How to be a Bangkok local: 10 tips on faking it

How to be a Bangkok local: 10 tips on faking it

Hog the escalator, dress like a K-Pop star and other easy ways to look like you're a born-and-bred Bangkokian

As one of the world's most visited cities, Bangkok and its people continue to be judged by long-ingrained stereotypes.

But contrary to popular belief, we don't all work in a bar. Nor are we all hard-core Buddhists who go to the temple every morning to make merit. And guess what? Sometimes we don't smile.

That said, there are a few common traits that unite Bangkok's younger generation. Follow these tips and you'll fit in with the cool kids in no time.

 

10. How to dress 

Have no fear, ladies. Bangkok boutiques are filled with dresses like these worn by K-Pop band "A Pink." Boys: A polo shirt (anything from Ralph Lauren, Paul Smith or Comme des Garçons), board shorts and sandals.

It doesn’t matter if you’re going to the beach or a five-star hotel brunch. Sandals are key. Don’t forget to put the collar up on that polo shirt.

Girls: Pick your favorite K-Pop girl group and try your best to look like one of its members, even if it means going under the knife.

Plastic surgery might not be as ubiquitous in Bangkok as it is in South Korea, but we're making progress.

Must-have accessories: a handbag that costs more than six months' rent (Chanel, Mulberry, Hermès, Louis Vuitton or Coach) and a bright pink iPad.

More on CNNGo: How to be a Seoul local

9. How to pick a restaurant

Street food is an acceptable option for Bangkokians when a) you’re a student b) when you’re on your one-hour lunch break from the office and c) when you’re drunk at 2 a.m.

Otherwise, find the most ridiculously expensive, opulently decorated, unbelievably inauthentic French/Italian/Japanese/Thai fusion "bistro" to quell your appetite. Preferably in Bangkok's trendy Thonglor area or your neighborhood "community mall."

Don’t forget to put sweetened mayonnaise on your sushi, ketchup on your pizza and Instagram every dish you order.

More on CNNGo: The rise of Bangkok's indie eating scene

8. How to use the BTS SkyTrain

They might look calm now. But wait till those doors open. Once on the platform, queue up neatly behind the yellow line while waiting for the train to arrive.

When it pulls in, don’t wait for people to exit the train. Destroy that semblance of order as you race away from your position in the queue, pushing everyone aside so you can get in first. (This technique is also widely used outside city elevators.)

Once inside, if there’s no seat, find a pole and lean your whole body against it for stability. Doesn't matter if people are holding it. Your comfort is of the utmost importance.

But aggressive behaviors aside, Bangkokians aren't heartless. So if you happen to see a pregnant woman, an elderly person or a mom with a small child enter your car, don't pretend to be asleep.

Rarely will someone not give up his or her seat to a rider in need. And that includes the tired-looking hot chick teetering on her stilettos. 

7. How to be vitamin D deficient

In Thailand, light skin is prized. Carry an umbrella with you at all times to make sure the sun's rays never have a chance to alter your skin's pigmentation.

If you don't have one, shield your face with a book or purse when walking on the street.

Invest in whitening creams. Put on underarm whitening deodorants. Buy a tacky fake tattoo sleeve so your skin doesn't get tanned when you're driving.

And for heaven's sake, don't hit the hotel swimming pool until the sun has disappeared behind the building.

6. How to drink

Don't know the difference between a shiraz and a merlot? Pretend you're too busy taking a photo for Instagram to comment on the wine selection. Wine bars are in. You don’t have to know about wine (no one here does), just order a glass of the most exotic sounding name on the list. 

Swirl it and smell it and murmur, “Hmmm, that’s a good wine” before ordering a whole bottle of the refrigerated red. Yes, refrigerated.

Also, don’t forget to add ice to your beer and water down your whiskey until it’s the color of chamomile tea.


5. How to deal with a difficult situation

You made a mistake at the office? Step on someone’s toes? Don’t know the answer to a question?

Never admit your mistakes. It’s a sign of weakness.

When in doubt, feign ignorance, give that big, world-renowned Thai smile and go to your inner happy place.  

4. How to communicate

Getting your photo taken while you "wai" Ronald McDonald is a dead "I'm a tourist" giveaway. Everyone is family. The waitress is your sister (nong), the cab driver is your uncle (loong) and the lady selling pad Thai your aunt (bpaa).

The "wai" is the traditional Thai greeting. Put your hands together in a prayer-like position and give a bow. Culture dictates that the younger person wais the older one when greeting them. 

It's also a nice way to say "thank-you" but don’t go around wai-ing everyone. Locals might think it's cute when tourists do that, but it's an instant sign you're a noob.

Ladies, when speaking end everything in "ka." Boys say "krup."

No matter what you're saying, it softens it and makes it polite. For example: "Your body odor makes me nauseous, ka."

"I don't like you, krup."

When sending text messages or commenting on Facebook posts, use "555" to say "ha ha ha." The Thai word for five is pronounced "ha." 

Get it? "That's so funny, 555."

3. How to name yourself

Nobody in Bangkok -- or Thailand, for that matter -- goes by their real first name. You wouldn't either if your moniker was 20 letters long.

Fit in by giving yourself a quirky nickname. Car brands are popular. Want to drive a Mercedes? We'll call you "Benz."

Like to eat apples? "Apple" it is.

Nothing is too strange as long as it's limited to one or two syllables. 

2. How to explore the city

Tuk-tuks are great for transporting cargo. And that's about it. Never ride a tuk-tuk unless you need to carry a load of vegetables from the market.

Go everywhere by car even if a BTS station is just a one-block walk away from where you are.

Drive. Take a taxi. Do anything to avoid the heat even if it means being stuck in traffic for two hours.

And don't be surprised when your taxi won't take you where you want to go. In busy places like Siam or Silom, taxis at the end of their shift want a quick fare. Some can't be bothered getting stuck in the traffic.

If your driver offers you a flat rate instead of turning on the meter, simply get out and find another. A local would never ride in a meter-free taxi.

1. How to ride the escalators

Not in Bangkok: even Tokyo's Stormtroopers follow the "stand left, walk right" escalator rule. In some global cities, passengers stand on a designated side of the escalator, allowing anyone in a rush to make their way up the other side.

Don't do that here. Nobody is in a hurry. Stand in the middle of the stairs.

If someone says "excuse me," make it clear you find their rushing socially abhorrent by rolling your eyes at them.

Share your own tips on how to fit in with the locals in Bangkok in the comments box below.  

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