The following is a mail sent to The Pattaya News. The opinions and statements within are their own.
My name is Darren and I recently returned to Thailand after being away for what was originally a business trip in early March. Like many, borders closed and I was stuck abroad until recently, finally managing to go through the complex requirements and quarantine to return.
However, this mail isn’t about that, the experience of going through the process to get back in, the quarantine hotel experience, all the hoops to jump through, etc. A lot has been written about that, especially on social media groups.
What hasn’t been written about, however, is the absolute culture shock of coming from a country that has had on again/off again covid-19 measures, restrictions, business closures, lockdowns, curfews, strict fines for not social distancing, mandatory mask wearing fines, etc, etc for months and months to what Thailand is currently.
It is also about how this “culture shock” may affect tourists and many people for a long, long time.
Yes, in Thailand some people are wearing masks. Here and there you have to check in. There is hand sanitizer available if you want it. But for the most part everything is open, everything is normal. You can go to a nightclub, you can go walk around hundreds in markets, stand with hundreds on public transportation, go to concerts, go to a football game if you wish, etc. It was a very, very tough adjustment for me which got me thinking…how many other people will have this same experience when they return?
Thailand is in an almost unique position, shared by only a few other countries, in which the pandemic has not hit them that hard. Yes I heard about the difficult three and a half month lockdown they had which was hard enforced. But unlike where I came from which has had constantly renewing restrictions and measures and percentages allowed in business or has never allowed reopening of nightlife or events or sports, Thailand has. And it’s basically the old normal. And it’s scared me that I’ve found it difficult to adapt, even though this has only been going on this year.
I’m curious how many other people will have this same experience? How many others will feel uncomfortable around other people? I went to a nightclub in Pattaya for the first time since February and I felt very uncomfortable, almost like I thought I was doing something wrong. I eventually had to leave as I got a feeling of almost anxiety. I’m sure I will get over this, but it concerned me that I had adapted these feelings after only a short period of time. I went to a bar and met a few friends of mine and all offered handshakes or hugs, something that has vanished where I came from. I felt very uncomfortable.
Thailand is very lucky (and hopefully stays this way) to be in the position it is in. But it will also have the unique experience of having tourists come back who may be initially freaked out by being close to people once more or not having constant rules being enforced around social distancing. I’m wondering if this will cause more people to have psychological issues long term. I’m also wondering if some businesses should recognize this when borders reopen and respect the “space” of tourists as they return from countries with months or a year plus of restrictions to retain their business. Many, in my opinion, will suffer from the same culture shock I have which most Thai people and expats in the country seem to have not developed.
Thanks for listening.