Culture shock from Thailand to the United States


At fifty-seven, I was a divorced man who didn't really like to spend the rest of my life alone. I decided to try online dating. I have always traveled the world and my two children were adults, so I could go where the wind blows.

After several false starts I found a wonderful woman in Thailand. She was the head of Public Relations and a psychologist working in a state hospital. We exchanged emails and talked on Skype for six months. I did two trips to Thailand, and a year later we got married in a traditional Thai ceremony. I had to return to the United States, but my wife could not travel until she obtained a visa. So I returned to Arkansas, where I worked as a database administrator and waited patiently for ten months.

Finally, her documents were approved, she passed a medical examination and an interview and joined me in America. Although she traveled to other parts of the world, she was never in the United States. She experienced culture shock, but I helped her through difficult times, for example when she failed her driving test twice.

Time zone shock

The first shock my wife experienced was climate change and jet lag. After a long flight through the Pacific Ocean, delayed luggage, hours spent waiting in line at immigration, and then another flight to Arkansas, she was tired and the cold November air in Los Angeles trembled. The time zone difference between Thailand and the United States is twelve hours, so the nights were awake and in the afternoon she felt drowsy.

Language shock

For forty years she spoke only Thai. Her alphabet is 44 letters, with 21 letters and 5 tones. Each Thai child starts learning Thai at primary school. High school requires four years of English. But her English lessons were limited to one hour per week, so she spoke only a few phrases and did not know the correct pronunciation. She also spoke in her community Isarn dialect of northeastern Thailand. In her youth, she had no chance to speak or practice English. She was lucky that she was employed in an international hotel for several years, so she managed to practice some English with her manager, who was from France. She also listened to English pop music and repeated the lyrics.

When she arrived in the US, all the natives spoke too quickly and used slang words she had never heard before. Every time she talked to an American in a grocery store, restaurant, or socializing with my family, she felt shy and embarrassed. In Thailand she was a leader, a well-known speaker. Here she was a child. Her senses must have absorbed all these new sounds. For a long time she suffered a loss of confidence and missed home.

Imagine her sensitive ears when they hear something like this for the first time:

" Do you feel good there Want to get out and get some things in the store? We have to do it and this. Hey, what's UPP? Do you think everything is ok? Okey-Doky? "

Comfortably? What is he talking about? Guys I'm a lady, not a guy. I'm fine, I'm not a donkey.

Every day she encountered more slang words and had to learn vocabulary. What should she say when she was introduced to someone else? She did not know American culture. In America, people liked eye contact. In Thailand, people don't make eye contact for a long time. Americans like to touch. In her culture she did not like when someone touched her body. Every day she had to concentrate to continue the conversation. Simple things that people take for granted have found new ones. Thailand uses the metric system. In the US, people use the British measuring system.
She often had to repeat what she said because people didn't understand her.

Car shock

It was a great shock for her. In Thailand, people drive a car on the left. She came to the USA and everyone was on the wrong side. Imagine her confusion. I bought her a car one day after her arrival and told her to go home by car. She didn't understand the rules about stop signs and what the middle lane was for. There are no speed limit signs in Thailand. So she had to learn many types of signs. Every time she led, she was nervous and confused. Sometimes it turned wrong. She wanted to turn right, but turned left once. Everyone needed a car in America. She wondered how she would survive.

Twice she failed the driver's driving test. The first time she missed too many questions, and the computer did not let her come back. She studied for the whole month. The second time she did better, but the questions were different. The third time she finally passed. She was nervous sitting with the officer during the road test.

He said: "Not bad. Watch out for blind spots. "

A week after receiving the driving license, she was happy to drive home when she was stopped by the police for speeding. Fortunately, the officer only gave her a warning.

She was relieved! She thanked the Buddha. Then she followed the signs. American law seemed very strict. In Thailand, people negotiate a settlement with an officer.

Some examples of confusing traffic signs:

PEDXING – what is this? Is that an Indian name?

EFFICIENCY – what does it mean? Does it mean to go If you stop, someone yells at you.

STOP – In Thailand it is for pedestrians. The cars don't stop.

