Hey there, Liz here. Growing up my parents raised me to be paranoid, skeptical, and overly cautious. Sometimes I prepare for the worst, when I should be looking for the best. Moving to Thailand I was incredibly excited to experience a new culture but I won't lie there was a huge part of me that was nervous. At 5'9" and blonde, I stand out pretty easily here in SE Asia. This is great because people can always find me, but it is also a bit nerve-wracking because I am convinced everyone wants to take advantage of the solo female traveler. Now I have only been scammed once in all of my travels abroad, and I learned very quickly from that experience. So as I settle into life here in Thailand I have tried to find a decent balance between being overly skeptical and not cautious enough.
Before moving to Thailand I researched as much about the country as I could, and most everything I came across mentioned the kindness one could expect to encounter from Thai people. I was excited to live in "the land of smiles" where smiles would be aplenty, and kindness would be easy to find. We are almost two months into my Thailand residency, and I can say that even though life over is here is much simpler, the people I meet and interact with are some of the happiest people I've ever met, and almost all of them are extremely kind. I have been lucky enough to experience Thai kindness multiple times, so I wanted to share some of my favorite moments with you.
Thai Wedding Crashers: I think it was just my second weekend here in Thailand when my roommate was invited to a Thai wedding, so I was invited by association. I was incredibly interested to see what a Thai wedding was like, because I love learning more about cultures but also I just love love! We sat at a table with a few other foreigners "farangs", and we were made to feel like VIP guests. We were asked to take pictures with the bride and groom- we were complete strangers who were literally crashing this wedding and the bride and groom wanted to see us! As I tried to thank them and express my gratitude they beat me to it. I was so overwhelmed by how happy and kind they were to allow complete strangers come watch their love story, eat their food, and drink their free alcohol. I know quite a few brides back in the states that would have lost their minds to not just one additional guest, but FOUR last minute guests. As the party really started to get going, our glasses were never allowed to be empty, and dancing to every song was highly encouraged. Although I will probably never see most of those people ever again, they made my first Thai wedding so fun!
Motorbike Woes: One morning as I sat locked out of the house (that's what I get for exercising before school) waiting for my roommate to return from 7-11 she sent me a message that just said "The bike won't start". The employees at 7-11 deduced the battery was done for, so they put one of their batteries in our bike, started it, and then put our nonfucntioning battery back in the bike. She made it home, but it did not start again. Over our lunch break we pushed the bike out of school grounds and made our way to the shop which was luckily not too far from school. While we took turns pushing the bike, our students kept showing us that all we had to do was hit a button. We then would tell them yes we know how to drive a bike, it just wouldn't start! When they finally realized we weren't completely inept they would shrug and run off. As we pushed the bike on the side of the road everyone passed by us. However one couple on a very old motorbike/side car stopped when they saw our mess. This lovely elderly couple wanted to try and give their help. The husband tried everything and he eventually came to the same conclusion that we had accepted hours before- a new battery was needed. He motioned towards the shop-that is where we should go. We nodded in agreement and thanked him profusely for his time. This couple had no reason to stop and help us, but they did. They were incredibly sweet and genuinely wanted to help us out of our predicament. Continuing on with our bike it warmed my heart greatly to see that the couple was slowly riding in front of us, pointing every few meters to where we needed to go. They did not leave us until we made it to the shop and even yelled to the mechanic what we needed. Once we finally made it to the mechanic, he was able to fix the bike within minutes and refused to accept any money from us. I wanted to cry at this point because everyone was just too nice! At no point was our situation harrowing or dangerous, just inconvenient. But getting to experience Thai kindness firsthand from strangers passing by was a great experience regardless of the situation.
These are just a few of the moments where I have been appreciative for the kindness and compassion of the Thai people. It is sad that most of us come from places where we would not lend a helping hand to strangers unless there is something in it for us. Fear of being misguided or tricked, ego, or lack of empathy are things I think are too common in the Western World. Life in Thailand is slowly breaking down the walls I have built up over years of relying on myself and being hesitant to accept help for the fear of betrayal. Every day I am greeted with smiles whether it is from students, teachers, or the kind woman who runs the 20 baht shop- similar to a Dollar Tree shop. Kindness is not just in the actions here, but in demeanors as well. Two months in and I don't think I have smiled so much in my whole life!