My name is Jeremiah, and this semester I am participating in the Marshall International Exchange Program at Thammasat University. This blog post serves to explore and debunk stereotypes people may have about living in Thailand.
The collapsible information below serves to provide answers to important questions that any student may have about the Thailand experience.
Stereotypes and Misconceptions
Before coming to Thailand, I didn't do much research on how life there would be because I did not want to arrive with any particular expectations in mind; I wanted everything to be a surprise. As a result, coming into this program, all I had to base my thoughts on were preconceived ideas. For example, I thought that Thailand would be a very rural environment, that there would be a small population of English speakers, that it would not be as safe as the U.S., and that it would be an extreme culture shock between I and the native Thai people.
Although there are rural parts of Thailand, most of them are not in Bangkok. Bangkok is the most populated city in Thailand with the most metropolitan regions, filled with hotels, apartments, restaurants, street food, night markets and shopping centers. Within these shopping centers are multi-layered, humongous malls that include some of the most well known fast-food chains from the U.S. (e.g. Dominoes, McDonalds, KFC, and much more).
After the three months that I lived in Thailand, I can say that there are many English speakers there. Even though most of them exhibited a beginner’s level of understanding, it was enough. Even in the other provinces that were not as industrialized as Bangkok, there were always one or more people that could speak at least a little bit of english.
In terms of the culture shock, one prepares themselves mentally, and understands that engaging in the language boundary is a big part of the journey long before they submit the application. Therefore, once you arrive in the foreign country of your choice, you just adapt and become more comfortable as your time abroad goes on. For me personally, I found that there was a bigger culture shock between myself as a U.S. student, and students from other "Western countries", like the UK, Spain, and the Netherlands. In hindsight, I thought that we would have more in common, but there are just as many differences amongst Western students’ personalities and habits, as there are to the Thai students. When making international friends, just keep an open-mind to everyone’s different backgrounds, and be cognizant of their traditions.