Buffer shares cultural spotlights from our colleagues regularly to connect our global team and help us understand each other better.
– Katie, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Manager @ Buffer
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Below is a slightly edited version from a cultural spotlight that we recently featured from Ben, a Buffer Customer Advocate.
My birthplace was Phuket, a small island off the coast of southern Thailand. The largest island in Thailand, Phuket, has 443,000 inhabitants. It is well-known for its beautiful beaches, making it a popular tourist spot.
I was born in Thailand but I did not grow up there. My stepdad worked in an oil company, so we were able to travel to many countries and live there. When I was four years of age, we left Thailand and returned when I turned 18. We lived in:
- Shekou, China (for 2 years).
- Lagos, Nigeria (for nine year)
- Leysin (for one-year)
- Cape Town, South Africa (for a year)
Education and work
At university in Bangkok, I studied tourism management and hospitality. However, I only completed one year of my degree before being forced to stop my studies. Although I was able to return to my studies a few years later, I had already gained many years of experience in the workplace and decided to pursue my career in hospitality.
After a decade of working in hospitality, I switched to remote work with SaaS platforms. It was the best decision ever.
My family was my mother, stepdad, me and two of my younger half-siblings (a brother and a sister). While we were in Nigeria, my stepdad died. My brother and mother live in Phuket, while my sister lives in Winnipeg.
My family today consists of my partner, me and our three dogs. We live in Nakhonratchasima, northeast Thailand (about 4 hours from Bangkok).
History of Thailand
After several years of civil unrest in the country, the government abolished absolute monarchy and established a new constitutional monarchy in 1939. The country’s name was changed from Siam to Thailand with this new change. Thailand is the land of the free. Tai, or aithy in Thai means “land of the free”. The Thai people are proud of their past and the fact that they aren’t under European colonization.
Thailand today is comprised of 77 provinces with a population of 69.95 millions. Theravada Buddhists make up 95% of Thailand’s population, while the rest are Muslims, Christians, Confucians and Hindus. The remaining 5% is Muslim, Christians and Sikhs. It is not uncommon to see Sikh temples, mosques and churches built right next to each other.
Thai is the official language of Thailand. There are four Thai dialects: Central, Northern, Southern and Northeastern. Because each dialect is very different, the majority of Thais will speak the most common dialect. Thais love to hear from foreigners and will happily teach you a few words. Although English is not considered an official language, most people will speak it.
The Khmer (Cambodian alphabet) is the inspiration for the Thai alphabet. It has 72 characters, including 44 vowels and 28 consonants. When I was young, I moved to Thailand so I never had the opportunity to learn Thai writing and reading. It took me nearly two years to learn how to read and write Thai. I learned it when I was 18. It’s possible that I was only interested in learning it because I didn’t want to take my mom everywhere with me to learn.
Thailand’s youth literacy rate stands at around 98 percent. The government has made great efforts to ensure that every child in Thailand can go to school or that there is one near them. Up to 14 years old, education is compulsory. Public schools provide free education for children through grade 12. While the public school system offers quality education, parents will often work hard to get their children into private and university schools.
Holidays, Festivals and Events
The average Thai worker works nine hours per day, six days a semaine. That’s a 52-hour work week. For someone who has been working for less than three years, they would get six to eight days of vacation. This has been balanced by the government giving more public holidays. We’ve seen 17-22 public holidays in recent years. However, employers are legally only required to give their employees 15 public holidays each year.
Most of our holidays are related to Buddhist holidays/celebrations or are important days related to the monarchy. Our Songkran Water Festival is a very popular holiday for Thai tourists and Thais. In the past, we used to sprinkle water on Buddhist statues, and then pour water over our parents’ heads. But, this has become a full-blown water fight. Songkran is usually celebrated for three to five consecutive days. However, some areas of Thailand celebrate Songkran for a whole month (precovid).
Loy Krathong, which means “floating basket” in Thai, is another popular festival. Loy Krathong is celebrated on November’s full moon. The water goddess is honored by us floating lotus-shaped baskets into rivers and lakes and releasing them into the ocean. Baskets made of banana tree trunks, banana leaves, and coins are filled with flowers and incense.
People were encouraged to purchase eco-friendly bread baskets. If you are curious, children from the community often collect the baskets at the end of the day. They collect the baskets and help to dispose of it.
You would normally bring cash to the Thai host if you are invited to a funeral or wedding in Thailand. It was confusing at first, but I soon realized that it was our way to help each other with expenses and costs. You can be certain that if you show up to support someone else, they will also show up at your event to support and assist you.
Thai food is rich in flavor and often uses many spices and herbs. Most Thai food can be prepared quickly, in either a pan or a wok over high heat. We are surprised at how long it takes to cook a turkey.
Rice is a staple food that is usually served at every meal. A typical meal will include two main dishes, served family-style and served with rice. We believe that rice is the best way to satiate your hunger pangs.
These are some of the most popular dishes:
- Pad Thai is a stir-fried noodle dish that uses tamarind sauce, bean seeds, tofu and egg.
- Green Chicken Curry A coconut curry with green chilies and galangal. Also, kafir lime leaves.
- Tom Yum Goong is a spicy shrimp soup with chilies and galangal.
- Som tum – spicy green papaya salad.
- Mango with sticky Rice – Ripe mangoes with sticky rice and coconut milk.
Cost of Living
Thailand’s minimum wage is 353 Baht/day or 10,590 Baht/month (roughly $9.30/day or $278.94/month). The average Bangkok worker in an entry-level job will earn around 25,000 Baht a month (around $658). This is a small amount for a Thai citizen earning this salary. More than 85% of Thais have less that 50,000 Baht (about $1,300) in their banks and many are struggling to make ends meets.
Many Thais will end up borrowing illegally or with low interest rates. These loans have interest rates that can vary from 30-50 percent per calendar day. If you borrow $1,000, this means you will have to pay interest at $300-$500 per hour (until the principal is paid). It’s difficult to get out of debt. Thailand is an affordable country. The cost of living in Thailand is low – especially if you have a high income or are traveling from abroad. However, for many people, living in Thailand can be expensive if they desire a high quality life.
Thailand’s people are friendly and open-minded and love to solve conflicts without confrontation. This can lead to some interesting conversations. Imagine two people trying to solve a problem without actually addressing it and instead constantly skirting around the root cause.
Respect, self-control and a non-confrontational approach are the most important values held by Thai people. Thais are ashamed of expressing anger or telling lies. Thais are more casual in social interactions and prefer to approach all things with a “sabai-sabai” mentality.
Sabai sabai refers to a way of thinking which generally implies that everything happens for an explanation and that everything will work in the end. It is a reminder not to worry and stress too much, and to let go things that we don’t have control over. Sometimes it can be hard to express our true feelings about something. I believe this is due to our desire to make everyone feel safe and not offend anyone. We are also an open-minded and accepting culture that celebrates differences.
The Thai Calendar is 543 Years ahead of the Gregorian Calendar. Here in Thailand, it’s 2565.
New Year’s Day is celebrated in April during Songkran
Public holidays are not a time for alcohol sales. Some people wonder why it is called a holiday.
Bangkok’s true name is Krung Mahanakhon Anon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Poppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prsit (pretty certain we have the world record for the longest place name).
Driving without a shirt and taking on money is illegal. Driving without pants is legal.
We appreciate your time! This should give you an idea about Thailand and Thai people.
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