, about child prostitution and Thais being dishonest or corrupt.  That list leaves out the stereotype that a lot of expats are only here as long-term sex tourists, or on the even more bitter side that some Thai men become monks to live an easy life and to have access to better electronics.

Many negative and positive stereotypes are based on limited truths, so they oversimplify the reality, for example, of course there is corruption in Thailand.  I'd have no idea where that stands related to the Philippines or Indonesia or African countries.  Child prostitution may be decreased from where it stood 20 years ago, or it could be hard to keep track of such things.  None of that has anything to do with my own experience.

I knew next to nothing about Thailand before moving here.  I married a Thai I dated when we both lived in the US, both in grad school there, and I thought I must have soaked up some perspective of the culture but in retrospect I hadn't. 

Uninformed pre-conceptions would be whatever they happened to be, varying based on different sources (like Hangover 2).  A more accurate take is that expat lifestyles and local culture are both complex, varied.  Some expats are essentially long term sex tourists, some live a normal family life (I do).  Others focus on exploration more, not typically along the same lines backpackers do, more commonly along upper middle-class urban themes. 

What someone might not expect is that so many elements of a normal, middle-class American lifestyle are available here that it seems strange when one isn't.  For example, why didn't premium ice cream like Ben and Jerries or Haagen Daaz ever take off here, or mainstream micro-brew beers?  You can buy Ben and Jerries, at imported goods pricing, or go to a microbrewery, there just aren't many, and not 30 or so types of six-pack versions wherever  beers are sold.  Older or poorer Thais stick closer to the old culture, for example going to basic old-style markets instead of grocery stores, but modernization / Westernization is pretty far along.

No 1 misconception:
    Falangs are millionnaires ....

When I am back in Europe, and am asked sometimes 'Where do you live?' in conversation, my reply when I say Thailand, is raised eyebrows and a smirk if its from a woman, who immediately says 'Oh I know why!!'    I then spend the next 20 minutes explaining to her the finer points of everything she is so obviously ignorant about!   (Sorry so many exclamation marks but it does happen so frequently!!)

I never had this when I lived in Spain for 15 years, but certainly Thailand is often I think regarded by some women and I can only mainly speak of U.K., women with a certain disdain when it comes to their Thai counterparts.  Invaribally based on jealousy, ignorance and envy. Perhaps they cant understand why so many Thai women do not smoke or drink very much and are in general, softly spoken and well mannered and respectful. Yes there are exceptions like in all countries, BUT you only have to go out in the U.K. or other European countries in the evening to find grossly overweight, badly dressed, glass in hand, drunk women, often in packs, wandering the pavements outside night clubs and bars. Their language and I am no prude, is so appalling that it makes you ashamed.  Not to mention the nylon tracksuited podgies you see in the daytime, with their hooded pimply hungover partners, who hang out in every public place.

Its noticeable that many Europeans that do visit Thailand are very surprised by the warmth and welcome that they are greeted with here. That's not to mention the quality of service we are shown in general in restaurants and service industries of all types. I think they are very impressed by these hardworking diligent kind people that have been taught well by their parents, how to survive and the basic principles in life. Its a big eye opener for many farangs, and hopefully something that might brush off on them when they return to their homelands.

John Collins

Colbamumbai, such a jag-off. If that's all he can uncover from the entire culture, I can only imagine how backward his upbringing must have been. A moron in the true sense of the word. Cheers, JP>

Perhaps Colba Mumbai could confirm his own country is fault free?

to JSP4848

the subject is misconception.....he s talking about the wrong perception of what people FROM OUTSIDE THAILAND think of Thailand ......
and he is perfectly right ...many people in the Americas and Europe  think exactly like he is saying
i  am a farang happily living in Phayao Thailand but many people i know back home sadly think exactly like Colbamumbai says......and much worst i might add.. 
To me when talking about Thiland with people back home it seems from their responses that Thailand and the Phillippines have the such the most badly misconceptions in all over Asia

and I say here to people all over the world:
          throw away all your misconception and come see by yourself

I would prefer not to make a comment on this subject, in the past I have been very negative about living in Thailand & at one point I was removed from Expat. Com.  I don't feel that I will be able to give you the answer that you are looking for.  As you may have noticed I do not network with other members any longer.  I keep to myself and live the life I chose.  Good Luck to everyone.

