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Is the wearing of shorts by a tourist in BKK considered a no-no?

Is the wearing of shorts by a tourist in BKK considered a no-no?

Old Jun 8, 02, 7:08 am
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Is the wearing of shorts by a tourist in BKK considered a no-no?

A thread in UA forum about wearing shorts in F class has expanded to wearing shorts in BKK. It is written that farangs wearing shorts in BKK are offensive, disrespectful and looked down upon by Thai people. Since I will be in BKK @ the end of this month for a vacation and had intended to wear shorts, I would appreciate clarification on this issue. Your comments will be appreciated!
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Old Jun 8, 02, 8:59 am
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A great many Western tourists in Thailand favor shorts.

In much of Asia however, especially in an urban environment, shorts are only deemed suitable for children or inconsequential people.

Light cotton trousers would be a good compromise, and help you pass for a resident foreigner, with the corresponding decrease in solicitations.
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Old Jun 8, 02, 12:15 pm
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It's my experience that it's no big deal to wear pants, even in hot season in BKK. If you're wearing pants, you may begin to think that farang in shorts look fairly silly.

If you're unsure, bring pants that zip off to convert to shorts.

Also, make sure that sandals have a strap in the back. That is, no flip flops.
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Old Jun 8, 02, 11:01 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by 1000k00:
A thread in UA forum about wearing shorts in F class has expanded to wearing shorts in BKK. It is written that farangs wearing shorts in BKK are offensive, disrespectful and looked down upon by Thai people. Since I will be in BKK @ the end of this month for a vacation and had intended to wear shorts, I would appreciate clarification on this issue. Your comments will be appreciated!</font>
I've discussed this with Thais before, and most will generally judge by age, type of farang (believe me, you do not want the literal translation of phrases used by Thais to describe certain types of farang, usually within earshot) and location. For example, 20's to early 30's, shorts OK for most farang in casual venues. Backpackers... Thais couldn't care less, especially in and around Khao San Road. Ultra-touristy locations such as Pattaya and Phuket, for example, are not considered to be serious parts of Thailand by Thais, and aside from the Buddhist wats and a few other sites, shorts are generally ignored.

Thais are extraordinarily adept at instinctively assessing social position and class, especially in a relative sense. When you watch Thais greet each other, note the subtle differences in the wai (fingertip elevation and depth of head bow), even among older and younger friends and relatives, not to mention superiors and underlings at work. They have only a slightly more challenging time judging farang. Outside of the situations listed above, any farang who wishes not to be looked down upon by Thais would be well advised not to wear shorts. Note however that there are numerous farang behaviors that are equivalent of wearing shorts.
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Old Jun 9, 02, 6:33 am
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Thanks for your input, shorts will be worn in HKT and Pattaya but not in BKK & CNX. Traveler would you care to list some of the numerous farang behaviors I should be aware of? Hopefully I am not too old to learn to be less offensive!
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Old Jun 9, 02, 8:35 am
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by 1000k00:
Traveler would you care to list some of the numerous farang behaviors I should be aware of?</font>
OK, but please don't shoot the messenger! Most of this comes from discussions in Thai, but I believe the translations are quite accurate. The following highlights are based on the presumed desire of a western foreigner to be respected and not to be taken as a (literal translation follows) lousy or low-end farang
  • Women should not wear slippers at all, and preferably wear a skirt and blouse with long sleeves (sheer sleeves on blouse acceptable)
  • Men should wear slacks, a belt (specifically mentioned by Thais), shoes, and a long-sleeved shirt. A tie would be even better.
  • No flip flops on the street at any time (unless you are pushing a cart and selling various cooked and fresh insects).
  • Do not walk fast. Rather, observe and try to blend in with the leisurely pace of Thais.
  • Do not walk with arms out, away from body, and (a slightly loose translation from Thai): don't look like you would be comfortable dragging your knuckles on the sidewalk.
  • Be polite!
This list is only for starters, and I'm sure that many would say that it is old-fashioned and overly conservative, and that they dress and act far more casually... but, as I witness all the time, I am doubly sure that such individuals have been the recipient of numerous derogatory comments spoken in Thai directly to their faces, from smiling Thais.
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Old Jun 9, 02, 8:58 am
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by rjh:
It's my experience that it's no big deal to wear pants, even in hot season in BKK. If you're wearing pants, you may begin to think that farang in shorts look fairly silly.</font>
Good for you, but for us "temperature-challenged" people, wearing pants when walking around from site to site when above 75 degrees F (let alone the humidity) is unthinkable. My ego certainly does not care if others think it silly, nor if it attracts the comments of the Thais.

Wearing pants or not, you still stick out and are a farang.

The only time I wore pants was at dinner if going to an "upscale" restaurant or if visiting wats.

If I was there for business, of course I would wear pants. But then I'm going from a car w/ A/C to a building w/ A/C etc. etc. I'm not walking miles to get to my meeting.

<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by UAL Traveler:
Thais are extraordinarily adept at instinctively assessing social position and class....</font>
Lucky for us, as a farang, you are "automatically" assigned a high social position and will be treated as such. If my "position" was knocked down a few pegs due to my shorts wearing, so be it, we never felt our treatment suffered because of this.

I was under the impression that the Thais we interacted with were very pleased due to our attempting to speak the language and adding the all important Krap or Kah to show an added level of respect.

