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January 2013
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Being all polite and British in Thailand

January 20, 2013

In my experience treating others with patience and politeness is preferable to getting angry and shouting. People will just like you more if you’re polite to them. 

They’ll also try and take advantage of you; like the extremely drunk, street, shoe cleaning man who actually wrestled my shoe from my foot while I vainly protested that his services were not required. Thankfully, if slightly embarrassingly, I was rescued by a lady-boy friend of mine who works in my local bar, the scene of the incident. 

In 34 years on this planet I’ve managed to avoid any sort of physical  confrontation (except a couple of times in primary school but I don’t think they count). So, I’m a little ashamed to admit that, with my polite refusal not working, I was about to push the overzealous footwear refurbishment specialist off my 300 Baht blue suede shoes and back onto the street when my friend intervened and scared him off. My adulthood clean sheet of passive resistance remains intact. 

Had I been more of an assertive type I’m sure the whole incident of the almost shampooed shoe would never have occurred.

Something my friend said to me afterwards did get me thinking though. She said, “You don’t need to be scared of Thai man.” What I inferred from it was You should stand up for yourself ! 

Even when you’re in a foreign country, sometimes the law and custom is still on your side. I think I would have been fully justified in telling the shoe man to something-rude off! Not only would the locals have agreed I was right to do so they’d have backed me up if the man became violent. 

I also don’t doubt if the police had miraculously turned up that they would have been on my side too. 

I resolved from that day forward to try be more assertive when treated as a dumb farang (foreigner) by the minority of Thai’s who do so. 

This morning I got up at 7 am. A mini van was coming at 7:30 to pick up my Dad, who’s here on two weeks holiday, from the corner shop and take him to Koh Chang for a well deserved week of tropical paradise. 

I got a call at 7:30 from the driver asking where was I? 

I explained that I was at the place we arranged with the travel agent to meet. I’d even drawn them a rather nifty map which wasn’t really required as the pickup was right next to a huge temple that everyone in town knows. 

He argued that he was waiting at the end of the road on the main motorway. 

In the past I might have offered to walk down, to save any argument but I didn’t want my Dad and his Fiancee, both with medium sized bags, to have to walk the five minutes down the dog poo booby trapped roadside to the main road when the driver could drive up in one minute and get them. 

So I stuck to my guns, argued that we were where we agreed to meet, told him he wasn’t supposed to be on the main road and he’d better drive up here. He angrily hung up on me. 

I had about thirty seconds of worry thinking he might just have decided to drive on before I saw the van approaching. 

He got out grumpily and waved his finger a bit but I stood firm, helped my Dad with the luggage, made sure the two of them were comfortable and said goodbye. 

The driver was still muttering to me the whole time about the winding side road he’d had to drive up but I didn’t respond in kind and more importantly, and less British in style, didn’t apologise, something we Brits often do even when it’s not our fault. 

My girlfriend plans to call the office where we booked the trip and complain about his behaviour. As I’m still all polite and British, hence the spelling of behaviour that my spell check doesn’t like, I far prefer to do my complaining to my friends over a pint, or in an anonymous blog. I think I’ll let her handle it. 

The point of this is that even when abroad, the locals are not always right and sometimes, even if you are British, you can, and should, get your own way. 


by Paddy Pattaya. Find out more about Paddy Pattaya here.

Categories: Thai life

One Response to “Being all polite and British in Thailand”

  1. Nice story. Interesting to see the so-called ‘jai yen yen’ (cool heart) of the van driver was nowhere in evidence. There’s not a chance he would have pulled that stunt if you happened to be a local bigshot…it would have been all brown-nosing and high waiing…but, of course, you are just a farang!