I just came back to Houston a week ago. It’s after I visited Thailand for an a half year.
I was born in Thailand. My parents are Thai. My relatives are Thai. Absolutely I am 100% Thai. I had lived in Thailand for all my life and I just moved to the States few years ago. Then my view about driving a car had been changed.
Thai government, Thai people (mostly), Thai media (mostly), and Thai nationalism try to portrait the picture of Thai people that they are very nice, very kind, always smile, all the time. … Oh yes I agree with them, mostly. Howevery it is not when Thai people are behind the wheel.
It was difficult for me at first when I moved to the US and driving my car on the freeway for the first time. Every cars stay on their lanes. I didn’t see one wandering from left to right at the curve. That was totally different from where I came from, Thailand.
In Thailand when you drive to the curve on the road that has two lanes which is going to the left, most cars “nomally” keep driving on the right lane and then when the car approaching to the curve they will cut the curve to the left lane and then leave the curve. It happens like this most of the time. So when you drive you car on the left lane and there is another car on the right lane side by side. You need to be prepare to be cut off.
Another example for more understanding. If people turn on their turn signal light, in Thailand it doesn’t mean they’re asking you to get in your lane, but they’re telling you “get back and go away I’m getting in!!!!”.
You might say it happens like this around the world, not only Thailand. Yes, it might be but it doesn’t make me feel awkward with those behaviors. It’s because everyone do that most of the time, even me.
First I moved to live in New York state, then I moved to Houston, Texas. It is different but not too different from each other. However it is totally different from Thailand.
I have to confess I was shocked when I saw a real bad traffic on the loop in Houston. However the thing that made me more than shock is nobody drive on pavement. Yes you read correctly In Thailand they drive on the pavement if the traffic is bad. Worst than that in Bangkok you might see people riding motorcycles on the footpath or sidewalk.
Those bad behaviors are unacceptable in Thailand but the problem is Thai people tend to keep silent. They don’t speak out. They don’t yelling. Did I tell you that I people are very nice and shy? So this bad things still happen.
You might have a question. Where is the police? I don’t really know where are they. When people beak the law on the road you would not see the police. You would see them hinding behind the trees, the poles, traffic signs, or the corner of the building. Then they might jump out when you are about few feet from him and stop you, and walking around your car, your bike, and try to find something wrong, and give you a ticket, or give you a “negociation”. That is the place you would see the police.
In New York, I have some Thai friends who were ticketed by cops. None of them said anything about negociation or a bribe. They were fined from driving over speed limit mostly. I think it’s because no one cares about speed limit in Thailand. Oh yeah, me too.
In Thailand if you have a sport cars that you could drive 200km/hr, please be my guest. You could do it as long as there is no police stop you. Normally no one cares how fast that you drive. They might quietly cursing but nothing more than that. The polices might give you a ticket if they saw you but the fine is just $20-$30. So who cares. Is that a chaos? Yes, it is. But like I said Thai people are so kind. They don’t think this is a serious problem.
In front of schools, they “might” have a crosswalk but nobody stops. In Thailand vihecles have more right of ways more than pedestrians, practically. So they built a bridge for pedestrians to cross the road. Even the road is ten or twenty feet wide. Absolutely, on one cares about people with disabilities.
I call these “third word problems”.
During the time I visited Thailand I tried to drive like I drive in the US. I tried to follow the law. I tried to stop at the crosswalk when I saw a pedestrian there. But it made me feel like I was a weirdo which I understand why. So I felt very awkward everytime people bow to me when I stopped at the crosswalk. It was like they don’t have right to cross the road. That was very awkward for me.
I write this article not because I think americans are perfect. There are some assoles on the road as well. But I just feel like most of of the people try to follow the law. They speak out if they saw some dickheads try to break the law. They use their horns if someone cut them off. They just don’t keep silent and let the bad behaviors happen.
I am going back to Thailand in next few months. I know nothing would change. All I can do now just do my best to follow the law and hoping there would be some Thais want to do the same.