SCHOOL ZONE – Do we have to be quiet?

PARKING FOR THE DISABLED – We don't have it in Thailand. VIP speaker or guest?

JOIN – Place of meeting? Rest area?

4WAY STOP – Main street has priority!

Food Shock

My wife had problems when she ordered food in most restaurants. Ordering food was a real challenge.

1. Ordering fast food restaurants at the counter. She thought she had to tip the server. She also didn't know that you had to pay before serving the meal.

In Kentucky Fried Chicken, she wanted to order fried chicken. So the trick is that if you want legs and thighs, you order "Dark Meat", and if you want breasts and wings, you order "White Meat". She wanted legs, but ordered thighs. She thought the leg was a thigh. For her, the leg is chicken feet.

The server asked: "Which side do you want?"

"What size? Small size because I don't eat too much. "


"I order 4 pieces. Small size."

"No, I mean the site. Which side do you want? "

"What is your size?"

"Beans, corn, white cabbage salad, mashed potatoes."

"Yes, corn."

"Corn on the cob or ordinary?"

What was she talking about now? Corn on a cup?

"Yes, I want sweet corn on the cup. A small cup. " Oh man. It gets confusing.

Food came and contained biscuits. My wife said, "I didn't order it. I didn't like it. "

"It comes with a meal."

"WELL." She ate thigh and corn on the cob.

She wanted to order fries in a fast food store. The server said it wasn't there. The fries were on the menu picture.

They said, "We have potato fries."

Is this the same She had to learn another term. She learned something every day.

2. Ordering "Drive Thru" She had problems passing. Once a store employee did not understand English pronunciation well, so her daughter was starving. Repeated five times without success.

3. Ordering "in a restaurant". The server will first offer a drink and then a complicated menu. She didn't understand all the menu items, but fortunately she liked trying new dishes. Once, she ordered salmon with white wine. She expected a glass of white wine, but the wine was used to cook salmon. Once she couldn't order alcohol because the waiter didn't believe he was forty. All customers who like to order alcohol must show an ID. In Thailand, they never ask for an ID.

The custom in the US is to include 10% tips in the bill. In Thailand, if you are not satisfied with the food you do not tip. In America, people usually talk about who will pay the bill. In Thailand, a rich member is expected to pay. If the group wants to negotiate who will pay, this should be done before eating.

Weather and snow shock

My wife comes from a land with a tropical climate. She never experienced snow. What a surprise to move to Arkansas and wake up one morning and see a white blanket of snow covering everything. At least in Arkansas there were mild winters, unlike the icy North, where snow could cover the ground for months.

During our first winter we had fun building a snowman and fighting for snowballs. But driving on icy roads was terrifying. Our house was in the steep hills, and sometimes I couldn't go to work for two or three days until the trucks arrived with dirt to melt the ice.

She bought very warm clothes, a heater, thick blankets, gloves and shoes to survive the winter.


Buying clothes was a challenge. Most Americans were bigger than my wife. She had to look into the teen section to find the right size. Sometimes she tried to order online, but the clothes arrived were too big. She had to sew her clothes. So she no longer bought so much on the Internet.

She saw a sign in the city called "Flea market". She knew what flea meant. But she wondered why people need fleas? For the garden? In Thailand, people just kill them. She went inside and saw old things, used clothes and trinkets. I explained that the flea market only sold small things.

Debit or credit and check accounts

Most Americans spent money by credit card, debit card or check. In Thailand, most people pay in cash and by bank transfer. My wife asked me why I didn't give her cash. I gave her a debit card and explained that it was easier and safer to pay everything by card. So wherever she went, she paid with a debit card. She was excited that she could buy almost anything with one stroke of the card. At the supermarket, the cashier asked her if she wanted to get the cash back. She said for sure that I want cash back to my account.

No! This meant that people could get cash from their cash register account. In Thailand, people only receive cash at an ATM.

Once she went to Drive through in the bank. She was amazed and confused. She expected to meet a bank teller and ask for help. Unfortunately, she went to the outer lane. In Thailand they don't have Drive Through services and she didn't know how to operate the machine. She saw a round cylinder in a tube. How can I open it? She thought it might be the same as ordering food during a trip. She was communicating with an officer outside the window through a loudspeaker. She felt like a turtle. But the officer patiently explained how to operate the machine and made the first transit transaction. I laughed when I heard the story.