Interesting to read what others have to say about living in Thailand.  I returned to California for 4 month visit, found there were more people, more traffic, more people behaving badly. Everything was that much more expensive, to the point of not being able to rent or buy in your own country.  I fell in love with Bend Oregon, people were nice & friendly, helpful, everywhere was clean & the streets & property was well maintained, big difference from California.  All my friends live in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I would consider a move out of state for a better quality of life. In Thailand I have moved from Nonthaburi to Chiang Mai, which has changed my life for the better.

jsp4848 :

Colbamumbai, If that's all you can discover from the entire culture, I can only imagine how backward your upbringing must have been. Where are you from? Cheers, JP>

I married my Thai wife in 1973 and have visited Thailand as a tourist several times since 1978. In addition,, our oldest son lives and works here so any misconceptions were straightened out before we moved here. The only thing that has bothered me and still does is the appointment system in the hospitals. You may be given an appointment but it doesn't apply as you are seen based on the time you arrive. I often arrive at Bangphaeo Hospital for a 10 am appointment at 7am and am lucky if I am seen by 12 noon or later.

I have been very pleased by the quality of medical services here. I never have to wait long and the cost is very low  compared to the US.

Then Leave!

People are especially friendly is one. I moved to Bangkok two weeks ago after just over a year in Pattaya and think people are not as friendly as said.  In New York or even Kuwait (at least the men did), when I say hello or good day when meeting people in the hallway or lifts there are a generally positive responses. In my apartment building in Bangkok only one person so far has responded when I say hello or sawadee kap.

There have been many negative occurrences in Pattaya too especially at banks and Immigration. When I am with my wife then its slightly better. Its more a smirk rather than a smile. We smile because its expected.

There are genuine nice people around but not as much as promoted "Thais are so nice and friendly."  New York, Phoenix and even London are much friendlier. Thailand is just a normal country and not that special in terms of friendliness. Ireland yes, Thailand nay.

To respond to Colbamumbai's post: What you are expressing is a perception not specific to only Thailand...that element is virtually everywhere. I've been to 50 countries, I know from experience. You can offset any perceived negatives by surrounding yourself with good people and there are plenty in Thailand. Learning and adapting to local culture helps too

colbamumbai THEN LEAVE!

Hello everyone,

Please don't miss out the whole point of this thread which is clearly written in the title and first post. The idea is indeed to share your experiences on the clichés and misconception people have about Thailand which might or might not be true.

All the best,

Misconception: every woman with a farang is a bar girl.

I married an attractive Thai woman (an accountant) but even to this day (she's 45) we get "that look", which pisses her off something fierce.

We don't acknowledge the faulty perception, just go about our business.

Och!,,,no point in getting angry , you are only hurting yourself.....,,,have a laugh and enjoy the kudos of being thought of as disreputable....

It's unfortunate that some responders simply list the things they don't like about Thailand. They also perpetuate the stereotypes that are harmful. There is so much to love about Thailand as there is about every other country and its people
I had hoped to share misconceptions and how much better things are then the visitor had thought they would be.

Canada has it'seems faults too.

Allegedly I live next to the sex capital of the world?  Aren't I the lucky one. :cool:

I haven't been in Thailand since 1990,  but I keep up and am coming back soon for a few months.

I love the country, have been all over it and not as a tourist, but as an immersed traveller. Sure, there are places that are dangerous, there are places that are overrun with the sex trade, there are places where you can't breathe the air or drink the water, there are places where you as a farang are a walking target for price gouging and theft. If you have your head on straight and know a little about the country and are fairly fearless, you can avoid most of those pitfalls and have a beautiful time in Thailand. Living in ANY country long term has its challenges, and I venture to say that the biggest challenges are in western countries, where we work cradle to grave to support a ridiculously expensive livestyle and have nothing left over for enjoying the simple pleasures of life.

I am always amazed to hear from men who live in Thailand about how the women from their own western countries are slobs in track suits and running around the streets in drunken, foul-mouthed packs....and so forth. The person saying those things is usually no prize himself, overweight and over the hump of middle age. So I leave that topic there for others to comment or not.

Looking forward to returning. Planning to hang out for a few months in the Koh Lanta or new Lanta area, which suits my style.

Yes lovely place Lanta love the place. Very beautiful area was the first island I travelled to and I loved it so much I went 6 times over 4 years for a month or thereabouts at a time.

Thailand is first class in hospitality &'s my most beloved retirement haven...which country on mother earth comes close ?


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