Bangkok Phil

Thai dilemmas

Here's the full list

For the past few months I've been tweeting a series of what I've called 'Thai Dilemmas'. They're basically observations on living in Thailand through the eyes of a foreign resident. They've given a few people a chuckle and it's all been in good fun. Here I think is the complete list. I hope that one or two of the dilemmas have you nodding your head in agreement.

The futile claps and flaps one performs in order to kill a mosquito while sitting in the back of a taxi

The twig sticking out of an old paint bucket that guards a hole thirty feet deep.

No matter how long you live here, you're still intrigued as to why so many Thai men take their shoes off in a restaurant

When the only way to make the staff realise you want to 'check bin' is to paint yourself purple and dance naked on the table

The note on a shop door that says "back in 10 minutes" that you know has been there at least an hour already.

Standing at the urinal and not being able to 'go' because that damn female washroom attendant just won't leave.

The poles, paint buckets, plastic chairs and other paraphenalia used to reserve parking spaces in front of shophouses.

Misjudging a dept store's opening hours and having to wait outside for 30 mins with other people who don't have a life.

Being handed a leaflet for a 10 million baht condo development and then spending the rest of the day looking for a bin

The joy of having a group of young kids shout "Hello, how are you?" and the disappointment that it's all they know.

Needing to ask someone at a bus stop if this is the right bus - and almost causing them to die of fright.

Seeing what the laundry woman has done with a hot iron and your best navy blue trousers and feeling like a really good cry.

The small child on the skytrain who has been offered a seat by a grown-up but refuses to bloody sit on it.

8.00am "Let's go to JJ market!" 1.00pm - tired, sweaty, tetchy, confused and lost - "Let's go home!"

The awkward congratulations you have to give to a Thai couple you barely know at their wedding party.

Talking to a Thai for the first time and subtly trying to ascertain whether your Thai is better than their English

Convincing yourself that the young nurse in the doctor's surgery has probably seen it all - but wishing she'd leave anyway

One of those gaily colored coaches that pumps out music at such a volume it almost makes your head bleed

That irritating automated American voice that tells you to have a nice day when you top up your skytrain pass.

Going to the hospital with a cold and wondering if there are enough hours in the day to take all the pills you've been given

The polite, watery smile you give to a group of drunken Thai men who beckon you over to their table to share whisky.

The two-fingered scissor gesture that you perform at an unfamiliar hair salon to indicate that you are there for a haircut

Buying a bunch of 20 bananas from the market and slinging 19 of them out when they go over-ripe the following day.

Wondering what it is about giant waving inflatable figures that makes people want to buy a condo.

The ripple of excitement and opportunity when a farang walks towards a group of motorcycle taxi drivers.

Having to step over the lazy, fat streetdog who sleeps in front of every single 7-11.

Wondering why when you go into one of those dingy mom and pop shops, there's always a 120-year old woman covered in talc.

The dignity and cool that you have to maintain when walking along the footpath and your leg gives way on a loose paving slab

At a rural Thai wedding, there will always be one small kid that turns up in a Spiderman suit.

Trying to fathom out why the rapid train to Hua Hin takes four hours and the express train takes six.

Is it necessary to have a straw with every single drink? Sometimes it's like being at one giant kids party.

Thinking to yourself that surely there must be someone out there who could re-design the immigration arrival card.

Needing to run three errands at the weekend and the three destinations couldn't be further apart if you tried.

The strange look that a shop assistant gives you because you've managed to work out 78 baht + 64 baht in your head.

Accepting that the only reason the seat next to you on the BTS is vacant is because you're a foreigner.

Still not understanding the connection between blowing on a loud whistle and how it's helping someone park a car.

Wondering how someone with the nickname 'Turd' has managed to get through life without knowing the terrible truth.

The girl who's employed by an apartment building to calculate your water, electricity and rent and get it wrong every month

Wondering why the waiter is making your group of eight people share two menus.

That split-second decision you have to make when getting to the top of the BTS escalator and seeing a train at the platform

The 20 minutes spent walking around Asia Books that's completely wasted because you have a kindle at home.

The company Facebook page that no-one has updated for 6 years save for putting up a badly pixelated logo

Feeling peckish in 7-11 and looking around for a healthy snack - before settling on either a Mars Bar or a Twix.

The exasperation from looking at a menu that has white stickers all over it indicating that that dish is no longer available.

The sheer frustration and helplessness that are the result of trying to extract an immovable supermarket trolley.

The girl who works at your company and whose main jobs are putting paper in the photocopier and fetching peoples lunches.

The frustration of a supermarket bill that comes to one thousand baht and 50 satang - and not having a 50 satang coin.

Sending an e-mail to a customer service dept and knowing that the only place its going is down a big, black hole.

Ordering fries, burger and a drink at McDonalds and the three components arriving at ten-minute intervals.

The look of disdain that you reserve for someone who gets into a crowded elevator to go up just one floor.

The overeager waiter who thinks you are totally incapable of putting Pepsi and two ice cubes in your own glass.

That awkward feeling you get ordering 'khao man gai' from a street vendor when it's the only thing he sells.

Looking at a Sukhumwit tailor's shop window display and wondering if the owner seriously knows the first thing about clothes

Landing at a provincial airport and walking head down, waving all the taxi touts away - then realising you need a taxi.

