Sunday, 11 October 2009

Drinking with Thais

In my younger days I was quite an accomplished boozer. It is part of our British ‘culture’. We often drink ourselves senseless. In fact, we take great pride in our ability to get absolutely hammered and then shake off the after effects and do exactly the same thing the next day. Well that was when I was younger.

As you get a little older, you have to accept that you can’t handle the same drinking pace. You need to slow down because you can’t shake off the after effects the way you once did. A major drinking session for me nowadays can mean the entire next day is a write off while I try to recover from the hangover. That is not to say I no longer do major boozing sessions but they are rarer events than they once were. I still enjoy a drinking session but these days they tend to be more moderated.

Mostly I drink with friends from England or other western countries but sometimes I find myself joining a drinking session with my wife and some of her Thai friends. This has been happening more often recently since she opened her little Thai restaurant (full credit to her – she is still going with this long after I thought she would have given up). Well it is quite easy to be drawn into a few drinks with the locals. They are often quick to push a glass into your hands.

Drinking with Thais is a little different. If they are drinking beer they do not each have their own bottle the way we would in a western drinking session. Instead, they buy big bottles of beer and share them around by constantly topping up each person’s glass. This is similar to the way they eat food – putting all the dishes in the middle and everyone tucks in. I guess in a way it is more sociable. It also means everyone can drink at their own pace instead of trying to keep up with the rounds.

Perhaps more often, they will be drinking Thai whisky or rum. They mix it with ice, soda and coke. They think this is cheaper than drinking beer. A Thai bottle of whisky/rum tends to be under 200-baht. Even with the mixers, this is a cheap way for a group of people to drink. I still prefer to drink beer and will often stick with the beer but one thing I will say in favour of the whisky option -- I never seem to get a major hangover when I drink this way. I think it is something to do with all the soda and coke keeping your hydration and sugar levels topped up.

I enjoy a little drink with the locals. They are friendly and keen to socialise. There are some entertaining characters and you always hear a few funny stories about what is going on in the neighbourhood. I think one of the good things Thailand has is there is still a sense of community. The neighbours all know each other, know what is going on and generally try to pitch in and help each other.

I always think drinking with people gives you a good insight as to what they are really like. They start telling you things that they wouldn’t normally talk about. It tests my Thai language ability but also helps me learn a little more. The thing I notice when I drink with Thai people is just how similar they are to western people. The things they talk about, laugh about, it is all very similar. It is sometimes from a different perspective because they are looking from a different perspective but the conclusions and sense of humour are really very similar.

I think it is still natural that I prefer boozing with friends from my own country. It is not a case of one being better than the other, but just that it is easier to communicate with people who speak your own language and come from a similar background. I think it is good for ex-pats in Thailand to join and enjoy Thai style culture but it is also important to still maintain some of your own identity and culture.


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