This is installment 3 of 3 of Carla's Blog post on a woman’s perspective, living and working in Thailand. Feel free to email Carla at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We come from far-off countries with different ways of doing things. So it helps to recognize local culture and norms. These can read like a regime of do's and don'ts, but recognizing basic courtesies will help bring you quiet acknowledgment from folk you pass by, and easily offered help on the smallest matter when you want it.
Cover up - please wear a bra at all times. Thailand isn't California, and it makes sense to recognize different attitudes to what is good and bad taste.
Being topless on the beach is a no-no. Do not wear tank tops or shorts when visiting temples.
You will be teaching young boys and girls, so be sure you don't reveal cleavage and thighs in the classroom. It might seem conservative to you, but you are bringing to your classroom the best of the West - not what the kids' parents might think is the worst.
It is recommended that you buy teachers' skirts and a plain white blouse. They are very cheap and will never get you into trouble with or offend your co-workers. You can find them in any street market for less than $5 dollars.
More generally, don't do things you wouldn't do back home.
That can be tough, given your new-found freedom. You will want to experiment a little bit, let your hair down. However, public intoxication, for example, is never ok. You have to remember that you are in a different country; foreigners already have a reputation for being potentially disturbing.
And the locals are not always angels - so don't walk around with that $1,000 in your pocket. Pick pocketing does happen quite often especially in areas flooded with tourists so leave your passport at home and carry a copy instead.
If you accept a drink from a stranger, make sure it's a bottled or canned beer that you see opened.
Thais have a well-earned reputation for being endearingly and genuinely friendly. If someone touches your arm, it’s not sexual harassment.
However, Thai men tend to be shy comparatively and certainly respectful. And it’s ok to have dinner with strangers - I do it all the time! It is often unavoidable. Street food is cheap, tables are often crowded. And when eating among friends, it is the norm for everyone to help themselves from common bowls of soup or plates of chicken. So you will quickly learn to share food, and in the process pick up a few words in Thai and make new friends.
Getting around: transport can be remarkably cheap, particularly buses and communal taxis. Tuk-tuks are fun, can be scary, and can be expensive. Make sure you ask the price for your destination before you get on. Motorbikes are cheaper, but can take some getting used to. If you reckon yours is going too fast, tap on the driver's shoulder and wave him to stop or slow down. Prices are generally negotiated before you get on the bike. After a few days, you will have a fair idea of the general going rates.
Taxis are generally safe. In Bangkok, they are metered, and are not unduly expensive - but make sure the meter is always on.
If you are taking a cab after midnight, you can negotiate prices with cabdrivers. If you encounter a moody driver (it can happen at the end of their shifts, when they have to change with another driver at a predesignated time and place), you can always take the next one. Still, as in any city, it always makes sense to play safe. So it is recommended that you sit in the back. Play with your phone, text a friend. Pretend to be talking to someone or better yet, talk to someone! Have your address in hand.
And last but not least - shopping. Bangkok has phenomenal shopping malls. Some are more glitzy than others, but they all have bargains, and many have top-end international brand-name outlets. If you want to spend $100 in Zara, you can. If you want to spend $10 on an entire outfit at a street market, you can - and can often haggle the price even lower.
However, it is difficult to find good bras and underwear in street markets, so pack light - but pack wisely.
You will have a one-month break in October. Your long break will be in March – May. There are plenty of activities to do during break. They include volunteering across Southeast Asia, English camps, acting gigs or relaxing in the islands. This might be the first time you will be traveling solo since you arrived in Thailand - it doesn't mean you will be traveling alone. You will meet plenty of people along your way who will become friends and traveling companions. And you will already have plenty of experiences to share with them.
You can email Carla directly, or enter your comments or questions below. We have embedded three videos you can watch about the Teach in Thailand experience with GeoVisions. Two of those videos are by Carla Gott.