Sleepless in Bangkok

Considering personal targets in life, everyone determines different ambitions. In which direction you want to throw yourself is up to you and reflects the magical varieties human beings possess. Speaking for myself, after graduating with the Bachelor’s Degree I was eager to gain more professional experience, preferably abroad. Hence, the desire to ‘transform it into reality’ led to a seat in the airplane towards Bangkok. After roughly eleven hours I finally arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport, slightly overtired. As I was picked up by another intern, Leonie, it got totally convenient later. From her I received useful information in order to start my Thai chapter right.

The first one referred to the so-called ‘big traffic’. Among numerous motorbikes, Tuk Tuk’s and taxis you are forced to take care of yourself. The official number of subscribed seven million cars cannot illustrate the perceived number of vehicles. Certainly, it took a few days for me to get used to the chaotic scenes on the streets, but I fell in love with these surroundings faster than expected. Mainly to consider: Keep calm and finish it, when you go for something, even crossing the street. Otherwise everyone else gets confused.

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Quite close to the ‘wild’ scenes on the streets, there is an area to calm down: The streetfood places. Whether you like it or rather avoid it, it corresponds to one of the most essential things for Bangkok experiences. Sure, you cannot be selectively aware of the ingredients, but still, the actual taste is important. Since you show your curiosity and interest, you will appreciate sitting on streets, having an incredibly tasty fruit shake by your side, finally combined with the convenient weather and atmosphere. Undoubtedly, I felt familiar with the conditions and the Thai kindness quickly.

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By the way, my temporary home, the serviced apartment ‘Purita’, is situated right in the heart of Sathorn, a well-known business district. Walking distance to our office becomes possible. Thanks to that, especially in the rush hours the skytrain can be avoided. Interns of several companies such as Mercedes Benz or Bosch live in there as well. Cleaning ladies take care of our rooms weekly and the Purita’s rooftop provides quite an exceptional view of the skyscrapers around.

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On the first day of my professional experience, it took me around ten minutes to overcome the distance to the office from my accommodation. Equipped with pineapples, watermelons or grilled chicken for breakfast, I reached the impressive AIA Sathorn tower, took the automated elevator and arrived at the German-Thai Chamber of Commerce (GTCC) which welcomes you with a brand new office at the 14th floor.

Same to others’ usual first day, I was introduced to all employees, mostly Thai and super friendly. On the one hand that corresponds to an absolute advantage, otherwise also to a crucial challenge: The combination of Thai names in line with special nicknames and salutations such as „Khun“ or „Pi“ made me even more admit that I could not memorize everything.

As a group of GTCC interns and colleagues, we usually spend our lunch break close to the tower. Immediately I found myself cowering next to the streetfood environment and its wide assortment. In European countries, restaurants put all their effort into serving the dishes roughly at the same time, so everybody starts eating simultaneously. But in Bangkok, the food arrives at different times, so that everybody starts eating once he/she receives the dish. As far as I can assess, it is an easy system and more convenient for all parties.

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Back in the office, the cool temperature of its centrally controlled air con is already waiting. What firstly might sound tempting due to the flourishing heat outdoor, it sometimes even causes us to bring scarfs and coats indoor. In order to speak about this and approach colleagues in general, the main language English is absolutely sufficient and makes it simple to get in contact with all the employees quickly. However, the knowledge of a few Thai words such as salutations, numbers or just the expression of gratitude also could be worth it and shows the eagerness to become familiar with the charming Thai way of life. Although I absolutely like to challenge myself in ordering food or throwing phrases in Thai through the office, the essential thing that needs to be considered is the pronunciation. Even there is one single spelling (in English), the word can have up to five different meanings, respectively depending on the emphasis. So please not to try to order bananas in Thai, that might be offensive.

Thailand’s national anthem is supposed to be mentioned as well. Possibly aware of the fact that the song is played at least two times (8 am and 6 pm) daily in the public, as a European (“farang”) you can get surprised anyway. For example, normally Thai people stop moving once the song comes up. In case you continue walking, a number of people filling entire markets, promenades or shopping malls will look at you as if you are aliens.

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Nevertheless, do not worry about circumstances that you are going to face after the arrival in the second most visited city of the world. Thai kindness is omnipresent and you can absolutely survive by using the popular ‘body language’, a friendly appearance or/and an optimistic mood. If city vibe or countryside, if speaking with monks in the train or searching for a fuel station in the rain, everywhere, you surely will find helpful minds and encounter the most known attribute of the country: The smile =)

Timo Behrmann

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