Having lived in Thailand twice, this stint for almost a year, I’d like to think I’ve been immersed into the local culture. I’m no world-citizen, bon vivant, but I’ve picked up on some regional norms, to say the least. Some of which I love (e.g. family-style meal sharing), some of which I understand but do not prefer (e.g. assblasters and squat toilets over tp and flush toilets), some of which addle my brain. Most entries under the last category shine through via fashion quirks (norms)…
1. Facekinis & Full Garb in the Ocean
Originating in China, Facekinis alleviate the daunting, ever-present issue of “How do I keep my skin bleach white AND joy a swim in the ocean?” It’s not uncommon to take a relaxing dip, submerge your head into the cool water, eyes closed…only to find yourself standing next to the The Creature from the Black Lagoon once you pop back up. Similarly, Asians, particularly men, prefer to beach and swim in full garb. What’s the only thing more (un)comfortable than skinny jeans and two layers of long-sleeve shirts in 90 degree weather? Wet skinny jeans and long-sleeves!
2. Incessant Whitening
I understand the logic behind the fixation on keeping your skin white; tan skin is associated with farmwork and manual labor: a sign of lower class citizenship. Westerners have an unnatural obsession with tanning; tans convey an aura of wealth and leisure. It’s simply the reciprocal in the East. Having said that, the degree to which people whiten is bemusing. Whitening cream. Whitening soap. Whitening pills. Whitening spermicidal lube. Facekinis. Hundreds of my Thai students, most of whom are already fair in complexion, partake in daily ablution via half-a-bottle of baby powder to the face. Ya know, to get that envied “decaying old man” look.
3. Coke Nails
Sport one of these badboys stateside and your reasoning is quite transparent. Grow a coke nail, or two, or ten, in Southeast Asia and flaunt your newfound panache with intrigue and gusto! I’m honestly at a loss for explanation regarding these. Inquiries with students have received responses ranging from “I lazy” to “Sexy no problem.”
4. Angry Birds Gear
Why the obsession? Angry Birds t-shirts. Angry Birds pajamas. Angry Birds flip flops. Angry Birds beanies. Angry Birds backpacks. Angry Birds helmets. All of these can be easily spotted on a daily basis: this is no embellishment. Slowly rising in popularity: Angry Birds air conditioners, bowties and birth control pills.
5. Hitler Chic.
Endemic to Thai street shops, Hitler Chic is more unfortunate than amusing. Being the only uncolonized Southeast Asian nation, Thailand has a robust sense of national pride and an intriguing, beautiful culture. An unintended byproduct of this is a lack of knowledge regarding world history. I see both students and adults alike rocking Ronald McDonald Hitler shirts, Swastika bracelets, Teletubby Hitlers, Swastika flags and so on. When asked if they understand the significance of the symbols, both children and adults tend to be clueless. Then again, I own a sweet Killers shirt that pictures not the mediocre band, but rather Bush, Bin Laden, Sadaam, and you-know-who rockin’ out together.
6. Bagel Head Injections
Seriously, WTF? Bagel head injections get the nefarious titile of “Only thing I could do in Asia that’d be more shameful to both my family and the region than marrying a teenaged hooker.”