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Old Jun 9, 02, 11:11 am
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by 1000k00:
... some of the numerous farang behaviors I should be aware of? ... </font>
If I may be permitted to add:
--Avoid loud voices
--Avoid displaying anger
--Avoid the inclination to dispute as sport. There are a lot of valid approaches to life, especially in places that have many "First World" indicators, but where you may not have the cultural context.
--Don't signal to people to come to your location with the index finger up. (That's how dogs are summoned.) Use the whole hand pointed down, with a sweeping motion.
--Beware that objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.
Rich
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Old Jun 9, 02, 11:20 am
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by Sweet Willie:
Lucky for us, as a farang, you are "automatically" assigned a high social position and will be treated as such.
</font>
Well, yes and no. Farang come in various varieties, and IME, Thais discriminate among them. For example, at the top of the farang heap are the native english-speakers. On first impression, Thais lump Americans together with Brits, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders (and rarely South Africans). It is the rare Thai - including those that are fluent in English and work for a western company - that can tell the difference among that group without asking. Next come the continental western Europeans... mainly Germans, French and Italians. Thais do differentiate these groups from Eastern Europeans, South Americans, Middle Easterners and (non South) Africans. As noted in a my previous post, I am simply the messenger… don’t shoot me!

IME, native English speakers (e.g. Americans) can rapidly earn a high social status through correct behavior, but it is by no means automatic. Some of the other groups mentioned have a bit more of a challenge earning such status. Of course, I am referring to real status, not the pretend stuff that Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) promotes for the guidebook writers, tour guides and hotel/restaurant operators.

<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">If my "position" was knocked down a few pegs due to my shorts wearing, so be it, we never felt our treatment suffered because of this.</font>
True, but this is due to the nature of Thais, compounded by the TAT and simple economics. Thais are expert at providing smiles and wais to farang, Asian foreigners, and to each other. Just don't expect a high percentage to be all that sincere. My classic example is the TG FA greeting boarding pax. She is outwardly pleasant and gracious... while often commenting on the boarding farang in upcountry Thai in off-color and sometimes pejorative terms.

<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">I was under the impression that the Thais we interacted with were very pleased due to our attempting to speak the language and adding the all important Krap or Kah to show an added level of respect.</font>
While it is very common for a Thai to smile and say pood Thai geng mak, khrup/kha (you speak Thai quite well), it is simply a common pleasantry. However, I realize that some of my comments might seem a bit harsh, and I would be the last person to discourage anyone from attempting to speak the language - with tones or not - as it is indeed a polite gesture. However, unless you are extremely fluent in idiomatic Bangkok Thai, I would suggest to use English with any Thai of high apparent status that knows English (e.g professionals, large business owners, Bangkok politicians, bank managers, and the supervisory staff at Don Muang airport of the airline on which you are trying to secure an upgrade

Edited to add: I hope that it doesn't seem like I am trying to come across as some kind of expert on Thai culture... After my first dozen or so visits to the Kingdom, I indeed felt that I knew something about Thais and their outlooks. Now, many years later, having observed much but absorbed little, I feel that I know far less than I did on my first visit.

[This message has been edited by UAL Traveler (edited 06-09-2002).]
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Old Jun 9, 02, 11:22 am
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by rjh:
If I may be permitted to add:
--Avoid loud voices
--Avoid displaying anger
--Avoid the inclination to dispute as sport. There are a lot of valid approaches to life, especially in places that have many "First World" indicators, but where you may not have the cultural context.
--Don't signal to people to come to your location with the index finger up. (That's how dogs are summoned.) Use the whole hand pointed down, with a sweeping motion.
--Beware that objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.
Rich
</font>
All excellent points.

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Old Jun 9, 02, 11:50 am
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by UAL Traveler:
... large business owners, Bangkok politicians, ...</font>

Did you mean to differentiate between these two groups?
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Old Jun 9, 02, 1:17 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by rjh:

Did you mean to differentiate between these two groups?
Rich
</font>
I see you've been to Thailand before
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Old Jun 9, 02, 7:19 pm
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by UAL Traveler:
However, I realize that some of my comments might seem a bit harsh...</font>
Not to me at least. I appreciate your insight, a little more "real" than the TAT books.

<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">...Just don't expect a high percentage to be all that sincere....</font>
Of that I could care less. I deal w/people everyday that I would rather not, that I think are pigs, mannerless or crude etc. etc. and I can only imagine that some on the other side of me feel the same way. As long as we reach an agreeable situation.

If you believe you're S_ _ _ doesn't stink, it does to someone.
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Old Jun 10, 02, 2:56 am
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What a great thread !

A traveller comes seeking knowledge, and is answered by various people, with advice, knowledge, opinion and humour

Isn't the 'Travel' forum a great place to hang out ?

Stewart

PS - Sunday brunch at the Sukhothai - yes or no ?
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Old Jun 10, 02, 8:37 am
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<font face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif" size="2">Originally posted by Stewie Mac:
PS - Sunday brunch at the Sukhothai - yes or no ?</font>
Yes. The Sukhothai is a very nice hotel for farang. It has a nice rectangular pond in the walkway, and many antiques reminiscent of the Sukhothai period back in the old days. The overall atmosphere is uniquely Thai - very calm and quiet - despite its Bangkok location. They also do a good brunch!

It is interesting to note that a significant number of highly educated Thais actually consider the hotel to be 'haunted,' and are afraid to go there. The reason is that from the outside, the hotel looks like an upscale, typical Bangkok hotel, and then they enter and see all these antiques and things that they have laying around their own house... and it frightens them. However, for farang it is a fine place, and you will enjoy it. I consider it to be a better choice than, say, the Penninsula, given its rather unique decor and 'charm.'

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