The restaurant has menus in both Thai and English. Your Thai partner has the Thai one. Why have you got the Thai one as well?

The larger the restaurant menu, the less time you'll get before the waiter returns with his pen and pad.

"gin por laaw" in Thai can mean "I have eaten" or "I have eaten my father" depending on how much of a mess you make of it.

Wondering how a taxi driver can drive around in such a hot car without passing out.

Wondering if the heavily pregnant waitress is going to give birth halfway through taking your order.

That irritating moment when a stranger in a shirt and tie approaches you on Silom Rd and asks where you are going.

Ordering a Pepsi refill and waddling out of the restaurant vowing never to drink Pepsi as long as thou shalt live.

Getting caught behind the three foot wide Arab tourist and his four foot wide wife in the lower Sukhumwit area

What's with the dolly bird in the micro mini-skirt and white boots who is there to promote beer in a 'normal' family restaurant?

Having sympathy yet still wondering how a blind person, a microphone and an amplifier can combine to make such a racket.

Wondering how many times the person on the other end of the phone can say 'hello' before getting bored.

One of those opportunist taxi drivers who shouts out "I take you go Pattaya" as you walk down a Bangkok street.

The look of horror on a Thai person's face when someone suggests going to an Indian restaurant

One of those shophouses where there's a shiny imported car outside and inside the family are sitting on wooden boxes.

One of those retail outlets where the staff are far more interested in eating food than actually selling you anything

One of those 500 baht a night hotel rooms where all the chipboard furniture is still covered in cellophane

That breed of farang who blocks the skytrain doors and talks incessantly into his phone about trying to contact Bob in Milan

The slightly uneasy feeling you get when a monk is about to invade your personal space

That lovely surprise when you sit in a taxi and the driver and the ID photo on the dashboard are exactly the same man.

The arduous task of getting from seat to door on a crowded skytrain without stepping on someone's foot

Puzzling over Thailand's obsession with the fax machine, despite the rest of the world giving it up 20 years ago.

That breed of Thai male who has a beard and beads, a Bob Marley wristband and spends far too much time strumming a guitar

The urge to say "just tell me I will understand" to a streetseller who insists on tapping every price into a calculator.

The stick-thin nursing sister at your favorite hospital who nods but clearly doesn't understand a word you're saying.

Shopping in Tesco Lotus and getting stuck in an aisle behind the family having a day out.

One of those soul-destroying sois where every shop either repairs motorcycles or does something with sheet metal.

The kindly taxi driver who excitedly reaches for his Best of the Bee Gees cassette as soon as a farang gets in.

Being totally in awe of the amount of time a Thai person is willing to spend analyzing a restaurant bill.

Leaving your MP3 player at the dealers for repair and knowing you probably won't see it for another three months.

Never really getting used to the fact that a driver flashing his headlights means get the f*** out of my way.

Looking around and noticing you're the only person in the post office who licks stamps.

Wondering if there's any sense in constantly writing 'amphur muang' on envelopes.

Let's all leave at 7am. Yeah! Me too! Count me in as well! And me! Whaahey! 10am arrives - so how many people are we still waiting for?

One of those dreadful soap operas with lots of shouting, crying, dramatic music and Thai girls getting slapped by Thai men.

The utter chaos and panic that takes place in a skytrain carriage when a monk gets on board.

One of those annoying motorists who emerges from a driveway and completely blocks your way on the footpath.

Wondering why the English version of a menu is ten times smaller than the Thai one and wondering what you're missing out on?

That excruciatingly painful stoop you have to adopt if you're a tall person riding on a crowded songthaew.

Eating in a cheap Thai restaurant and accidentally getting a glimpse into the kitchen - and wishing you hadn't.

That awful sinking feeling when you wake up and know that sometime during the day, you need to go to Pantip Plaza.

Taking one look at the Indian peanut seller's personal hygiene and deciding you're going to pass on the peanuts.


"Wondering how many times the person on the other end of the phone can say 'hello' before getting bored."

It's not just me then.... "ARAI WAH! ARAI WAH!" What a curious species!

By Berty Basset, My Sofa (30th July 2013)

Few things like this bother or surprise me, but there's one you missed i.e. the dreaded escalator user who has to stop and look down at their feet before stepping on and/or just stands there once they have stepped off.

By Frank Deville, Bangkok (21st July 2013)

"but most aren’t actually dilemmas"

Well, no perhaps they're not, but hair-splitting aside, I guess they needed to be called something and I think Thai dilemmas is as good a title as any.

By philip, (16th July 2013)

These are quite funny, particularly the observation about old ladies covered in talc, but most aren't actually dilemmas...

The reason that no-one licks stamps is because the King's head is on the other side, and so it's considered disrespectful. The little green pots with sponges in (usually dry) or sticks of glue covered in glitter and dust should be used instead.

By Phil, Way down south (15th July 2013)

Good one, quite a few ring a bell.

"Let's all leave at 7am. Yeah! Me too! Count me in as well! And me! Whaahey! 10am arrives - so how many people are we still waiting for?"

I found that when told "we're having a meeting at 10 AM tomorrow morning" the meeting would generally happen two or three days later, no one would bother to tell any of the f-rangs (not out of ignorance, just unthinkingly). Eventually I came to wonder if they have some telepathic sense of time and just meet whenever the right time comes. Buddha time.

By Sam, near Shanghai (10th July 2013)

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