As unfortunate as it may be, people tend to view other people based on stereotypes rather than their actual experience. International stereotypes for Bangkokians are… unfortunately not very pretty, or accurate for that matter. Mainstream media, news and movies have created a horribly distorted image of Bangkok. Fortunately for you, we are about the set the record straight once and for all. Which Thai stereotypes are true, and which ones are complete bull?
Ladyboys in Bangkok
This is probably the most typical Thai stereotype that Thai people find while they are abroad. I’d go around and introduce myself as a Thai person, and quite often these are the first questions I’m greeted with. “Are there a lot of ladyboys in Bangkok?”. “Do you know any ladyboys in Bangkok?”. Many people with a lot of nerves may go as far as asking if I’m a ladyboy myself. I would find it hilarious, except for the fact that these ladyboys questions and stereotypes are alarmingly frequent to the point that it starts to get annoying.
The truth is there are ladyboys in Bangkok, yes, but they are typically only in a few areas. That area is tourist attractions, bars and clubs. Hence many foreigners will head back home after their epic journey and tell the tales about their misadventures that involve ladyboys in Bangkok city. Only if you venture outside these areas, you will find out that the transgenders are only responsible for a very small fraction of the entire population. Not 50% of Thai populations are transgenders, in fact not even 5%.
So the blatant claim that it is easier to find ladyboys in Bangkok than actual women is NOT true.
Bangkok is a ground zero for political coup and dangerous protests
During political unrests, Bangkok is represented in the major news websites as a war zone. Many people were put off by the notion that there is a ‘civil war’ going on in the city and that their friends, or families in Thailand are in a life threatening situation. My friends would hit me up all the time asking if I’m doing okay
Funny thing is, amidst all this ‘chaos’ Bangkok seemed to be going through. 99% of the populations are doing just fine. Even people in the protests are doing very well. In fact some people are doing ‘better’. Many people in these political protests often find that they can make money full-time while pursuing their political ideology. There are shops, food stalls, clothing stores that keep popping up everywhere during the protests. These protesters often go on thriving for weeks if not months on end.
Many claims that all the protests are not healthy for the economy, while that may be true, these protestors clearly doesn’t seem to have that problem. Personally, I remain neutral during all the protests, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy shopping at these places with my family. It’s like shopping at a street fair, except with more political ads.
Bangkok is a sex industry
This is the most notorious claim I’ve heard about Thailand. Matter of fact is sex tourism is the problem every developing country (and the already developed ones for that matter) have to face. Contrary to popular beliefs, sex industry and prostitutions is illegal in Thailand and is considered a crime. All parties involved in an act of prostitution will be considered criminal and will face charges as well as possible jail time. Remember that the next time your friends considered coming to Bangkok for ‘sex’, we have a million other things we actually offer.
Bangkok is dirty and under-developed
If you look at South East Asia as a whole, you will find that most countries, with an exception being Singapore, are currently going through a period of big changes. We have been seeing more growth and development than in the past decades. The truth is, whether or not a place is ‘developed’ or not is all very relative to where you came from and what you have experienced. Thailand as compared to the UK or Sweden would be considered underdeveloped. Thailand as compared to countries that are still struggling for access to clean water would be considered highly developed.
Just like every other countries, some areas in Bangkok are better-off than others. If you walk along the BTS lines and get off at Siam or Thonglore and Ekamai, you will clearly see the growth, development and high levels of prosperity. Newer malls such as the Emdistrict are one of the slickest looking and trendiest malls in South East Asia. These areas can be easily stacked up against places like Time Squares in New York, or Union Squares in San Francisco. Know where to look and what to look for, you shall be surprised what Bangkok has available for you.
Something about Elephants, Muay Thai and spicy food
All these seriousness aside, there are many funny inside jokes and Thai stereotypes that people say which has never failed to put smiles on my face.
After multiple series of Tony Jaa’s movies, many people believe that Elephants are integral parts of Thai culture, which is true to a certain extent, but not to the point where everybody ride elephants to school, or that we have them in every household and garages. In some remote parts of Thailand, elephants are still considered a method of transportation.
Another hilarious Thai Stereotype is that every single Thai person knows Muay Thai. If you ask around, you will realize that majority of us barely know anything about Muay Thai beside the fact that it is a type of Martial arts. Beside being the biggest product that got most exposure in the west, Muay Thai culture is pretty exclusive to very few Thais.
Last, but not least, a major Thai Stereotype is that our food here is unbearably spicy. This is most likely the only stereotype on this article that is true. I still struggle to re-adjust myself to Thai food every time I came back to Bangkok after a few months. So definitely be afraid, be very very afraid.
That’s it for the top Thai Stereotypes! Let us know what is the no.1 Thai Stereotypes you have most frequently heard of in the comment section below (aside from the obvious ladyboys in Bangkok jokes). As always, have a nice day!