Vending machines were another secret during her first few months. The machine said, put in four quarters. What was a quarter? She had to learn the value of coins. Machines were also complicated. She had to learn how to use a washing machine, dryer, stove, fireplace, air conditioning, TV remote control, oven, dishwasher and disposal.

Buy in a grocery store

Shopping was fun, but buying groceries was so complicated. She had to learn about many types of new food. When she lived alone in Thailand, she usually bought meals from street vendors or ate in restaurants. In Thailand, food was cheaper. Now she had to learn to cook.

She liked to eat healthy food. He doesn't like junk food, sandwiches, hamburgers or pizza. She collected recipes and watched cooking programs. I liked Thai food, so I ate and liked everything she cooked.
She found Oriental markets and learned to cook from her mother and sister on Skype and learned from an online food channel.

The cost of food in the US was very expensive. Prices shocked her. For example, in Thailand, a bunch of bananas costs a quarter. In addition, she had a banana tree in her garden. In the oriental store it was almost four dollars. She didn't want to pay for it, but she wanted to eat it. Oriental Store did not contain all the meat, sauce and other items I needed. So she created her own recipes for Thai dishes. She had to be creative and learn to use the oven, dishwasher and strange Western kitchen gadgets. At least she could buy a rice pot and a steam pot. Rice was an essential part of every meal. She couldn't find the hot pot in the stores, so she found it online.

Medical shock

The cost of healthcare and dental care in America was so expensive. She wanted to order birth control pills. She couldn't without a prescription. In Thailand, people can buy tablets at the pharmacy without a prescription. She went to the dentist for annual cleaning, and he counted twenty dollars. In Thailand, the cost would be two hundred baht, or six dollars.

She went to the test because of a bad cough. The nurse asked her where do you want to pick up the medicine?

She said, "Here at the hospital."

The nurse said they didn't have medicine here.

What? This is a large hospital in the US. Why don't you have medicines? In Thailand, people can take medicine at a hospital pharmacy like the "one stop" service.

Then the woman told her that she had to choose the location of the pharmacy.

"Can I choose Walmart?"

The woman asked, "Which Walmart?"

She said the one close to Walmart's home office. She went for medicine at Walmart Superstore, near Walmart Home Office.

Shocked again! At the pharmacy, people lined up to meet the pharmacist at the window, and there were many ways to get medicine. On what line did she have to stand? Pick up the line, blow up or over the counter? What drug would she get? She really needed her medicine now.

She stood in a queue, talked to a pharmacy employee and gave them her prescription. The person behind the counter said her medicine was not here.

How could this happen? She took a deep breath.

The clerk told her that she must go to the Walmart Home Office pharmacy store.

Oh brother Please, I need medicine now. She didn't know there was a pharmacy in the supermarket and a pharmacy in Walmart's home office. So she drove a car and used a GPS navigator. She arrived at Walmart's home office and finally got the medicine! Whoopee!

How to get a job

My wife wanted to bring food home, pay bills and make her child proud of her too. She had 15 years of experience in marketing and public relations, but in America she had to start over. Knowledge of English was not perfect, which is why many employers refused to provide it. What work could she do in America? She took a physical therapy course, but we lived in a small town and there were several holes. She thought about getting a degree, but the cost was too high. She already had a master's degree in psychology, but was not recognized in the United States

She finally found a job supervising people with disabilities. And she started a home business.

Stay calm

So for other people who experience culture shock, her advice is: keep calm. You win. She prayed to the Buddha and meditated, listened to relaxing music, went to exercise at the gym, began to play tennis and made new friends. She sought Thai people in the community, cared for her garden, and soon felt at home in America. She remodeled the house and talked to her family in Thailand every week using Skype & # 39; a. I was a good listener and explained her many things. I liked her Thai dishes.

So keep a positive attitude, do not be afraid of culture shock. You will experience it and choose a stronger and happier person.