Think and Do the Opposite. You'll be OK.
Living in any new culture brings challenges. However, when that new culture presents opposite ideas and practices from what you were once used to, those challenges can be particularly problematic. Here's a list of "opposites" I've compiled from living over 15 years in Thailand. Caveat: A number of these observations may be more specific to upcountry Thailand as opposed to more touristy or westernized areas such as Bangkok or Phuket. Go ahead. Scratch your head.
- They make fake tofu from egg whites instead of making fake egg whites from tofu.
- A pat on the head is an insult, unless you do it to a child. Even then, the situation better be appropriate.
- A silent person is an angry person. The quieter a Thai gets, the more worried you should get.
- Blowing your nose is impolite. Picking your nose is ok.
- When you take out a loan, you pay interest on the original balance every month, not a decreasing balance.
- At the table you cut your meat (pork, beef, sausage) with your spoon.
- "Finger-lickin' good" is not a good KFC ad. When Thais eat there, they ask for a fork and knife to eat it with because they think it's hi-so (high society). However, they eat Thai-style chicken with their hands.
- If you get electrocuted because of a frayed wire, it's not because of poor safety practices, it's because you were unlucky.
- Cows go to spas and humans go to breeding clinics.
- Restaurants have toilet paper on the tables and restrooms have none.
- You dip your dishes in tepid water to rinse; but you spray your derriere with a dish sprayer in the restroom.
- Cars have the right of way in zebra crossings. Nobody has ever seen a zebra at a zebra crossing, so don't worry about it.
- When cars flash their lights at you it means get out of the way. I'm coming through no matter what. On the nation's highways, this is an aggressive action.
- Don't honk your horn unless you want someone to stop and beat your brains out with a bat. Honking your horn is ranked right up there with obscene gestures.
- Vehicles coming at you in your lane is normal. Deal with it.
- A driver isn't insured. The car is insured. They don't care who the driver is or what their driving record.
- When you hear or feel something going wrong with your car, you don't take it in for a diagnosis. You wait until the car stops running.