Child monk walking away from tourists

How to Become a Local in Thailand

Smile along with the Thai in The Land of Smiles

Thailand is known as ‘The Land of Smiles’ thanks to the super friendly Thai people. The Thai locals are a great example on how to be nice to others. Our Phuket student Angelina shares some of her most valuable tips on how you can get out of the tourist bubble and become a local in Thailand. Let´s tune in and see what she has to say…

1. Visit and explore the local markets

A man in a blue shirt is buying food on the Thai food market in Phuket. Visit and explore one of the many night markets. It will be an experience worth to remember! Photo by Zach Inglis / CC BY

If you want to become a local, you may start by visiting some of the close-by night markets. In Phuket you have for example Naka Market, Chillva Market or the Phuket Old town Sunday Market. They are all located close to the Prince of Songkla University.

Night markets are usually very busy and chaotic, but you will enjoy it. It’s really worth the experience. Also, try to bargain with the vendors. Usually, they will try to charge you a higher price because of your western appearance. Don’t be shy and don’t accept unreasonable prices!

2. Get familiar with the local food

Someone is holding two bowls with noodles and a notebook with a pen on top are laying on a marmer table in Thailand. Delicious food can be found at every corner in Thailand! Photo by The Creative Exchange / CC BY

There are heaps of local dishes you need to try, including fried ice-cream, Dim sum or Papaya salad. Apart from that, there are a lot of local restaurants serving sticky rice, grilled fish or Pad Thai. Do not let fear of getting food poisoning stop you!

3. Get around with a scooter

A woman in a yellow coat is driving a scooter in Thailand. If you rent a scooter, always remember to wear a helmet and follow the traffic rules! Photo by Selwyn van Haaren / CC BY

In order to experience the real Thai lifestyle in Phuket, make sure you rent a scooter to get around. It’s a really convenient way to discover the area. Don’t be scared, even if you have never ridden a scooter before – you can learn it very quickly and it’s heaps of fun. Just remember to always wear a helmet, be aware of your surrounding and follow the speed signs!

4. Learn the basics of Thai language

A smiling Asian woman is wearing a Nón Lá in Thailand. Try to meet and connect with the Thai locals and get out of your tourist bubble! Photo by Boudewijn Huysmans / CC BY

In order to get an insight into Thai culture and the people, try to meet Thai people from or outside the university. If you study in Phuket, you should take part in the university’s buddy program. Your buddy will make sure you get out of the tourist bubble!

Do not get frustrated if Thai people act shy in the beginning. Just keep on going and you will see that they are really nice people to be around. Usually, it takes a little longer to “break the ice” and to get along, but this is just how some Thai people connect and communicate to Westerners.

You might also be interested in: Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Study in Thailand!

You should try to learn some basic Thai words. The university in Phuket offers beginner classes so try to take part in those. Basics like “mai ped” (not spicy) “ped mak” (very spicy), “sawasdee” (hello) or “khop-khun kha” (thank you) will show Thai people that you are looking for connection and prove your interest in their culture.

By simply adding “khop-khun kha” in a local restaurant when receiving your order, Thai peoples’ face will light up, and usually they will ask where you come from and what you do in Thailand.

5. Surround yourself with locals

A Thai man is looking over his shoulder into the camera while he is driving a tuktuk in Phuket. It is the most efficient way to really understand and get to know the Thai culture. Photo by Ryan Tang / CC BY

Another way to become a local is to live in the dormitory on the university campus. There you will find Thai friends and get involved in their routine and daily life quickly.

Try to spend most of your time with Thai people. It’s the best way to understand why they act the way they do. You will realize that some behavior is really different from what you know. Respect is very important in Thailand and you will see how much it means to Thai people.

6. Take part in cultural events and activities

A woman is holding an illuminated lampion with thousands of other lampions in the background in Thailand. The floating lantern festival is a must-see for any traveler or student in Thailand! Photo by Austin Neill / CC BY

You should also try the Thai wellness, including spa and massages. If you look for the real experience, try the Thai massage. Thai wellness is a big part of the culture and it is really enjoyable, make sure you try it as often as you can.

Moreover, pay attention to special events that take place like Krathong Festival, the Vegetarian Festival or the Thailand New Year, named Songkran Festival.

Phuket is perfect for students who like an exotic, warm and convenient location with good travel connections to Southeast Asia.

Find out more about studying abroad in Phuket

Asia Exchange is a Finnish company providing study abroad opportunities in Asia Pacific for students from all around the world. Want to get travel tips and new blog posts straight to your inbox? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter! If you have any questions about studying abroad, feel free to contact us! We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

This text was written by our Phuket student Angelina.


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